Katie Cornhill wants you to know something: She's still a "badass."
That's what the former Royal Marine and current United Kingdom fire officer told attendees of the 2018 NFPA Responder Forum in Birmingham, Alabama, on Tuesday, garnering laughs from the crowd of more than 130 people. Cornhill is the subject of a “Perspectives” interview in the November/December issue of NFPA Journal.
Cornhill, a group manager at the Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, identifies as a non-cisgendered female—some people mistakenly identify her as a transgender female. She says she was assigned the incorrect male gender at birth and lived the first 39 years of her life, including six years as a commando in the very masculine Royal Marines, hiding her true identify from everyone except her ex-wife, brother, and a few close friends. Twelve years ago, Cornhill says, she decided it was time to finally start living her life as the person she had always been since the day she was conceived, and six years ago, she came out to her department. Since then, she's become a champion of inclusion in the fire service.
"We need to be truly inclusive leaders and do all that we can every day to make our archaic institutional cultures move forward," Cornhill said at the forum. "The world would be a better place and it would be a safer and happier place if everyone could truly be themselves." Cornhill's talk was one of a number of presentations at this year's forum that tackled fire service personnel issues like bullying, hazing, racial bias, cultural acceptance, and gender equality in the fire service.
Last month, Cornhill shared more about her personal journey with my colleague Jesse Roman. His interview with her will appear in the November/December issue of NFPA Journal. "I think every fire and rescue service is populated with individuals who are not out to their colleagues," Cornhill told Roman. "That is in terms of both sexual identity and gender identity. I think that what every fire and rescue service needs to do—we are not there, and nowhere near it—is to create an environment where we embrace diversity so people can truly feel like they can be themselves."
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