What is it like to come out as trans at the work place? What are the reactions of colleagues and management? Michaela Elschner and Manuela Neuroth outed themselves as trans women at RWE and work as female colleagues in their respective teams. You can read about their experiences here.
A few years ago, I transitioned from male to female during my employment at the RWE Supply & Trading.
Similar to stories of other trans people, my transition resulted after decades of suppressing my true identity. Nowadays, it is scientifically proven that the sexual identity – like the sexual orientation – is not changeable, but deeply rooted in us. One cannot suppress that forever, but I also had enormous fears of negative consequences.
Only a private crisis led to me breaking through my suppression mechanisms: I gradually permitted myself more and more of my female identity in my private life. Some colleagues at work made comments on my new look, because my hair grew longer and longer. Once, a colleague commented humorously on some eyeliner that was left around my eyes: “Have you been to a Goth disco at the weekend?” – the stretch between personal and work life grew bigger and bigger.
I made the decision to live fully as a woman at work after numerous sleepless nights. I received a lot of support and positive reactions - I was very relieved! After a short period of time I was accepted as a female colleague appreciated as much as the male colleague they had once known me as. My private life wasn’t easy at the time and my work life was a big anchor for my mental stability.
Suppression and hiding costs a lot of energy. I can now invest this energy in both work and private life much better. That is why I engage in the LGBT*IQ network at RWE and want to say: You don’t have to hide! You can be who you are!
At the age of 5 I first noticed that something “wasn’t right” about me: I felt happiness, confusion and shame all at once when someone thought I was a girl! I couldn’t talk to anyone about those feelings and hid them – just as I hid the nice sensation I got from trying on my mother’s wedding dress. As my preference for female traits increased, I developed a strong aversion towards typically male traits: I vigorously refused to wear a suit and tie and didn’t want to change in the boys locker room in front of the other boys.
On the other hand, I wanted to be accepted. So I kept some ‘male hobbies’ and tried everything possible to hide my developing female identity in front of other people. I was always fascinated by girls and I fell in love with them several times. At the age of 19 I found the love of my life, to whom I have been married for 30 years: we now have 3 wonderful kids. The first attempt to tell my 14 year old friend about my longings was misunderstood and abruptly dismissed.
A parallel world built up inside me and I couldn’t explain it until I saw a documentary about a trans*woman on TV. I was filled with fascination, longing but also resistance at the same time. This was me! On the other hand, I feared the consequences of what might be ahead and didn’t want this at all. I refused to let myself access further information about the topic and kept this self-denial up for 24 years – until the day internet research validated my self-diagnosis of “transidentity”.
My ‘outing’ two years later included over 180 conversations and I was really happy about the fact that I received over 95% positive feedback – especially in the working environment. I had expected to experience mockery and social exclusion. After that, everything moved very quickly: the change of legal identity and change of my name followed in 2019. Since then I have been living happily as a woman.