MYSTORY with …
51 Years, MUnich
“I go to work every day and
can say “I am what I am”! …”
Published: May 2022
I remember my school days very well. I grew up in a very Catholic environment. Catholic convent school. Early 80’s. In 7th and 8th grade, puberty in full swing. At the same time, HIV/AIDS was big in the headlines. All anyone knew at the time was that you were going to die from it. And so I was shaped – there was a right and a wrong. Gay = AIDS = wrong.
It wasn’t until much later that it became clear to me that I was gay. I only came out during my studies. After my pre-studies I went to Wales for a Master’s program. What a good opportunity to discover my sexual orientation. In this discovery process, I immediately had to experience a young gay man being rushed through the place. Again, it was burned into me: gay = wrong.
But, I dared. Then in London, after my studies, I experienced a cosmopolitan city, with gay bars that had shop windows. Anyone could look in. What a liberating feeling. Then, back in my hometown of Augsburg, I experienced a completely different scene: I had to ring the bell to be let in. The windows were taped up so that no one would see us.
But I didn’t let it get me down now, because I knew London. Took part in the very first CSD in Augsburg and felt super proud alongside 20 other people.
My professional life started with the usual “cost of thinking twice”. At that time I was not aware of it, because my learned formula was “gay = wrong”, so why tell about it at work. I was just with a friend or with friends on the road, there was nothing more private from me. Until a friend told me on a hike with the Gay Outdoor Club that he was completely out at BCG, that they have a network and make things happen. And of course he knew a gay guy at IBM, my employer at the time. He wrote him directly that there was a colleague at IBM who would support a network. It wasn’t 48 hours before his email was forwarded from the gay guy in Miami to a gay guy in London, who, Ken was his name, called me.
To this day, Ken only knows rainbow colourful, there is no backing out for the community for him. His first question was: “Are you out? If yes, I can make you attend the next LGBT leadership conference at IBM New York next week.” Of course, I was not outed, and thus the trip to New York was passé. But within the next week, I outed myself to my boss and my journey on LGBTIQ in the workplace began. I founded the LGBTIQ network at IBM Germany, got involved with the issue on a European level within the company, and got the first job in Europe in IBM’s sales department as a so-called “GLBT Business Development Executive”.
In all that time, I have had to listen to really stupid comments from time to time, some of which left me speechless, but I have never experienced any real discrimination. The support I experienced from the Out Executives at IBM built self-confidence in me, so that today I represent the topic without fear. Through the various roles I have held to date, I have been able to meet Out personalities, as well as Allies, who have inspired me and continue to drive me to continue with my advocacy. PROUT AT WORK has become the platform for that, Jean-Luc my partner in crime. Together we came up with such great ideas, encouraged each other that PROUT AT WORK is what it is today. And I go to work motivated every day and can say “I am what I am”. Thank you to everyone who has helped me become who I am.