Coming out can be so liberating

Interview with ERGO employees Sascha Krausen and Torsten Askerlund

Magazine, 09.10.2020

Being open about your own sexual orientation - even in the year 2020 it’s still not easy for many people in the LGBT+ community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender). ERGO employees Sascha Krausen and Torsten Askerlund talk about their outing and how it has changed their lives for the Coming Out Day this Sunday (11.10.2020).

Coming Out Day 2020: Interview mit Sascha Krausen und Torsten Askerlund

"I'm gay" - was it a slow process until you realized this or an eye-opener? And what was your own first reaction?

Sascha Krausen: At the age of 16 or 17, I noticed that something was different. At that time I also had girlfriends. When I was 19, I went to a club in Cologne in the evening where gays and lesbians were also partying. The next morning at breakfast my mother asked me if I liked men more than women. I was totally surprised. In the evening I talked to my parents and said that I might be gay.  

Torsten Askerlund: It was a very slow process for me. During puberty I felt that something is different with me. At that time I already found girls quite nice, but in another way. It wasn't until I moved to another city for my studies that I started to live out my tendency. I was in my mid to late twenties. The turning point was when I fell in love with someone after I started working. That tipped the scales in favor of being gay.

How did you come out to your family and friends?

Krausen: My parents had no contact to homosexuals until I came out and they were a bit insecure at first. But they reacted really well and were very relaxed. They stand right behind me. Also my grandparents had no problem with it at all. And my sister told me directly that she thinks it is great that I am gay.

Askerlund: For my friends, coming out was no problem at all. I was quite nervous about it. But as a reaction, they said they already assumed it since I never had a girlfriend. My parents were a bit sceptical at first, but it didn’t take long before they accepted it. When I introduced my boyfriend to them, they completely dropped their clichés and integrated him into the family.

Did you plan your coming out or was it more of a spontaneous action?

Askerlund: I planned it and really struggled with it. I thought about it for a long time: When is the best time for you to do it? On the weekend? Or when they have time? The more I planned it, the more tension I felt. Once the reaction was positive, a weight fell of my shoulders.

Coming out in the office - why was that important to you and how did your colleagues react?

Krausen: I found it really hard. It then became a rather dragging issue over time. I often said that I was single and out with friends since I was worried that the reactions would not be good. But little by little I opened up and at a Christmas party I openly told my colleagues. They reacted really well and said directly that they would have expected it anyway.

Askerlund: I did not come out at work by myself. A colleague with whom I sat together in the office and with whom I got along very well took over, so to speak. At a meeting with colleagues where I wasn't at, she said a bit bluntly: "Torsten looks quite good, but he's gay anyway." The next day she explained the situation to me. But the colleagues took it very well. There was not a single weird comment from anyone.  

Has anything changed for you after you came out - privately or professionally?

Krausen: I feel liberated since then because I can stick to who I am. I can live life the way I want to. Even with my work colleagues I can openly talk about my private life without hiding anything. I don't have to hold myself back. And that makes me happy.

Askerlund: I have become more self-confident, open and have become more true to myself. In the past I was quite withdrawn, although I had a large group of friends. After coming out I realized that I didn't need to hold back anymore.

Why is a day like "Coming Out Day" important for the LGBT+ community?

Krausen: I think the day is great because it makes people aware that they can stand by who they are. Many young people in particular are still uncertain. Such days show that they are not alone and that there are contact points for them. There is always help and support.

Askerlund: It is important to set an example. In this way the topic remains in the consciousness of people. I can already see that many young people are worried about coming out because they fear they might get discriminated. That's what the day makes us aware of.

How diverse do you think ERGO is in terms of LGBT+?

Krausen: Two years ago I approached the diversity team at ERGO and was very positively welcomed. In the meantime, the ERGO Pride network has been founded and is constantly developing. I myself am the location spokesperson for the network in Cologne.  

Askerlund: The Pride network makes a major contribution to ensuring that diversity is being lived in the company. It helps colleagues who are afraid to come out.

How important is the existence of the ERGO Pride network?

Krausen: Very important. An open approach to one's own sexual orientation at work should be "normal". Unfortunately, this is not the case in many companies. Our ERGO Pride network stands for a working environment without discrimination and for diversity.

What are the most important steps the network should take?

Askerlund: The network needs to become more public and show that there are different gender forms and that they do not matter at all for the working environment. It is the self-evident fact that makes the interaction in the daily work so perfectly natural and unforced. Beyond that, the network is also an important point of contact to give assistance and to ask for information.


Interview: Benjamin Esche.


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