Coming Out Day 2021: “Be yourself”


Magazine, 11.10.2021

To mark ‘Coming Out Day’, the LGBT+ network pride@ergo takes a look at the situation of trans* people at work and the challenges they face. 

Julia Dursch and Oliver Pleiß

There has been a lot of progress towards acceptance of the LGBT+ community since the “Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights” on 11th October 1987, which led to the international Coming Out Day. Nonetheless, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and especially trans* people, continue to experience prejudice and discrimination. As a result, many hide their gender identity, especially at the workplace.

However: “There is nothing worse than hiding an important part of yourself. From yourself and also from your environment,” explains Oliver Pleiß, Network Spokesperson for pride@ergo. People find themselves suffering from this and it has a negative impact on their productivity and how they identify with their employer. 

This is exactly where pride@ergo come in, showing its true face and breaking down prejudices and reservations. After all, according to Network Spokesperson Julia Dursch: “Most people who feel insecure or uncomfortable about the LGBT+ community consciously do not even know people from the LGBT+ community.” 

That is why Coming Out Day is so important for the Pride network: first and foremost, it is about people being true to themselves inwardly. And, secondly, it is about living life as their true selves in the outside world without fear or shame. The network would like to embolden people who have not yet come out. And encourage colleagues and managers to ask questions, learn about the situation of LGBT+ people and work together to improve the working environment at ERGO for everyone.

Oliver Pleiß and Julia Dursch have written their own article to mark this year’s Coming Out Day:

The only decision you need to make is to be yourself! 

Text: Oliver Pleiß and Julia Dursch

Coming Out Day has its roots in the USA. A demonstration was held there on 11th October 1987 and around 500,000 people showed their support in the fight for gay and lesbian rights. Since then, Coming Out Day has traditionally been celebrated on 11th October.

The aim was and still is to give people courage who have not yet come out. To give them the courage to take the bold step to live their lives in a way that feels right to them. 

But now it is about more than just gays and lesbians coming out: bisexual and trans* people also have to come out to their friends, family and colleagues. Regardless of whether a person is gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans*, there are different phases involved in ‘coming out’. The first stage is generally acknowledging it yourself. “I am gay!”. Following this, a person might often confide in a close friend or siblings. Further steps then involve “coming out” to their family and ultimately to their employer and colleagues. The entire process gives them a feeling of liberation, as the person no longer needs to expend energy “hiding” something.

Play-acting takes effort

It is important that people no longer need to waste energy hiding their lives or play-acting especially at work and in their everyday dealings with work colleagues. This has a debilitating impact on the person and their performance at work. Opening up to yourself and being true to themselves – that’s a big deal!

People who feel insecure or uncomfortable about the LGBT+ community usually do not know anyone from the community. And that is why it is important to show face. When I talk to LGBT+ people and get to know them, I can break down any reservations and prejudices I may have and abandon them.

Not so long ago, our close colleague Julia gave us an interview on the subject of trans* people. You can check out the honest and enlightening conversation here: https://www.ergo.com/en/Newsroom/Magazin/2021/Was-bedeutet-es-trans-zu-sein

Coming out at the workplace

Julia came out when she was a student – but what is it like coming out in the middle of your career? How do you deal with coming out if you are looking for a new job – or if you are just starting at a new company?

Trans* people, in particular, find themselves asking questions that can turn into challenges: “What happens if I am not accepted by my working environment? What if my employer wants to get rid of me because I have come out? What if the atmosphere at work becomes so bad and I feel so uncomfortable that I just want to leave? Will I find a new job once I have come out and am living life as myself?” Many of these questions sound very negative – and indeed they are. Unfortunately, they reflect the situation of many trans* people and the experiences they face at the workplace. Some even go hand in hand with serious consequences for their lives and mental health.

There are also questions like “How is my coming out specifically perceived by colleagues? Where can I find information about “coming out at the workplace”? Is there anyone in the company I can contact if I have questions? Are there people who can support me through the process? Are there possibly even people in the company who have gone down a similar path to me? 

Show face and have courage

This is where we come in and how we see our role in the pride@ergo network! Show face and have courage. We report, share and explain. We are always there to listen, help with questions and offer support. We exchange ideas, network and share information.

You will find some possible answers to questions about coming out as a trans* person at the work-place and how to deal with the issue – and other people! – together with us here:

1: TRANS* AT WORK: Ideas for a respectful coexistence (NRW State Coordination Office for Trans Gender Diversity)

https://ngvt.nrw/website/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Trans_am_Arbeitsplatz_2020.pdf

2: Gender Transition Guidelines: Information document for employees on gender transition at RWE (RWE)

https://www.rwe.com/-/media/RWE/documents/01-der-konzern/diversity/gender-transition-guideline-en.pdf

PS: Coming Out Day is not to be confused with “Christopher Street Day” (CSD). It originated in 1969 when there were repeated violent police raids of pubs that were known to be popular “gathering places” for drag queens and trans* people. There was resistance and revolts against the police. The time of these riots and revolts is remembered by the CSD. Link to CSD on Wikipedia: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Street_Day

Your opinion
If you would like to share your opinion on this topic with us, please send us a message to socialmedia@ergo.de.

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