Dr. Rolf Schmachtenberg / BMAS
© J. Konrad Schmidt / BMAS
MYSTORY with …

64 Years, Berlin

“It has always been important to me
to live with children, to be linked to
the future through children…”

Published: March 2023

Long Ways.

The first time I had sex with a man, it was still forbidden – it happened in what was then West Germany. Shortly after that, rumours about a newly discovered virus began to spread. Deadly. Soon it was clear that homosexual men were particularly affected. The German magazine Der Spiegel wrote about the “Schwulen-Pest,” a translation of the term Gay Plague. We had to be cautious.

Today I live in a different world. I am married to a man. And we have children, too.

This would not have been possible without fundamental changes in our laws during the last 30 years. What seems to be nothing special today was wishful dreaming or even unthinkable back then.

It has liberated me. I came out when I moved to Berlin, quite late, at the age of 35. My life would have been different if I had been clear about who I was and how I loved earlier. I had been living with a vague idea of bisexuality far too long. Today I think this was also because at that time I could not imagine how to combine my desire to have children and my love for men.

I am very grateful to all those in my life who have encouraged me on this path and made it possible. And I am happy for everyone who clearly knows early on and I understand everyone who needs time for this. The open interaction in queer networks can help and encourage people on this way. And these networks now exist in many federal agencies, including the ministries of the Federal Government.

LGBTIQ* employees still experience discrimination in the workplace far too often. Even small talk at the coffee machine can quickly lead to an unwanted outing. Often enough, not only their well-being at work, but also their professional future depends on the reactions of their superiors and colleagues. But only those who feel at ease can deliver the best results at work. Organisations, companies and administrations can actively contribute to an inclusive corporate culture. On INQA.de you can read how networks or interest groups in companies can help to improve the situation of LGBTIQ* employees at work.

Ending discrimination requires the support of those who are not affected. Through active solidarity (allyship), companies can promote diversity in the world of work. On INQA.de you find five tips on how managers and employees can work for diversity and show: We are Allies!

ROLF, Thank you very much for YourStory!
Dr. Rolf Schmachtenberg / BMAS
© J. Konrad Schmidt / BMAS

64 Jahre, Berlin

„Mir war es immer wichtig,
mit Kindern zu leben, durch Kinder
ein Band zur Zukunft zu haben…“

Veröffentlicht: März 2023

Lange Wege.

Als ich das erste Mal mit einem Mann Sex hatte, war dies noch verboten – es geschah im damaligen Westdeutschland. Kurz danach verdichteten sich die Gerüchte über einen neuentdeckten Virus. Tödlich. Bald war klar, dass homosexuelle Männer besonders betroffen waren. Der Spiegel schrieb dann von der „Schwulen-Pest“, in Übersetzung des Begriffs Gay Plague. Vorsicht war angesagt.

Heute lebe ich in einer anderen Welt. Bin mit einem Mann verheiratet. Und Kinder haben wir auch.

Das wäre nicht möglich ohne grundlegende Änderungen unserer Gesetze während der letzten 30 Jahre. Was heute selbstverständlich scheint, war damals Wunschtraum oder sogar undenkbar.

Mich hat es befreit. Zu meinem Coming-Out kam ich erst, als ich nach Berlin umgezogen war, recht spät, mit 35 Jahren. Mein Leben wäre anders verlaufen, hätte ich es früher für mich klar gehabt und auf den Punkt gebracht, wer ich bin und wie ich liebe. Viel zu lange schwankte ich mit einer vagen Idee von Bisexualität. Heute denke ich, das lag damals auch daran, dass ich mir gar nicht vorstellen konnte, wie ich meinen Kinderwunsch und meine Liebe zu Männern miteinander vereinbaren könnte.

Ich bin allen sehr dankbar, die mir in meinem Leben auf diesem Weg Mut zugesprochen, ihn ermöglicht haben. Und ich freue mich für jede*n, der für sich früh Klarheit hat und verstehe jede*n, der dafür Zeit braucht. Dabei kann der offene Umgang in queeren Netzwerken Ermutigung geben. Und die gibt es mittlerweile in vielen Bundesbehörden, darunter auch die Ressorts der Bundesregierung.

LSBTIQ*-Beschäftigte erfahren immer noch viel zu oft Diskriminierung am Arbeitsplatz. Schon der kleine Smalltalk am Kaffeeautomaten kann schnell zu einem ungewollten Outing führen. Oft genug hängt von ihren Reaktionen der Vorgesetzen und Kolleg*innen nicht nur das Wohlbefinden am Arbeitsplatz, sondern auch die berufliche Zukunft ab. Doch nur wer sich wohlfühlt kann die beste Arbeitsleistung erbringen. Organisationen Unternehmen und Verwaltungen können aktiv zu einer inklusiven Unternehmenskultur beitragen. Auf INQA.de lesen Sie wie besonders Netzwerke oder betriebliche Interessengruppen zu einer besseren Arbeitssituation von LSBTIQ*-Beschäftigten beitragen können.

Um Diskriminierung zu beenden braucht es die Unterstützung der nicht Betroffenen. Denn durch aktives Solidarisieren (Allyship) können Unternehmen die Vielfalt in der Arbeitswelt fördern. Auf INQA.de lesen Sie fünf Tipps, wie sich Führungskräfte und Beschäftigte beim Thema Diversity engagieren und zeigen: Wir sind Allys!

ROLF, vielen Dank fĂĽr YourStory!
MYSTORY with …

31 Years, Berlin

“I forgot that I could afford flexibility,
experimentations and imperfections in my path;
that I could be living in intersections, in multitudes. …”

Published: December 2022

Identity Updates.

Quite recently, a friend of mine asked me over text: “Are you non-binary?”.

I laughed in front of my phone at first because to me, it was just the most obvious thing. My pronouns were displayed everywhere, from Instagram to Linked In, I would occasionally post the non-binary meme on Instagram, have my cute “they/them” in my work signature even; overally I live a pretty open life.

I also knew that this person didn’t mean any harm, the question came from a genuine place of interest and care. Yet, it remained hilarious to me because I realised one thing: I simply forgot to come out to her and despite all the signs, she actually wasn’t sure, because to her, I appeared to be a man.
I presented like a man, therefore I was one, right? I forgot that it was important to notify people of any “updates” on your gender, sexuality, religion, etc.

I got so used to displaying my identity that I eventually obliviated the fact that it needed updates once in a while and that it wasn’t in fact, so obvious. People had known me for years as Safir, Algerian, queer, gay, ex-Muslim, cisgender, able-bodied, immigrant, low-income, etc. Because it took me so many years to come to terms with how different I was going to be from everyone else in the world, I unconsciously “fixed” my identity the way some get fixed-term contracts.

I forgot that I could afford flexibility, experimentations and imperfections in my path; that I could be living in intersections, in multitudes.

There was no prerequisite for me to reduce who I was to fit any pre-created boxes.

As a result, my answer to the text was “Yes, I am. Let’s talk about it this weekend :)”. Following this exchange, I had to think about where I was at, as a person. Was I actually Algerian? Well, of course I was, but I had also figured out by now that I identified much better with my Amazigh and African roots overall than the regular national one.

Was I queer? This was pretty certain as well. Gay? Well this needed a bit of an update actually. I first came out as bisexual when I was 18 but people back then always told me I was gay so I accepted it as my fate without questioning it. Over 10 years later, I have to be clear about it: I am not gay. I am indeed closer to omnisexuality than to anything else but also accept to be called pansexual.

What about ex-Muslim? Tough one. I negated this part of me for such a long time because it felt like the part of me society hated the most (even more than my queerness, can you believe?). I can admit now that it was part of a very needed survival strategy to distance myself from how we were perceived worldwide. I was hoping it could offer me the chance to be treated better globally. In all honesty, years have taught me that no matter how far I stood from Muslim culture (from my culture) I would always and forever suffer from islamophobia so I could as well just embrace not only said heritage but also my faith. I also now try to approach Islam from an adult, non-judgmental perspective and I have to make a confession: there is some much beauty and peace in it.

Cisgender Safir? Well, this was a blatant lie. I always knew I didn’t fall under the binary-spectrum but lied to myself and to everyone else as it was too difficult to admit that I was going to “transgress” the common idea of what gender is, that most people wouldn’t ever understand it. It was such a liberating and joyful experience to talk to one of my best friends about it the first time. Their eyes opened and broadened with an incredible warmth. I told them gender to me was a construct I struggled to understand, that I neither felt like a man, nor like a woman; that I neither felt masculine, nor feminine; that I wasn’t feeling like a 50/50 but rather like none at all. While I understand how important gender is for some and respect it; I do not want gender to define me, I feel far from it, like it is of no importance to me. Today, I would call myself agender: a person who does actually not feel like they have a gender. My best friend received the news with a smile, a hug and a simple question: “Will you go by any specific pronoun from now on?”.

What about my non-disabled body? Up to now, I still agree with that statement but who knows what is going to happen in the future? I could write further about all the other sides of my identity, but I believe that by now, you get the image. Updates to me are necessary. Not only for others but mostly for yourself. As I regularly check myself up on how I feel within, I get to have a deeper understanding of who I am as an individual and as a part of my communities. There is so much power in knowledge.

Coming out for me was never (and won’t ever be) linear.

It still happens everyday: on Mondays about gender, on Wednesdays about sexuality. Most importantly, within me it changes every morning. Ever so slightly but with fluidity. Is my experience unique? Probably not. Is my experience universal, absolutely not! So should we expect anybody to live their experiences the same way we do? According to the Western ideology, it appears that everyone should come out.

Trust me, our sole experiences should never be made rules. Coming out is not obligatory. You can also live a beautiful, healthy and positive life without having to go through such intense momenta. Some of us won’t ever come out, and we shouldn’t police them. The way we embrace and empower ourselves, we should embrace and empower them in their own experiences as well.

Safir, Thank you very much for YourStory!
MYSTORY with …

53 Years, Einbeck

“My journey began with an end and a beginning, and this end made my truly new beginning as a non-binary person possible in the end. …”

Published: November 2022

A new beginning.

On March 6, 2020, the most unusual journey of my life so far began. It began with an end and a beginning, and this end made my truly new beginning as a non-binary person possible in the end. On that day, the love of my life ended with the death of my relationship person. I was infinitely grateful for the 23 years that I was allowed to spend with her, despite all prophecies of doom.

A love that seemed so unusual even to us lovers in the beginning that we asked ourselves at the time, “Can our relationship really work and go well?” We decided to take the risk. My great love was and remained until her death, married to her husband and had three children, who at the beginning of our relationship, were between 6 and 13 years old. She was 12 years older than me. We lived an unusual, publicly known, patchwork rainbow family relationship for 23 years. I miss her to this day.

Today, I am actually grateful for that void her absence has left in my life. I am also thankful that the Corona Lockdown that started shortly after her funeral turned me back on myself. With the absence of external distractions, I was able to use this time for inner gathering and my refocusing. On many lonely evenings on my balcony, I began to search for answers to life questions and to define new goals.

“Where should my path lead now?”
“How do I want to live?”
“What are my goals?”

I found more questions than answers at that time. I discovered within myself dungeons and locked doors, dark caves and buried shafts. What I lacked was light. The deeper I went, the less hope I had of finding answers on my own that could shed light on the darkness. I admitted to myself that I couldn’t answer all the questions on my own, and I enlisted professional outside travel assistance in the form of coaching.

It quickly became apparent that I had been asking myself the right questions at the wrong time. By the end of 2020, I was still far too caught up in the social norms and conventions of heteronormativity around me and in my own inner beliefs. These thoughts and conventions were blocking my path to answers.

I wanted, no I had to try something new, like when I was on vacation in Canada. Every day at that time I had opted for the classic English breakfast. The Canadian breakfast of French toast (Poor Knights), crispy bacon and maple syrup seemed too absurd a combination. Bacon and maple syrup?! A white bread soaked with egg, instead of egg on the white bread and bacon extra on top. I could not imagine this combination of sweet and salty as delicious. One morning, this meal looked so delicious at the neighboring table that I dared to order and try it too. It was a revelation and a symbiosis of opposites that, combined like this, gave me a completely new, incredible taste experience. For this experience, it was necessary to ignore old ideas and concepts (like taste experiences).

My experiential process right before my non-binary coming out was very similar, but much more intimate. This process, too, was about reconciling opposites and exploring new territory. The phrases that went through my mind before making these decisions were, on the one hand, “Do I really dare?”. What happens if it’s an absurd experience?” and on the other, “I’m so excited! I can’t wait!” I, (then still Judith – gender: female; gender identity: “butch”; sexual orientation: lesbian), boldly decided to try something completely new and unfamiliar, leaving old paths behind. With a curious beginner’s mind, I embarked on a new experience.

I was gifted with answers to questions that have accompanied me my entire adult life. „Wer bin ich?“ „Wer oder was ist meine Identität?“ „Wieso fühle ich mich stets „zwischen den Stühlen“ sitzend/stehend?“ These questions have accompanied me for many years of my life.
In this experiential moment, I let go of my preconceived thoughts about gender and gender identities and freed myself from convention and propriety.

I let go of Judith, or in other words, Judith said goodbye, and in the same moment I was transformed into Jay.

As Jay (gender: diverse; gender identity: non-binary; sexual orientation: women loving), I felt whole and complete for the first time in my life. I realized that I now had a new name and a new gender. After 50 years, the search for my true identity ended in a truly new beginning; a new birth certificate even made this official very soon.

It was out of the question for me to make this inner transformation visible to the outside world as well. Sometimes bureaucratic mills grind fast, too. In February, I received a certificate from my family doctor, submitted an informal application for gender and name change with it to the registry office and promptly received an official appointment for the oral application.

It was on February 18, 2021, when I was handed my new birth certificate with new name and gender by the registrar of my town. I thus wrote Einbeck town history, as the first person with a diverse gender entry in the town’s birth register. I am very grateful for all the experiences, for all the people who contributed to this moment. I would like to thank all the people for their appreciation, solidarity and joy shown to me during this coming out.

MYSTORY with …

33 Years, Munich

Over the years, Drag became a bigger and bigger part of myself, its not only an art form to me, but also a way for playful confrontation with my personality...”

Published: October 2022


Vicky Voyage is always worth a trip.

With my drag persona Vicky Voyage, I take you on a varied joyride into the world of drag art. With charisma and wit I present as an international performer, moderator and entertainer I use thoughtful clever concepts with both extravagant outfits and strong make-up. I serve a wide variety of eye candy at my stops: among others, I was on the road as a fulminant fire fairy (CSD Munich 2018), as a dazzling butterfly (CSD Munich and Vienna 2019), legendary snow queen (Drag Voyage calendar project 2022) and also as a loving local heroine in Dirndl (at various events). At galas and parties, in shows and in the theater: with pole dancing, a touch of acrobatics or just with my “plump” presence, I invite the audience to marvel.

Over the years Drag became a bigger and bigger part of me, which for me is not only an art form, but also allows the playful confrontation with my personality.

After the pandemic – following many different events – nearly brought the world to a complete standstill, I came up with the idea for Germany’s first professional drag calendar during the lockdown period. Performances were not possible, projects fell away – a new one was needed. Since the drag scene has also developed in Germany, I wanted to give a little insight into the facets of different characters and, together with other artists, take you on a journey through the wonderful world of drag. Discover fabulous Kings & Queens from Munich and Augsburg, and how they play with more diverse and colorful art, always guided by the question: What does drag mean to the artists, what does it mean to you?

With the picture you see, the motif for December 2022, I wanted to express something very specific. My theme was:

#legendary: I write my own story and walk my own path – preferably in high heels.

Based on Cinderella, the image is meant to illustrate that I don’t have to wait for my prince until I can have a fulfilled life, but that as a strong personality I can choose and shape my own path and be responsible for my own happiness in the process.

For the sale of the calendar, I have not only set up my own web store, but have also worked with various retailers who have distributed the calendar throughout Germany and also in Austria and Switzerland. Although the product “calendar” in 2022 is no longer found in every household and the drag motifs do not appeal to all people equally, the calendar with our personal and expressive images was well received across society. Almost all 1,000 copies were sold or dedicated to social projects. It was a great new experience and the whole team can be proud of the result. Here again a big thank you to everyone who worked so motivated and contributed to the successful final result.

Since I hope that the Corona situation will improve and more opportunities will be allowed again, I will devote myself in 2022 and also the next years as an entertainer, presenter, performer or even organizer again strengthened events, for example, the CSD in Munich may not be missed or a drag show in my Allgäu home, which is planned for 2023.

In addition, I would like to try in the future to combine my engineering background more with my art, because the journey of Vicky Voyage is far from over.

MYSTORY with …

25 Years, Hamburg

Despite, or because of the fact that I am hardly
affected by queer hostility, my experiences and
also those of others motivate me to publicly stand
up for education and rights of LGBTQ+ people…”

Published: September 2022

BI-Lieve in me.

For a long time, I considered it a privilege not to be seen as bisexual. It is both a curse and a blessing that on the one hand you experience less queer hostility on average if you live in a heterosexual partnership, for example – but on the other hand you don’t always experience full belonging to the LGBTQ+ community, or are too quickly labeled as either homosexual or heterosexual, depending on the partner at your side. Such experiences are, compared to the overall picture of queer discrimination, less bad and easy to cope with, whether in the political field, in private or in the professional environment, the latter being in my case the Shine network at PwC Germany.

Despite, or because of, the fact that I am hardly affected by queer hostility, my experiences and also those of others motivate me to publicly stand up for education and rights of LGBTQ+ people.

Pride Month is not only reserved for gays and lesbians – and society still has a long way to go in its development to not only think of the “L” and “G” in LGBTQ+ when it comes to queer topics, but to give all queer people the same treatment. Particularly issues away from the usual binary are still barely a concept for many, or are so foreign and incomprehensible that it’s easy to look away and associate queerness with tried-and-true queer role models, such as only gay men. However, the community is much more diverse and should be visible as a whole.

Admittedly, I also have to say that I personally find coming outs and labels to be incredibly oppressive and outdated at times. Along the lines of “why don’t straight people have to do that?” I sometimes think about, how unfair it is that queer people have to share something as personal as their sexuality publicly in order to avoid being looked at strangely because of their choice of partners. But I do recognize that this is still a very privileged point of view on my part.

Most people don’t have the luxury of such an open environment that any kind of queerness is immediately accepted without much fuss, while it should actually be self-evident nowadays. Unfortunately, however, past but also current events, such as the recent attack in Oslo, only emphasize repeatedly how important visibility of any kind is – and not only in June for Pride Month as a pinkwashing campaign of the mainstream corporations, but all year round without monetary consideration. Whether in the office, on the street or privately:

Visibility creates acceptance, dissolves long overdue norms and makes life easier especially for those who cannot (yet) live their queerness openly in fear of discrimination or hostility.

Therefore, I hope that the current social change will move steadily forward until no person has to live in fear because of his or her identity – which, in the best case, will not take too much longer.

MYSTORY with …

42 Years, Berlin

“any discrimination experienced in a
particular cultural context enabled my
mind to arm itself against oppressions and
microaggressions of other social groups. …”

Published: June 2022

Intertwined Identities.

I am mixed race, cis male, middle aged, homosexual, with no previously identified disability, French, not a native German speaker (who speaks accent and error free German), coming from the proletariate, who has experienced educational advancement. I am all this and so much more.

Coming out is almost foreign to me, I´d say. When I was about 18, I worked for the Hotel Central, one of the first gay establishments starting from the 80s in Paris. After my first shift, I told my mother my first impressions about this LGBT*IQ place. She asked me if all my colleagues were gay. My answer was yes. She then asked me if I was gay myself. My answer was yes. That was it, my meaningless powerful statement about my sexual identity. All in all, it was a paradoxically insignificant experience for a gay PoC from a proletarian immigrant neighborhood, in the late 90s. I never felt the need or compulsion to explain myself. I was “openly gay” the way a cis-heterosexual man might be “openly straight”: uneventful. A few months later, when I moved in with my first boyfriend, my youngest brother came to visit regularly to play videogames with my boyfriend. Life, as usual.

In contrast, I experienced intersectional queer awakenings several times, which I came to understand in retrospect. After reading “The Return to Rheims” by Didier Eribon, I realized that my ego-gayness played a role in my aspiration to become something other than what the determinism of social reproduction drove me to be. In fact, I felt drawn to enter other spheres to encounter my own kind.

I felt the need to understand the contradictory multiplicity of my interwoven identities and to reconcile them. This was pointless.

At that time, neither in the gay scene nor in other subcultural spaces, I could feel a sense of complete belonging. No matter what social groups I was in, mechanisms of oppression emerged without exception. There was no one like me, but the eternal ballet of attributions and self-determinations. Again and again I observed how social interactions could be redefined in binary social oppositions. However, any discrimination experienced in a particular cultural context enabled my mind to arm itself against oppressions and microaggressions of other social groups.

Let us take the example of language, which, beyond its communicative function, is also a structuring element of culture. Indeed, it can be an instrument of stigmatization or an assignation for social prestige. Thus, the verve of the youthfully caustic gutter language of the multicultural urban world of my neighborhood, Barbès, helped me fend off both the (un)consciously racist slogans and the ironically exclusionary repartee of the dominant white men of the queer community. Thus, the shameless black humor of the queer scene helped me to free myself from the shame of my proletarian speech. Thus, the shameless boldness of the language of my class helped me to speak foreign languages shamelessly with accent and mistakes. All of these facets of my identity help me navigate a society whose norms and deviations are constantly negotiated. One might perceive this adaptability as pretense, but I would call it the social performativity of an individual’s multiplicity.

Meanwhile, my PoC queer identity was an asset in my D&I consulting work with the Ozecla agency in France to deconstruct mechanisms of oppression and people’s distorting filters.

It often happened that in white feminist milieus it was necessary to elucidate the vicissitudes of social asymmetric dynamics in relation to the distribution of power relations. To the extent that white women needed to be made aware that they might be exercising forms of oppression vis-Ă -vis a queer black man because of their dominant white heteronormative-cisgender identities.

It takes a great deal of resilience on my part to endure the defenses of an oppressed group as I educate them about their own mechanisms of oppression. I have encountered this phenomenon again and again in recent years in Germany as well – both in my D&I work in the queer community and during my engagement in my main job. It is a burdensome challenge to expose and denounce the social mechanisms of racism, queer hostility and sexism. But as a black queer man with intersectional views, I can’t help it.

MYSTORY with …

51 Years, MUnich

“I go to work every day and
can say “I am what I am”! …”

Published: May 2022

The Walk.

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 passĂ©. 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.


43 Years, HaNnover

“Sometimes it takes time and
role models to bring change. …”

Published: May 2022

One Life, Two Outings plus Migration Story – One box is enough!

Since my birth and in the first moments of the perceptions of myself, I knew that I did not fit into this existing body costume and into the “classical” distribution of roles. The assigned colors (red and pink) and the ideas of society were not compatible with my self. I was nevertheless – without being listened to or recognized in my existence – pushed into the female system. Be it through education or the societal guidelines in kindergarten, school, training and the work world. At that time, transidentity and intersexuality were not yet as visible as they are today.

There was no knowledge transfer, contact and counseling centers – simply nothing, although trans* and inter* people have existed since there are living beings on planet earth.

So I resisted this female costume since childhood and fled for many years into the lesbian identity, in which I was allowed to be more or less me, wear male clothes and behave as I wanted, simply not female for me. I accepted this “hiding place” and outed myself as a lesbian to all the people around me as a matter of course. The reactions, many questions, prejudices and discriminations were very familiar to me due to my Scottish-Turkish migration history from an early age – I was already “trained” in having to endure this discrimination in all ways. What else could I do?

My mother was not surprised and said that I had always been like a boy anyway. With the difference that I always was and am one. She didn’t know any better, how could she? The rest of the German-Scottish-Turkish relatives reacted differently. From “we always knew that” to “this person is not coming into my house anymore” everything was there.

It was a tremendous effort for me to be hidden inside myself for all those years. Every time I had the courage to really “come out”, something happened that set me back: fear of the reactions of my family, friends, colleagues, fear of losing my dream job, fear of the separation from my former wife. And at some point you learn to play this role, try to convince yourself that it will be worth living somehow.

But the I-am-allowed, to be free and the desire to let this body costume disappear, became stronger and stronger over the years. To look at myself in front of the mirror and – then as a child as well as in adulthood – to feel the desire to simply throw off this ballast and to finally be able to be happy and free … this dream, this feeling was energy-draining and unattainable, because I could not get out of myself. The fear was too great for many years.

Whenever articles about trans* people appeared or I saw them at the CSD, this feeling and the desire for freedom came up. Inside I was torn, but I tried to function, to get up again and again and tell myself “you can do it”.
When I came out to my wife in 2018 and talked about the great desire to break free from the chains of suffering, because I can’t and don’t want to be like that anymore and feel the same way as Balian B., I triggered great shock and had to endure the classic reactions: “You don’t want to be a man. I love you the way you are. I love your feminine bust. Sure you are very masculine, but I also like the feminine side. I don’t want a man with a beard and lots of hair. You are good the way you are, why do you think you want to be a man now? If you are actually going to do this, then I will divorce you …”

That was only a fraction of the sentences that rushed through my insides and caused hellish pain every time. I loved this person more than anything, and I tried to understand her side as well, but did she want to understand me? After the conversation with my wife, I first decided for us and our marriage and tried to bury the longing again. Only I noticed that I didn’t succeed so well anymore, because the longing and the suffering pressure were very hard to bear. Two and a half more long years and recurring conversations with my wife later: “If you do this, I’ll divorce you.”

Then I met great people who were just like me, with identical life stories. These two people gave me the strength to take my next step: in 2020 came Corona, and because of all the arguments with my wife, I temporarily moved to the country with my dog at the time, a French bulldog.

There I had a lot of time to think – the first time that I took a lot of time for myself and was not always available for other people. Finally it was my turn!

Simply EVERYTHING from the past years came shooting up like a tornado wave. In the 4 weeks my life changed by the second. My wife realized her threat and I stood alone. And due to a local change of profession, I was also facing a new beginning there.

I took all my courage after 41 years and outed myself a second time. If not now, when then? First with my inner circle of friends, then with my colleagues and finally with my superiors. The response was mostly very positive!

Since 2 years ago I finally feel free and I am glad to have taken this important step, even if it took many years for many different reasons. Sometimes it takes time and role models to bring change. Today I am allowed to be a role model and would like to encourage many people. Do not be afraid, because you are not alone! It is important to make gender diversity and the different facets visible and to bring the knowledge about it into all areas. Looking back, I sometimes wonder where I had developed the strength to get up again and again and keep going. It was the many great people around me who gave me strength and courage. Of course also my desire and joy in life and the fact to be able to give courage and strength to other people.
These experiences have shaped me into the person I am today, with all my facets:

My name is Leon Dietrich, my birthplace is the earth, my nationality is human, my politics is freedom, my religion is love and I love people and our democracy!

Dear Leon, Thank you very much for YourStory!

34 Years, Hamburg

“Once you were in, this parallel world opened
up where everyone knew each other and you
were allowed to be whoever you wanted. …”

Published: May 2022

Parallel Worlds

I come from Russia – the country that today is associated with war, violence, propaganda and homophobia. And it’s hard to believe that in my youth, in the 2000s, I experienced probably the most liberal and free time of this country. That was the time when the pop duo “t.A.T.u.” became famous in Europe and in the USA. At that time in Russia no one was bothered by two girls kissing on stage. Many girls then walked hand in hand in the streets in short skirts, like in the video All The Things She Said. There were also other Russian artists who made homosexual references in their songs and videos. I grew up with that.

When I was a student, I knew that homosexuality existed, but I didn’t identify with it. I always had close relationships with my girlfriends, even held hands and slept in the same bed. It was all harmless and felt normal. I also knew that in a parallel class there were some girls who were supposedly into women. It was only whispered about (later I saw them at lesbian parties). When I met a girl at a summer camp and felt jealous every time she talked about boys, I couldn’t place my feelings.

I didn’t realize the fact that I was into women until I was 17, after a young woman approached me in a heterosexual club and wanted to get to know me. I dated her for about a year after that and we still keep in touch (today she lives in San Francisco with her wife and child). She introduced me to the lesbian community.

The LGBT*IQ community in my hometown (population about 2 million) was quite big at that time, there was a club for lesbians and one for gays with weekly parties. In Moscow and Saint Petersburg, of course, there was more: more clubs, more parties, more people like us, but we were happy with what we had. Of course, none of this was public and you had to know your way around, but once you were in, this parallel world opened up where everyone knew each other and you were allowed to be whoever you wanted.

That’s where I found my soul mates, my best friends. I loved this parallel world, even though it wasn’t perfect either.

I was a student, had little money, lived with my parents, who raised me liberally but didn’t know about my sexual orientation at the time. While I felt so comfortable in the community, the outside world became less and less tolerant – but I didn’t realize that until later.

At the end of 2008, I came to Germany to study, without knowing how long I would stay … 14 years later, I’m still here, happily married to my wife and with a great job, leading the life I always wanted. I feel free and safe in Germany. I am grateful for all the experiences I have had and all the people I have met. I am grateful for the time I experienced in Russia and I know that nowadays it is unimaginable and sometimes even dangerous to walk hand in hand there. Nevertheless, I wish all LGBT*IQ people to find their way early and have only the positive encounters. To those who don’t dare yet, I can only say: “Don’t be afraid, you are normal and not alone!”

Dear Oxana, Thank you very much for YourStory!