A talk with… Nils_Séline “Nica” Schächtele
“Let’s be as courageous as possible. Intersexuality is still a big taboo topic.”
Nils_Séline “Nica” Schächtele was born in Freiburg im Breisgau and studied electrical engineering and information technology at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. Both before and while studying this subject, Nica was interested in professional sound and acoustic engineering. In 2002, the next stop on Nica’s journey was Straubing, where Nica joined EVI Audio GmbH (a subsidiary of Bosch’s Building Technologies business unit since 2006) as a systems test engineer.
You refer to yourself as “divers” (non-binary). What experiences have you had at Bosch with this identity?
Nils_Séline “Nica” Schächtele: DIVERSITY has been an important topic at Bosch for some years now. I have always liked the term “divers” very much because I have intersex as well as transgender-androgynous and bigender characteristics, and “divers” covers all of them. The change in the law creating the third gender option in Germany has really pushed things forward simultaneously for Bosch and for me. This year, we started to take many diverse steps together and to have lively discussions – a win-win situation for all of us. Sometimes, I jokingly refer to myself as “Bosch’s token non-binary person”. The feedback from my colleagues at the office was cautiously positive, and I got a lot of respect for being open about my gender. There was also a bit of confusion, in particular due to my two additional first names Séline and Nica. If I brought up this subject myself, the question I heard most frequently was: “Can I still call you Nils?” – which I’m OK with.
What does it mean to you to be an intersex person in our society?
Nils_Séline “Nica” Schächtele: It means belonging to a tabooed minority that is largely invisible. Sometimes I feel like we’re aliens from a Science Fiction movie: “So people like that actually exist?” “Yes, they do!!” Noticing that someone has both typically female and typically male characteristics, or finding out more details about this, or even realising that someone doesn’t fit into any traditional category, makes many people uneasy. It doesn’t match the binary view of the world that is instilled in us. It takes a lot of patience and stamina to overcome this hurdle.
“However, the biggest challenge is, and continues to be, plucking up the courage to speak openly to others.”
When did you come out in your workplace? And what challenges did this pose at your company and with your colleagues?
Nils_Séline “Nica” Schächtele: I began to come out at Bosch during a telephone call with Olaf Schreiber – the spokesperson for the company’s LGBTIQ network RBg – and then in a telephone call about the “third gender option” with Anja Hormann from the central Bosch Diversity Team. After that, I gradually informed my direct colleagues at the office, my carpool group, my supervisor and the local HR department. A wonderful video made by colleagues for colleagues on IDAHOBIT inspired me to have my first name changed to Nils_Séline in the internal company address book. It is written with the so-called “Gender_Gap” to visualise the gender continuum between male and female. I dedicated my first blog entry in the internal network to this subject and sometimes I was moved to tears by the approval I received from all over the world. On Diversity Day, our office organised a Diversity Business Lunch which I attended and where I was able to talk about non-binary gender aspects with those present. Generally, I was pleasantly surprised at how much good will and appreciation were shown to me at all levels. However, the biggest challenge is, and continues to be, plucking up the courage to speak openly to others. Not to mention the IT side, where the only options you have in many areas are male and female.
What advice would you give to intersex people planning to come out?
Nils_Séline “Nica” Schächtele: Take it slowly – small steps are best, so give yourself time. Coming out as an intersex person requires a great deal of care and courage. Things can quickly take a wrong turn. I recommend beginning with people who are not quite so close to you. After a bit of practice, you’ll find it easier to talk to your family and close friends. And get in touch with LGBTIQ allies – they’re open-minded and make very good listeners. Talking to allies will make you feel better and boost your self-confidence.
“I’d like this to be matched by a more relaxed approach – as if you’re talking about the weather or what you’re going to cook for dinner.”
What are your hopes with regard to the visibility of intersex persons in particular and the LGBTIQ Community in general at your company?
Nils_Séline “Nica” Schächtele: Let’s be as courageous as possible. Intersexuality is still a big taboo topic. In many places, we as a society have yet to take a clear stand against hastily begun hormonal treatment or surgery which is not medically necessary. The few who are open about their identity are inundated with letters and requests from all sides. But there are other important topics, too. That’s why I’d like to see many people – in particular many allies – spread the message that the human body doesn’t just develop into a man or a woman and that gender actually covers a broad spectrum. I’d like this to be matched by a more relaxed approach – as if you’re talking about the weather or what you’re going to cook for dinner. I experienced this on Stuttgart’s commuter trains recently and it worked really well. As regards our LGBTIQ Community at Bosch, I hope that many people will join us in the years to come, the proportion of allies will grow steadily, and gender diversity will gain an even higher profile. This applies to intersex, transgender and queer identities topics of any kind.