Coming out at the workplace: “I’m a trans woman.”

Nicole was born in the body of a man but identifies as a woman – and has done ever since she was a child. But it was a long way until she found herself. Today she shows that living openly as a transgender individual is possible – and serves as a role model for others to reshape things and promote change.

“I started my professional training as a male laboratory technician at Bayer in 1984. Today, 36 years later, I'm still at Bayer, but as a female chemical engineer. In between I changed a few things in my life. Today it comes off my lips easily, but it took all my courage and a lot of effort to shape my life anew.


My name is Nicole Lemsky and I am a trans woman. This is my story.


Already during my childhood, I knew that something was not quite right. In 2004, I finally realized that I am not a man: There was a feature on private television about a trans person and her hopes, fears and suffering. For the first time, I understood: Others also feel the way I feel. The feeling has a name: transgender. At that time, I was already divorced, had lived a few years as a single dad and had already met a new woman. I outed myself quickly to her and we looked for professional help. I got psychological treatment, joined self-help groups and initially still tried to push it all away. My wife was always at my side. We got married during this time. But I started suffering from depression, self-harm and suicidal thoughts. My wife told me: “It cannot go on like this. You have to do something.” In 2013 I officially started my transition, first in my private life and about a year later also at work.

 
At Bayer, I outed myself after a few months of preparation with the support of the works council chairman. He organized a meeting with my superiors. They were relaxed, wrote an email to all colleagues – including the note that mobbing was unacceptable. The rest was uncomplicated. I took a week off, left the Bayer plant in Dormagen as a man and came back as a woman. At Bayer, I was already respected as a woman before the court made its official decision. Here, I could finally live as a woman and was being addressed with my new name Nicole. I felt accepted. 

The remaining transition took quite a while. I had to live in my “new role” for a full year, hat do commission two expert assessments and undergo medical and psychological treatment in order to be able to legally change my name and status from male to female. Fortunately, it’s no longer like that today. Today, you only need one expert opinion and some other steps have also been changed, and I hope that it will become even easier in future. Nobody choses to take this step and it is already enough of a burden. Just think of the surgery that was required. You don’t do that for fun. 


My transition was completed five years ago. I am officially a woman. Even my birth certificate and other documents such as school certificates, IDs and many more have been changed. 


Since 2015 I have been active in BLEND, a Bayer organization for LGBTI+ people. We attract attention through many events, provide support and advice to others and try to make sure that Bayer stays the open and diverse company that it is today. The Bayer presence at the Christopher Street Days in Cologne and Berlin are always a highlight for me. We have our own float and marching group which we organized within BLEND. I am proud of the fact that Bayer values the BLEND group, supports us and has also helped me personally so much. Together with other trans people from the global Bayer network, we have also founded a transgender working group that advocates the interests of us trans people. For example, we organize training for a work environment that fosters diversity and inclusion and maintain the exchange with HR department.
 

With this post, I would like to encourage all those who also feel unhappy with their identity and need help: You can make it and you are not alone! There are so many people who will support you during your coming out. I was fortunate to receive a lot of support both in my private and professional life.


My story shows: There are ways towards a happy ending. Today I know who I am. After years of searching, I have found myself. What I would wish for? Whether someone is a man, a woman, gay, lesbian, transgender, intersexual or whatever shouldn’t matter. It should no longer be necessary to talk about it and to raise awareness and work against discrimination. We have only reached our goal once it has become completely normal and corresponding discussions and activities have become obsolete. I will continue to work towards this. And I'm happy to work in a company that helps me do this.