Transidentity: A woman at last — one year after my coming-out

I write about my transidentity and my path from cognition to outing. Through the touring exhibition “Trans* in der Arbeitswelt”, which was shown at four German Daimler locations, I was able to publicly come out.

There definitely are things that are easier for me to do than writing about my personal history. But once the idea occurred to me, I liked it. After all, I’ve got a story to tell. But where should I begin?

Actually, living as a man is not such a bad thing. Some things are probably easier — at least certain things that require physical strength. But what happens if you realize that inside yourself you’re a woman?  What happens when your wish to have a feminine body becomes overwhelming, when you like women’s clothing better than men’s, and when you realize that it would simply feel better to be a woman in your daily life?

After you’ve reached this realization, you’ve got only two options: either suppressing this knowledge for the rest of your life or going on the offensive and facing the challenge. I reached this realization at the beginning of 2013, and I began my transformation in a series of small steps.

The medical term for my condition is trans identity. Today it is assumed that trans identity is formed as early as pregnancy, and that during this period the unborn child’s physical development and its development of an identity no longer run in parallel. What is developing is a human being whose own sense of gender does not match his or her physical gender characteristics. There are people who already realize this mismatch at an early age, but many become aware of it only much later.

I belong to the second group. After I recognized this fact, I was able reinterpret many aspects of my youth and adulthood, including my urge to wear feminine clothing. I embarked on a long process that was full of challenges, but my family, friends, and acquaintances helped me along the way. I also had the support of people with experience in this field. After receiving a definitive diagnosis of trans identity from a specialized psychologist, I began my gender-changing hormone therapy in the fall of 2014.

The way to the new self

I received drugs that block the formation of testosterone and a salve that I had to constantly wear on my skin. The effects were noticeable within just a few days. My physical transformation was beginning. My skin became softer and much more sensitive — incidentally, so did my psyche — and my body started to become more feminine. This transformation, which began over four years ago, still makes me feel delighted and convinces me that this was the right step to take.

The feeling that I was increasingly living in the right body helped me cope with all the pain and effort. And there certainly was a lot of effort involved. Appointments with doctors, psychologists, expert advisers — all of them took up a lot of time and had to be scheduled around my work and the time I spent with my family. Work and family time are important areas of my life that require focusing and concentration. There, at least, I can temporarily set aside my frequent thoughts about my trans identity.

Franka at the finissage of the traveling exhibition “Trans* at Work” in Berlin in November 2018.

The pain aspect became stronger when I underwent a process of electric beard removal. And two years after the start of this process, far less than half of it is over. With regard to many of these steps, a man or a woman doesn’t choose this path for trivial reasons. If you want to go the full distance, it has to be the right path for you.

After coming out to my friends, family, and neighbors, and after my hormonal shift, I inevitably had to face the question of when and how to come out at the company where I worked.

Tolerance and acceptance in the workplace

The most important anchor point during that time was definitely a group-wide letter from Wilfried Porth, the Human Resources & Labor Relations Director, in 2012. In this letter he assured us that all employees of Daimler AG have the right to live and work in accordance with their personal gender orientation.

I realized that I still had to apply this principle to myself and my situation in my work environment, but I knew that I was basically accepted at Daimler. This was one of the main preconditions that allowed me to start my gender-changing hormone therapy in 2014. After all, the well-being of my family depended on it.

The support I received in my environment also was important, and it still is. As I look back, I can see that an important lever in my personal and professional environment was a long step-by-step communication process, mostly in one-to-one talks, and a slow process of altering my external appearance.

For example, I lived as a woman in my private sphere starting in 2014. Later on I was recognizably a woman until I reached the parking garage, but when I stepped out of my car I was still a man. In the evening I went through this transformation in the other direction. I gradually adapted my clothes, going from trousers to jeans, from masculine jeans to feminine jeans, and from shirts to blouses. I enjoyed the moments when women colleagues who were in the know would tell me that my changing physical characteristics were gradually becoming impossible to hide. One of the most noticeable steps I took was changing my hairstyle after the Easter holiday in 2017. That was my biggest public transformation, and it also received the clearest comments.

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The activities of the Global Diversity Office at Daimler helped greatly to sensitize and inform people. The Trans* guide provided clear answers to administrative and legal questions concerning employees with a trans identity for managers and personnel managers and regulated internal company processes. With this guide, Daimler created a clear framework for the entire workforce, ensuring equal opportunities and eliminating discrimination. In addition, a traveling exhibition called “Trans* at Work” was on show last year at four Daimler locations in Germany. For this exhibition the photographer Anja Weber had made portraits of 12 transsexual people at their workplaces — in offices and libraries, standing in front of students at a seminar or sitting behind the steering wheel of a truck.

I staged my official coming out at the kickoff event of the traveling exhibition’s run at the Sindelfingen plant on December 4, 2017. I had decided to wear a dress on that day — only at the exhibition’s vernissage, of course. To make sure I was not breaking any stylistic rules, a colleague of mine had organized a cooking event for me and some others a few days before that, and I was able to “practice” my coming-out there. I was then able to successfully manage my appearance at the vernissage with the support of my supervisors and my colleagues.

From the inside out

Not much has happened since then except for my application to officially change my personal status and my name. Since the passing of a judicial order in October 2018, I’ve officially been a woman. Shortly after that, my status as a woman was also confirmed in my birth certificate, personal ID, driver’s license, and finally my business e-mail address. That ended a situation that had been difficult for everyone: People had already been addressing me as Franka and using this name in their appointment calendars, but my e-mail address and official letters to me had still been using my masculine name. Here too, I would like to express my thanks to all of my colleagues who considerately made these changes even before the official go-ahead.

Franka and Dirk Jakobs, the Head of the Global Diversity Office (GDO), at the traveling exhibition “Trans* at Work” at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Rastatt in June 2018.

As I write my story and look back at these events, it all sounds simpler and smoother than it actually was. It goes without saying that some people reject me and that I’ve also encountered cases of ignorance. At my workplace there are people who now avoid looking at me. But these are isolated cases. Of course when I first realized the truth about myself, I felt the ground shifting beneath my feet and I had thousands of thoughts. The orientation phase is the hardest of all. But I ultimately decided to trust the people around me and I knew exactly what goal I wanted to reach: being allowed to be as feminine as I feel.

I’m very glad that the people in my private sphere and my colleagues at Daimler have supported and accepted my transformation so well. I realize very clearly that this is not simply a matter of course, even though it should be — because ultimately everyone should be able to live the way he or she feels is right.

And what’s happening today? I’m having great experiences at Daimler every day. My contact with many of my colleagues has become closer and more trusting since they got to know my true “self.” I can go to work with feelings of pleasure, openness, and strong commitment. And I feel that an additional “spot of color” in my team is strengthening it much more than slowing it down.

For all these things, I’d like to thank my family, my circle of acquaintances, my colleagues, and of course my employer, Daimler.

Sincerely yours, Franka

Trans* is a generic term for transgender, transsexual, trans identity etc. and encompasses all people who do not (only) identify with the biological sex assigned to them at birth. It is therefore about IDENTITY, not about sexuality (“Who am I?” and not “Who do I love?”).

Sociological studies estimate that the ratio of trans-identity people to the total population ranges between 1:250 and 1:500. According to the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Transidentität und Intersexualität (dgti — German Society for Trans Identity and Intersexuality), about 27,000 people have officially changed their personal status since the “Transsexual Act” came into force in Germany in 1981. In the past few years alone, more than 2,000 have made this change every year.

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Franka S. is project manager for the chassis development C-, GLC-, E- and S-class and likes the collegial interaction with the many colleagues at the Sindelfingen site, in Germany and abroad. In her private life she likes to spend time with her family, her boyfriend, takes pictures and loves to be out in nature.