Interview with Volkswagen employee Karin Tröndle
On July 25, Volkswagen will participate for the first time with its “We Drive Proud” network in an online version of Berlin’s Christopher Street Day (CSD) – and thus take a clear stand for diversity. “We live diversity” is one of the Group’s principles. Karin Tröndle’s story also tells of this diversity. The 59-year-old has been working for Volkswagen for 23 years, currently in axle alignment. She began her career in the Group as a man. In the interview she talks openly about her path to becoming a woman, how she deals with her transsexuality, the significance of the CSD and the one law that she would like to change if she could.
Ms Tröndle, first of all: Is the term transwoman appropriate?
“Yes, that is actually the best way to put it, that is what I would call myself, especially when I am talking about the subject. But the range of transpersons with different sensitivities is very wide. What someone wants to be called is very individual.”
Why don’t you tell me about your journey? When did the thought come up that you no longer wanted to live as a Cis gender man (a Cis gender man is a person in whom both the biological sex and the gender identity as male)?
“I came to terms quite well with my masculine identity for many years. The desire to belong to the opposite sex, or the feeling of having been born into the wrong sex, was not so strong in my youth, but it was there. I would rather have been a girl. But the fact was, I was a boy. Over the years, the urge to somehow live femininity, to dress feminine, for example increased. At that time, I considered that to be crazy, which then again and again led to strong inner tensions. You have to see, those were different times, there was no internet yet. The term transsexuality alone was not so well known.”
When did the desire for action become more concrete?
“Relatively late. In 2007, when I switched to the chassis department, I slowly realized what was happening to me. I already had some contacts via the internet, interestingly enough even one here at the factory. It was also the first time I went to pubs with her as a woman, which was great. It felt right.”
A big step...
“I honestly had my doubts too. I didn’t want to take the burden of a transition on myself, it didn’t fit into my life plan. I distracted myself in other ways, did more sports, and other things to suppress the desire. At that time, I simply did not dare to do it. In 2007 the transsexual law was also something else. The suppression went well for a while, but at some point, it didn’t work anymore. That was in 2016. In 2017 the topic came up at home, with my family. The genie was out of the bottle and could not be captured anymore (laughs). At home I was already a woman from then on. It just couldn’t be any other way from that point onwards and you don’t want to be any other way.”
Was it always clear to you that you would continue on this path?
“I am also a doubter, not everything that begins with a certain euphoria remains the same. Therefore, I needed a professional acknowledgement if I was on the right track or not and did a form of therapy. This is also necessary to take further medical steps. Many others immediately know – this path and no other way. But I wanted to make sure that I was not barking up the wrong tree, that I had feedback from a neutral side. There’s no turning back now.”
And how did you proceed within the Group?
“That was the last step, already a tough one for me personally. At home I was myself, at work I dressed up, so to speak. One usually goes this way in small steps. Until the outing, that is then a leap. I tried to inform myself on the intranet, but unfortunately there was nothing about this topic at that time. I then contacted the social coaching team here. But I was their first case of this kind. The colleague was open-minded and friendly and recommended a group to me, but I was already in it. I would have wished that there were contact persons who were familiar with the topic.”
Like the #WeDriveProud team?
“Precisely! I’m also happy to make myself available as a contact person if anyone has any questions, maybe experiences the same thing as me.”
How did things continue for you at Volkswagen?
“I was then in the personnel department, where I was asked open-mindedly how I would like to be addressed. But they also thought that the change of name would be difficult because you needed confirmation from the office or the court. But that doesn’t have to be a legal issue, we could react faster within the Group. The Federal Ministry of Family Affairs also has a good website for this.”
So, for a further year, still with the old e-mail address?
“Yes, exactly. But that also led to many funny situations and caused some confusion. If you take that with humor, it’s okay. But for some transpeople such situations are very stressful.”
“I have open, tolerant colleagues”
How did your boss and your direct colleagues react back then?
“Fortunately, I have very open, tolerant colleagues who are sympathetic to the issue. Questions came up little by little. Surprisingly, in the corridors even now, people who never said hello to me before now greet me.”
In your opinion, is the Group tolerant?
“My environment here is very open-minded. My story has never been much of an issue.”
Would you prefer to be called normal – or particularly brave?
“I find the situation as it is, okay. When people come up to me and give me great feedback, of course I like that. But in general, I think that it just shouldn’t be an issue, what sexual orientation you have, what gender identity, what origin. Neither at Volkswagen, nor anywhere else in society.”
Next Saturday we celebrate the Berlin CSD online. What does the CSD mean to you?
“I was on board our Volkswagen truck in Berlin last year. A great atmosphere. It’s an event that signals that this minority is not so small after all, and the numerous smaller CSD events that now take place all over the country also offer the opportunity to talk to the population not directly impacted at information stands. This is my experience from my first CSD in Brunswick.”
If you had the power to change a law, what would it be?
“The Transsexual Act. The name change must be obtained through a court case today. I’d like to make this hurdle disappear. It doesn’t hurt anybody if someone else’s name is said to have no disadvantages for the rest of society. I see it differently with medication. In any case, a specialist should be available to advise on the medical measures to be taken.”
You mentioned that there is a difference between coping and feeling comfortable, feeling at home. Would you say you have arrived home?
“Yeah, I believe so (laughs).”
LGBTIQ is the abbreviation for “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer”. The abbreviation originated in the USA and also became popular in Germany. It briefly and concisely describes people who deviate from the heterosexual norm because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or body.