Michael von Busse didn’t question who he was for a long time. Until he discovered that there was actually a Michaela inside him who was clamouring to come out. A few months ago, Michael*a von Busse opened up to his wife, his children and finally his colleagues. Their reaction was truly surprising.
Big stories always start with little moments. And this story is massive because it remodels an entire life. One of these little moments was when Michael von Busse at some point began to order clothes and then look at himself in them. He did it in secret, all on his own, in quiet moments at home. Nobody knew anything about it. And then this story gradually unfolded. “In the beginning, I thought: Actually, I can’t tell anybody. I thought that I was weird or had some sort of fetish,” said Michael von Busse. On the other hand, it felt really good. His heart took a leap: I’m in exactly the right place here. Then more items of clothing came along. And then the nail varnish. “The first time I put varnish on my toenails, it was like a revelation,” he recalled. “That was when I felt really happy.”
Michael von Busse lived for more than 50 years as a man without seriously questioning himself. He studied architecture, got married, had three children. Today, he is the Automation Director – he assesses processes to see what is the best way of automating them. Actually, rather a straight life, many people would say. But as is so often the case, it wasn’t. “Over the course of my life, a number of events have given me a rough ride. I went into therapy and tried to flatten out these stumbling blocks.” And then along came Michaela.
“At one of the meetings with my therapist, we talked about the last time I had felt faint,” recalled Michael von Busse. And at that moment, it was completely clear that he had to make a decision. “There’s a great deal that I can tell the therapist, but if I don’t address this issue then the therapy will be useless. I began to understand this and during the course of my consultations I got to know myself better.” He began to read about all the various manifestations of genderfluid, in other words about non-binary gender identities. And he found out that the male gender he had been assigned at birth was not the gender that he exclusively identified with. The boundaries are fluid. He isn’t Michael, not Michaela, but Michael*a.
“There’s always a moment when queer people discover that they are lesbian, gay, bi, trans* or non-binary,” said Michael*a von Busse. “Some people get this moment at an early point and some come to it later in life. But irrespective of when they make the discovery: It’s always an enrichment. Finally, you can make sense of the chaos, the feelings and the thoughts going on inside you.” And even if many people find the situation exotic, that’s simply not the case. “It’s part of life – and society.”
“There are some days when I feel more male and there are days when I feel more female,” said Michael*a von Busse. Sometimes, a tiny detail like varnished fingernails is enough to tip the balance. And on other days, it might be pumps or a dress. “There are moments when I’d like to be very female in the way I express myself,” said Michael*a von Busse. “But then comes the point: How much energy do I have for this? I need to have a certain level of confidence to be Michaela in public.” You could also say: The tolerance of fellow human beings creates the space where Michael can be Michaela. And isn’t that precisely the point? Irrespective of whether you’re a man, a woman or non-binary: every person is valuable.
In December of last year, Michael*a von Busse came out to his family. “My wife took it all positively, but naturally it hasn’t always been easy.” After all, the two have been married for more than 20 years.
A few weeks ago, Michael*a von Busse came out in the company: Initially, Michael*a von Busse told his or her boss. After that, he gave a presentation about the topic of genderfluid as part of the Diversity Weeks of the HDI Group in Germany. In women’s clothes. You have to trust yourself first to do that.
“I received a lot of encouragement from colleagues for this, and that energy carried me along for the whole week. I had the feeling: Michaela has been accepted.” A few days later, a female colleague came up to him and said that she would like to see him in a dress. When he talked to his boss about it, the latter only said: Actually, I would too. “When I get positive reactions like that, my battery is fully recharged.” Did he really do it then? “Yes, but only when the two were there as well,” said Michael*a von Busse. “I do this for myself. But I also need people like them in order to have enough energy for a day at work in a dress.”
The concept of “sex” describes the physical identity primarily on the basis of primary and secondary sex attributes, chromosomes and hormones. On the other hand, “gender” relates to an individual sexual identification and how someone wants to express themselves – so the word describes a social or cultural role. Very important: The two do not necessarily have to match in a person. And that’s precisely what makes the world so diverse.
When a woman or a man identifies one hundred percent with the gender assigned at birth, this is referred to as a “cis” woman or a “cis” man. This is the case with most people. However, there are a significant number of people who perceive their own (gender) identification to be different from the sex that they were assigned at birth. We talk here about “trans*” persons.
The concept “binary” means the allocation of man and woman to a person. Whereas “non-binary” includes everybody who does not identify exclusively with one sex. You might also say: Non-binary are all those people who don’t simply feel like a man or don’t simply feel like a woman. One example: Michael*a von Busse was allocated the male sex at birth, but also feels they belong to the female gender.