Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Becoming an Ally

As family members of trans* Anne Oto Herbst and Allison Cicero know that living authentically is crucial to find happiness in life and reach full potential at work.

7min
Published on May 17, 2021

For transgender persons, finding acceptance in the workplace isn’t always easy. Allies can help them feel encouraged and safe to bring their whole selves to work. Our colleagues Allison Cicero and Anne Herbst Oto are such allies. They have their own personal experiences with trans family members and confront assumptions and stereotypes about trans people. As members of the PRIDE network at Siemens Healthineers they now want to pass on these experiences to ensure trans people are treated with respect both in and outside of the workplace. Here are their stories. 

<p>Allison Cicero, plant manager at Siemens Healthineers Diagnostics in Los Angeles, was 37 years old when her dad told her he identified as a woman and would be transitioning from Richard to Renate. She finally underwent gender confirmation surgery at 76 years of age. Allison didn’t have a close relationship with her dad when she was growing up. They had no contact with each other for almost 20 years: “I have always viewed her as my biological father, but she was never really a father to start with. I understand a lot of that now—she did not feel comfortable in her skin”, Allison remembers.</p>

Allison Cicero

<p>Anne Herbst Oto, Senior Managing Editor at Siemens Healthineers Laboratory Diagnostics, wasn't quite as surprised when her son came out as <a href="transgender" class="cp-fab-text-highlight">transgender</a>. Already at the age of seven, Zane, who was assigned female at birth, talked to her about his male identity. It was just before Christmas that year when he told her: “If Santa is real, then I’m going to ask him to make me a boy.” She started having serious conversations with him and eventually embraced his transition. <br><br>“He never felt like a girl, never lived his life as a girl,” Anne remembers. In public, people often thought he was a boy because of his short hair and the way he dressed. “He was most comfortable being ‘mistaken’ for a boy.” Zane started transitioning socially and physically when he was 10. “Now it feels completely natural. He lives his life fully as a young man, he has a girlfriend, and he is mostly ‘out’ with his friends,” says Anne. </p>

Transgender people are people whose gender identity is different from the gender they were thought to be at birth. “Trans” is often used as shorthand for transgender. 

Transequality.org
<p>After a long and sometimes difficult journey, today Zane lives his life as a man and is mostly out among his friends.</p>
Anne's son Zane standing in a park
It took Anne’s family many years and a lot of support to navigate this journey. She is grateful for all the help she received. “It has been very encouraging to see what is actually covered by our company for transgender dependents,” Anne says. “My son had two gender confirmation surgeries and the Siemens medical plan I had covered around 90 percent of it. They have been incredibly supportive whenever I had questions regarding my son’s health plan.” Additionally, when her son experienced common difficulties like bullying and suicidal thoughts, she found help from counsellors, trans mentors, and a whole range of doctors, but also from different ally associations. “I’m happy to say that our experience has been really positive and this can serve as a great example for people who may be going through similar difficulties.” Anne would now like to pass on this experience to help other transitioning individuals.
<p>Zane and Anne after one of his shows. He is working toward a career in acting at a performing arts college in New York City.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p>
Anne and Zane with flowers in his hand behind the scenes of one of his shows.
For Allison, the most difficult experience was realizing that her mom had lived a lie for almost her whole life. “It must have been terrible to live as someone that you’re just not, that you don’t feel comfortable being,” she says. Today, Allison is a very vocal advocate, helping her family and others understand what her mom has been through. “Renate told me that I should make the most of every opportunity, not to advocate but to educate.” And Allison does just this: by talking publicly about her story and as an active member of the <a href="PRIDE network" class="cp-fab-text-highlight">PRIDE network</a> at Siemens Healthineers.

The PRIDE Network at Siemens Healthineers is a community of employees working together to create an environment of awareness and acceptance for LGBTQIA+ employees and their allies. 

Diversity & Inclusion

Allison Cicero

When Anne joined the PRIDE network, she helped create a trans-inclusive language to be used in the current HR bylaws. “I worked on awareness to make sure my office was a safe zone for LGBTQIA+ colleagues”, she says. She is grateful to be able to contribute in this way. “In this environment, I really felt comfortable sharing my experience with other people within the same space. We’ve talked a lot about living our lives authentically and that also includes being a parent of a trans child.”

Hear Anne’s advice to build an inclusive environment from the eyes of a parent of a trans child.

Something else connecting the two women is their commitment to creating an environment of acceptance and openness in the workplace, in which all people are able to open up to both their managers and peers. Allison, for example, focuses on open relationships and honest conversations within her team: “Listening is critical”, she says, “I want to understand what motivates people, what makes them happy. And if they are in a role that is suited to them personally.” For her it’s a lot about how people should be treated in general. Her advice is to avoid nosy questions and “just accept without judgement.”<br><br> “The biggest challenge employees face when they transition in the workplace is dealing with the reactions of their peers, managers, or even their customers. “I think what we can all do is to keep educating people, offering HR support, and maintaining a high level of awareness”, says Anne. She is sure that there are many allies in the company who would be thrilled to provide support and resources if more assistance is required, whether through HR or employee resource groups, such as PRIDE. Allison strives to be mindful, friendly, and perceptive: “This sets the tone so that others can feel comfortable approaching me or other peers when they have something serious to talk about.”