I felt like a unicorn
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Andreas Claus Kistner
Chapter Head Architecture & Emerging Technologies, Roche Pharma Informatics Kaiseraugst

Andreas initiated the OPEN Basel network 10 years ago. He talks about progress, the impact of the pandemic and issues LGBTQ+ people still face today.

Pandemic problems

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on everybody. The lockdown showed in some cases the issues that LGBTQ+ people still face in our society, including in Switzerland. Let me give you two examples.

A partner of a friend, who has not yet formally announced that they are a couple, was hospitalised recently. However, the friend has not been able to visit or to get any information about his partner. If they had been in a registered partnership, it would have been possible for them to connect despite the hospitalisation. In this case, living together without registering their partnership has become a hurdle.

The second issue that came to light was with elderly LGBTQ+ people living at an elderly home. In the older generation, not many had outed themselves. Those who did were sometimes disconnected from their biological family. Quite often, they created their own families from among friends. During the lockdown they experienced complete isolation, and the loneliness was tremendous. Even with the relaxation of the rules, their “family,” or those in their social circle, were not able to meet.

Early days at Roche

When I joined Roche about 14 years ago, I felt like a unicorn. Some colleagues even told me that I was “the only one.” Actually, I did not face any issues being openly out at the workplace. I initiated OPEN (Out, Proud & Equal Network) about 11 years ago with some colleagues, as I noticed that not everybody had the same environment in the company.

From my perspective, Roche has made tremendous progress on topics like inclusion, anti-discrimination and equality. Over the last decade I saw a lot of colleagues who left the closet and are now out at the workplace. That is a good sign, as the individuals feel safe and accepted.

In the meantime, OPEN Basel has become a global movement with chapters in Poland, Spain, UK, Brazil, Australia, South Africa and even China. In this year’s Pride month, we are happy to celebrate our 10-year anniversary of OPEN.

*this blog was updated May 2021

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