07 Feb 2019
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Sodexo supports me to bring my whole self to work

Christelle Hildenbrand, Energy and Maintenance Manager for Lilly France, shares her experience as a *trans woman and how she has been supported by colleagues at Lilly France and Sodexo during her transition.

It was at the age of 49, after a divorce and leading a double life becoming more and more difficult to hide, that I decided to come out.

The sharing of information about my double life, the announcement that I was a transgender person and that I was starting a feminization medical journey was well accepted by my family.

Professionally, I had the agreement and the support of my management team. The provision and help of a psychologist provided by my employer was invaluable to me. It helped me to feel not guilty and to calmly share my decision to start a journey for my transition.

This decision was almost accepted by all the staff of the agency that employed me;  becoming a ‘she’ posed no problem in the Lilly company where I was a subcontractor. The exceptional support of the employees of the site in question allowed me to begin my transition peacefully.

By mutual agreement the diminutive “Chris” was decided, and quickly replaced “Christian” pending the officialization of “Christelle”, this after 5 years spent in the male business.
My feminization slowly evolved, allowing people to get used to it gradually without being shocking.

The official change of my first names after 3 years was a great relief and the beginning of a new life.

People who have accepted and respected my choice has allowed my transition to be a lot easier.


My integration at Sodexo

Knowing that the majority of transgender people are rejected in the world of work; Sodexo’s approach asking me if I wanted to join the team at Lilly, surprised me but also flattered me.

My hiring at Sodexo being confirmed and known by the staff, several technicians and employees told me of their satisfaction to know that it is I who will take the position of REM (Energy and Maintenance Manager) on the site of Lilly.
My situation as a transgender person was not an obstacle to my integration, probably due to the fact that the majority of the colleagues arrived on site after the beginning of my transition. I think I was very lucky to be accepted in this predominantly male professional world.

This female hiring carried out during the transition phase, with incomplete administrative procedures and a complex medical journey to come, shows the positive step of inclusion of the company Sodexo Energy and Maintenance towards “different” people.

Today, after 4 years of transition, I am a person fulfilled in my new identity, thanks to the tolerance, acceptance and support of those around me.

*Trans woman is a term used to describe someone who is assigned male at birth but identifies and lives as a woman.


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