At home with Kohler.

Victor Contreras; Associate Business Analyst, Kohler, Wisconsin

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I grew up in Venezuela. It’s where my family and friends are. Where I went to school. Where I started my career. Where I met my husband, Bruno. Where I made many happy memories.

But, it’s also where I faced discrimination and the fear of being myself. For the LGBTQ+ community, Venezuela is not an inclusive or welcoming place. Although it’s my hometown, it could never really feel like home. So, Bruno and I decided to find a place to make a new life—a home where we could live freely and be our true selves.

When Argentina legalized gay marriage in 2010, we decided to start there. With my background in industrial engineering and my experience in IT, I was fortunate to follow a new career opportunity that led us first to Buenos Aires. Here, we were able to marry and enjoy a higher quality of life. But it still didn’t feel quite like home. So, we kept looking.

After four years in Argentina, we made the huge leap to move to the U.S. I was fortunate to find a great career at Kohler Co. almost immediately. But what Bruno and I found was so much more than just a job. We found a community.

I immediately felt seen and welcomed at work. During new-hire orientation, Kohler made it very clear that we want you here, we want you to be yourself and we value you just as you are. I had “meet and greets” with many leaders, where I felt open and comfortable to share the aspects of my life that make me, me. After years of oppression, I almost couldn’t believe it. It was like a weight lifted—I could be who I wanted to be. I was never able to come out to my colleagues in Venezuela, even after years working together. At Kohler Co., I came out on the very first day.

Outside the office, I was also able to join the Kohler PROUD business resource group, dedicated to members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies. Here, I’ve found a sense of belonging I’ve never known before. Bruno and I were even able to walk in the Milwaukee Pride Parade as part of the group last year—a celebration that doesn’t even exist where I’m from.

We have been in the U.S. for 4 years now and I am happy to say that I have found a home with Kohler. A home where we don’t have to hide ourselves. Where we have a space in society, where we can be ourselves every time, everywhere, with everybody.

As Bruno says, “we live in peace.” And that’s what home is all about.

I’ve found a sense of belonging I’ve never known before. —Victor Contreras

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