This Pride Month, we are speaking to seafarers from the LGBT+ community around the world to hear their experiences of working at sea and their words of support for other LGBT+ crew. Captain Thomas Lindegaard Madsen, a sailing captain in Maersk’s container fleet and an active advocate for the LGBT+ community, spoke to us about his work and personal experiences.
Thank you for speaking to us in honour of Pride Month! Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am 49 years old and live in Copenhagen with my husband. We have been together for 13 years and married for 10 years. I have been sailing since 1992.
I am a Captain in Maersk’s container fleet. That means I am overall in charge and responsible on board. Apart from being a sailing captain, I am also an Employee Elected Member of the Board of Directors in Maersk. That means when I am at home on vacation, I go to board meetings at Maersk HQ in Copenhagen.
What does your company, Maersk, do for LGBT+ employees and the wider community?
Maersk has launched a global LGBT+ network for our employees with a lot of initiatives for both members of the LGBT+ community and allies. We have a Diversity & Inclusion Manager for all employees and even a Diversity & Inclusion Manager solely assigned to seafarers. Maersk is also collaborating with the Workplace Pride Foundation to try and get ideas on how to put Diversity & Inclusion into practice in our workplace.
You have a large following on Instagram, @captainthomas_official (over 73,000 followers). How do you advocate for the LGBT+ community, both online and offline?
I would like to advocate for the LGBT+ cause and my community by just showing who I am. That it is possible to be openly gay and be a seafarer, captain and even more. I use especially my Instagram account for that. Offline, I ensure Diversity & Inclusion is on the agenda in my company, i.e. in the Board Room, and I participate the Maersk LGBT+ Network where I am one of the Executive Sponsors.
What has it been like for you as an LGBT+ seafarer?
The fact that I have been openly gay since I was a cadet and the company and my colleagues always knew, has made things easier. I have never had any bad experiences on board because I was gay, but maybe I have also been a bit lucky.
What positive experiences have you had working at sea as an LGBT+ seafarer?
I have had many positive experiences on board and it does not really to relate to me being gay. But on my last assignment, there were two other openly gay crew members on board apart from me, and it was fantastic to know I was not the only one and to see there was no issues at all, exactly the way it should be!
The most positive experience I had was when I came out as a Cadet. I thought I could keep it a secret, but when I signed off, I found out that the entire crew had known all the time that I was gay, without saying a word until the last day. They accepted me for who I was and the job I did, and I felt it like a huge acknowledgement.
Read the other articles in our Pride Month series here: Onur's story / Thobani's story.