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„Being different isn’t always easy, being different can be tough” are the words of SAP’s co-CEO Jim Snabe in SAP’s contribution to the It Gets Better anti-bullying campaign. SAP employees were galvanized to make this film after the son of Pati and Steve Fehr (Steve is an SAP employee) committed suicide after years of being bullied for being gay. If you don’t know SAP’s It Gets Better film I recommend that you should watch it because the movie speaks for itself much better than I could do.

On Tuesday SAP hosted the ‘It Gets Better’ Public Event in Walldorf (the premiere was on June 7 in Palo Alto) and discussed the situation of LGBT youths and how it could be improved. The event was really exceptional because people told their stories:

  • Steve Fehr told that sad story of his son Jeffrey that brought tears to our eyes.
  • A teacher told us that in his school there is no open gay pupil – they all hide and try to survive the situation they are living in.
  • A mother of a gay man explained that society tries its best to ignore that fact: neighbors only ask about his straight siblings but not about him, as if he stopped existing.

I think it is necessary that these and other stories are being told and hope that SAP will put the video of the event online. 

In this blog I will share the most important things I learned as part of the audience. I’m glad I could interview Miguel Castro from HomoSAPiens, the LGBT Employee Network @ SAP and Joachim Schulte, who was invited as representative of  SchLAu organization that offers education at schools about the situation of young gays and lesbians. And last but not least I want to share you my own story and thoughts about why diversity matters.

The Situation of young German Gays in the Past

I agree completely with Jim Snabe: Being different can be tough. Instead of appreciating each others’ uniqueness as source for new ideas, inspiration and experience, people deviating from the norm are discriminated against. Sometimes it suffices being good at maths, bad at sports or loving the members of the same *** to be discriminated against. And since everything of this applied to me, I decided that I needed help and I joined a gay youth group. For most young gays in these groups this was very important for their personal growth because it was the first time they met other gay people in their situation and learned that they are not alone. This gives hope and strength and helps to find one’s own place in life. This is important because there are no “role models” for young gays and lesbians until now.

Soon I began to take up greater responsibility in the group and helped to coordinate important initiatives. We organized Safer *** education because schools did a lousy job teaching how to avoid sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). I could write a lot about how school education failed but I want to mention only one aspect: most teachers thought of LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex) people as a strange and exotic milieu and couldn’t imagine their own children as well their pupils could be gay. As a consequence some of my straight fellow pupils didn’t care about STDs because they considered is as problem of some high risk groups – and this could lead to devastating results. Moreover we tried to help some young gays who had been thrown out of their homes by their parents. But the most important aspect of that self-help group was that gay teenagers could meet peers and talk about their problems, sorrows, plans and dreams. Some of the young men found new friends in the groups after they lost most of their old friends during their coming out process. Some of them even found partners and sometimes a life partner. Some young gays told me that without a self-help group they would have committed suicide.

The struggle to improve the situation of young gays and lesbians was a powerful experience and so I’m not surprised that many people who did social work in their youth later became top performers in business. We had to take up responsibility, organize projects and of course manage a budget.

The overall situation for gays and lesbians has improved a lot within the last 20 years in Germany but I learned that this is not true for young gays and lesbians. This is exactly what I heard when talking with friends who grew up mostly at small town but studies say that this is a general problem.

‘It Gets Better’ Public Event in Walldorf

So I was glad that SAP organized the ‘It Gets Better’ Public Event in Walldorf and a panel discussion with experts. For me the biggest surprise was the stunning speech of Luisa Delgado, a member of the SAP Executive Board in charge of global Human Resources. She came straight to the point and discussed bullying. She closed with the very important message: “It is my commitment as your board member in charge of HR at SAP that being different means being more”.

I was most impressed by Steve Fehr who told the sad story about his son Jeff and how he had been bullied since 4th grade – and it got worse in high school, until later 24/7 cyberbullying came on top. He emphasized the value of crisis intervention for LGBT youth and explained the he shared the story of his son to prevent that another family is going through the pain agony like his family did. I think some people shed tears when hearing his words when he gave advice to parents with children in the same situation everyone could feel his pain because he wasn’t able to save the life of his son.

It is painful to say, but from my own experience sometimes it is not possible to help a bullied gay teenager especially if a depression occurs: this is a serious disease and can have devastating results for any struggling teen.

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These and other introductory talks offered plenty things to discuss. In fact the panel discussion really went into depth. The participants discussed the situation of young gays and lesbians, the experience of their parents, coming out at school, the business value of diversity especially for a company like SAP, bullying and corporate fairness-policies, the situation in less tolerant countries like India and much more. The event was highly attended and many people from the audience asked questions.

I’m glad that I could interview Joachim Schulte, who was invited by SAP and took part at the panel discussion. As a school teacher he knows the situation of LGBTI people very well. He is also recipient of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany because of his continuing engagement for LGBTI people in Germany.

Interview with Joachim Schulte – Teacher and Pioneer

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Can you tell us about the situation of young lesbians and gays in Germany?

The situation is contradictory. On the one hand there has never been such visibility of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender and intersexual people (LGBT) before, especially in TV-shows. On the other hand there is no visibility of LGBT people for people at school and their social environment.

School is perceived as involuntary community. The school class is an unsecure environment that can’t be relied on. As gay man, lesbian or transgendered it is necessary to get support from the social environment. Especially for young people in educational organizations this is tremendously important. Without this kind of support learning will fail and this has serious consequences for future professional life.

Of course this is no LGBT-specific issue but it affects LGBTI people particulary. During the phase of Coming-Out, when someone gets aware of the own sexual and gender identity, which is experienced as “being different than the others” the vulnerability of the personality is very high.

Statistics show that the suicide rate among young homosexual people is 4-7 times higher compared to their heterosexual peers.

Moreover LGBTI often people at school feel not being accepted by their peers and only in few cases get the necessary attention by their teachers. This is linked to the fact that the state of knowledge about LGBT people in very low, if you think of the legal situation for example. Often teachers don’t reject derogative comments and sometimes even support them (60% of all cases).

„Schwul“ (gay) und „Schwuchtel“ (******) are swearwords not only addressing LGBTI but everything considered as „bad“ or “not good”. Do you really want to be something considered as “bad”?

So school is no place where young LGBTI people can develop well. Moreover for LGBTI school is place where they can live in dignity and respect, which is a requirement for everyone of us.

Your are one of speakers of SchLAu – what is this organization doing?

SchLAu ties up to this situation: young LGBTI people having nearly the age of the pupils visit school and inform about the situation of LGBTI people, explain words and tell from their own live and in general about their own Coming-Out. And pupils can put questions. The most important message is that everyone is experiencing a process finding one’s own sexual and gender identity – LGBT people do the same but in most cases only more consciously.

What do you think of the „It’s getting better Campaign“ of SAP?

This campaign is awesome. It’s so terrible that young people died because that they didn’t experience the matter of course being accepted and have been excluded and bullied.

I hope that this campaign is sustainable and I propose that SAP should consider to offer a prize every second year for the best school class/learning group which carried out an action for acceptance of LGBTI people in their class, their school or in their social environment. This prize should have a good price money and should be communicated effectively.

How can the situation of young gays and lesbians be improved?

I have many suggestions: The situation of LGBTI people should be part of curricula – perhaps as cross cutting concern. School communities (teachers and pupils) should reject derogative comments against LGBTI people. We need a cultural change and embrace the difference and uniqueness of every pupil. And, last but not least, pupils should learn about the situation of LGBT people at school.

Interview with Miguel Castro from the LGBT Employer Network at SAP

After interviewing Joachim Schulte I wanted to know about SAP’s activities in the area of LGBTI issues and had an interview with Miguel Castro from SAP who was one of the organizers of the event.

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What is SAP doing with regards to Diversity?

More than 60,000 employees from 129 nationalities contribute to the success of SAP, turning the company into a global player. Only in SAP’s Headquarters in Walldorf 89 nationalities are represented. SAP believes that diversity is a source of innovative strength and allows a company to better meet and understand the needs of its customers. We are proud of the unique contribution each individual makes at SAP and recognize that our diverse human capital is the essence of our success.

In SAP, we embed diversity into key HR and People processes: Hiring, Talent, Leadership & Performance/Reward, investing in broad diversity education for managers to ensure they apply diversity in their decision-making and performance review activities. The objective is to effectively align diversity programs and practices to support business needs.

Besides, we provide people and budget to support our Global Diversity Program in cooperation with the different Employee Network Groups, like Business Women Network, Cultures@SAP and the LGBT Employee Network, HomoSAPiens.

Why is involvement in LGBT topics important for SAP?

Diversity is actively promoted by SAP. It’s not just about equal rights for women, but about the participation of people of different age groups, sexual orientation and gender identity, with disabilities and different backgrounds such as nationality and heritage. SAP supports the concept of mixed teams to integrate the best of „all worlds“.

What are the activities of the LGBT network HomoSAPiens at SAP?

HomoSAPiens@SAP helps increase the understanding of work and life issues, supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) colleagues to be more open about who they are. It shows how awareness of LGBT issues contribute to SAP’s success. The network celebrated the 10th anniversary in 2011, during the Global Diversity Week. The activities that HomoSAPiens organizes or is involved in can go from the regular “Rainbow lunches” where members of the network meet for lunch in the canteen of their location to external participation in events like the MILK Congress and Messe in Munich and Berlin, or being a member of the “Bündnis gegen Homophobie”, also in Berlin, having hosted one of their regular meetings. The main external contributions of HomoSAPiens since 2007 are the regular presence with a stand at “Grillfest am anderen Ufer” (BBQ by the River) in support of PLUS Mannheim and joining the CSD (Gay Pride Parade) in Mannheim and in Frankfurt.

In July 2007, HomoSAPiens@SAP collaborated with other SAP divisions to publish the Gender Transition Guidelines. These guidelines ensure an accepting and supportive environment at the workplace, while giving the needed support to managers and employees also affected by this issue.

For these type of activities the SAP Works Council awarded the network SAP with the Employee of the Year Award for Social Engagement in December 2007. The following year, Germany’s professional association for gay managers, the Völklinger Kreis (VK), awarded the Max Spohr Prize 2008 to SAP. VK selected SAP for the accolade due to its excellent implementation of diversity values in the company’s management concept, noting that SAP actively supports diversity among its employees, particularly with regards to sexual orientation and identity.

Cooperation with LGBT employee networks in other companies is also very important to HomoSAPiens, being an active member in PrOut@Work.

One of the greatest achievements of HomoSAPiens is the It Gets Better: SAP Employees film that was released in June 7 as the result of an amazing cooperation of SAP employees all over the world to help save young lives among of teenagers in the LGBT community.

My personal Summary

The ‘It Gets Better’ Public Event in Walldorf was a confrontation with my own history. It is sad to hear that things are not as good as they should be. When I look back into time I learned that I was quite naïve:

  • I thought in the late 80’s and early 90’s that discrimination against young gays was a special situation but I was wrong: even today in Germany “gay” is a swearword used by small children (sometimes even by children in the Kindergarten) who don’t even know its meaning.
  • My second mistake was the belief that the internet could help young lesbians and gays. Of course it is now easier to meet peers in online communities but it didn’t change the situation significantly. Of course the internet can spread information and help people to find peers but can’t end discrimination. The It Gets Better project is a good example of the positive things the Internet can offer, and we can and need to do much more with technology to combat cyberbullying.

In my opinion the main reason young LGBTI people are being bullied at school is that we still are not able to teach children our core values namely that having a different color, religion, nationality or sexuality should never be a reason for exclusion. Moreover children should learn that empathy is a necessary precondition for any social group to flourish – otherwise there will be the danger that conflicts, which will occur sooner or later, will cause serious damage. What do you think – can we teach skills like empathy at school?

The discussion at Walldorf was meaningful: I think SAP has a deep commitment in corporate values. Luisa Delgado is an outstanding person who really impressed the audience with her global perspective, empathy and intellectual brilliance.

At the Walldorf event many people from outside SAP were in the audience. I talked with many of them and want to share their feedback. Everyone was impressed by the SAP’s work, the “It’s getting better movie” and in general SAP’s commitment to diversity: “SAP is an awesome company”.

Some of them consider emphasis on LGBT topics as litmus test for support of diversity – and SAP passed this test superbly. And this is my belief, too: As global company people SAP must understand the needs of customers, partners and their own employees in many countries and therefore emphasis of empathy and diversity is necessary if SAP wants to be successful as global company in the future.

If an enterprise can’t understand the situation of their own employees, how can it understand the needs of target groups in other nations, perhaps with different cultural and educational background? Even if we restrict our point of view from a globalized economy to a single country there are many differences between large and small enterprise and not every solution is useful for everyone.

I hope, as SAP Mentor, I can help SAP to broaden the horizon as well as to learn from SAP and its commitment to corporate values.

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33 Comments

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  1. Moya Watson

    Truly outstanding report of last night’s event!  It was so fantastic to see you and Martin Gillet there sporting your Mentor shirts — 

    Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

    You’ve covered the event thoroughly; the interviews with Joachim and Miguel Castro are well done. What impresses me most though is you sharing your own experience.  Your initiative in the gay youth group is very moving.  You’ve been a trailblazer and obviously helped many, and I’m so thankful that you shared this because you’ve already been a great example on behalf of SAP in so many other ways; this just adds such an important new dimension.

    Thank you, truly, for being part of SAP continuing to get better.

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    1. Tobias Trapp Post author

      At first I have to thank you for our discussion which was really helpful. When I wrote this blog I learned that the situation in the US in Germany is different and it seems to that the US is ahead in anti-bullying strategies. We have to find ways to educate children that bullying is never acceptable and that any discrimination because of age, ***, nationality… has to stop. I seems to me that we should learn from the US.

      There is another difference: in Germany we don’t much about the situation of LGBTI youth and there is no public discussion about that fact. The most promising approach in my opinion are projects like the one of Joachim Schulte: LGBT youth visits school and gets into discussion with pupils. I hope this could change the attitude towards lesbians and gays for children – and perhaps more important: teachers. Joachim Schulte explained very well that they are part of the problem which I can confirm frommy experience.

      What do you think about it? Do you have similar projects in the US?

      Cheers,

      Tobias

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      1. Moya Watson

        Tobias —

        Sadly I don’t think we in the US lead the way in anti-bullying strategies — yet, perhaps.

        But we are, via the It Gets Better project, Bully the movie, and much more, raising a lot of visibility for what is some describe as an epidemic of suicide among too many precious youth – 12, 13, 14…  years old – after being bullied. Huffington Post even has a category for teen suicide:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/teen-suicide

        I implore anyone who’s not familiar with this inconceivable situation to check into this recent article for some gutwrenching background – go with a brave sturdy heart:

        http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/one-towns-war-on-gay-teens-20120202

        While I agree that schools are on the frontlines and it’s tragic when teachers are unsupportive, I think the most important changes need to come both from higher up, and from on the ground: from the administration, the district, the city, county, and country — and from the kids, and we need to do whatever we can to support these kids in making these changes, while pushing for official accountability and policies higher up.

        We heard during the It Gets Better premiere in the US directly from teachers – one from Jeff Fehr’s high school, and one from Gunn High in Palo Alto which also experienced a rash of suicides.  These teachers often report not being supported by their administration or its policies — so administrations and school districts are highly responsible for making a difference.

        When they shirk this responsibility, often there is no other recourse but to go to the courts.  Heroes and friends of mine at the National Center for Lesbian Rights helped a number of brave kids in the above story in Minnesota do just that — this eventually led to a settlement — and whether it has already led to productive change I’m not quite sure, but these kids can walk prouder now, and most hopefully stay alive and in the game with their other peers who somehow feel different and marginalized.

        These kids — these heroes — we need to listen to them and support them.  They hold the keys and the future.

        In the end, we need the whole mixture of awareness and action on all fronts until societal change makes us as a whole kinder and gentler and more tolerant to our most vulnerable (which includes those doing the bullying and pulling the triggers).

        As gradually as that change may be happening to be effective, it is not in time for all too many.  But this is no reason not to set forth.

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        1. Tobias Trapp Post author

          As I told you, in Germany there is not much visibility compared to the US: I know only one TV documentation about that topic; unfortunately it was deleted on Youtube and I found only a part of it on the web. 

          I heard of one father who does the same amazing work like Steve, unfortunately his project is not widely known. This why SAP’s campaign and especially the It’s getting better-movie is so important: in Germany (and other European countries) we face the same problem but it’s not discussed in the public.

          Moya Watson, you told so much about activities and projects in the US; now I will try to do the same and give information about what we are doing in Germany:

          • I heard of many teachers who want to change that situation, unfortunately they often don’t get support from school administration and sometimes parents complain about them. My advice to parents is that parents should insist that education at school should mention the situation of LGBTI people.
          • Parents should encourage teachers to invite organizations like Pro Familia or SchLAu at school.
          • In Germany there’s no nation-wide suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization like Trevor-project – but in nearly every city there are gay community centers as well as telephone hotlines for LGBTI people that will provide help.
          • If parents do know about the situation of their LGBTI children they will find a lot of information in the web and in book stores. In some cities there are organizations for parents of lesbian and gay children.
          • There are a lot of self-help organizations for LGBT youth. When I did that kind of work I got in contact to parents who gave their minor children a ride (in fact they needed more than 1 hour) so that they could meet peers; this is really amazing. Many of groups for LGBT youth are organized at Lamdba-Netwerk.
          • There is a german online community  for gays between 14 and 24 years old. I think, there are similar online communities for young lesbians, too.

          When writing this I realize that I know much more about the situation of young gay men than of young lesbians and bisexuals… Can someone help me out?

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          1. Moya Watson

            Excellent food for thought and I’m keeping this comment in the foreground for awhile.

            When I look through the staggering figures of young gay suicide, I am often struck by it seeming to be mostly gay men.  I need to do more investigation in this tragic area, because nobody is immune to bullying — but it’s a great question.

            The situation with transgender individuals can be even more exacerbated — we just marked another Transgender Day of Remembrance – http://www.transgenderdor.org/ – which marks profound instances of violence against transgender individuals. According to some figures, one transgender person is murdered worldwide every other day.

            We’ve come a long way, but from so much loss, and have so much more to do

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  2. Nishan D Singh

    Certaingly SAP is getting better, and it is really painful to hear such thing happened, SAP has taken the right initiative to educate by filming it, and other great corporates, will learn lesson, and friends who bully such great people, this kind of initative will certainly educate them. God Bless his sole.

    Thanks

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    1. Tobias Trapp Post author

      Thanks for the feedback – especially from you because I consider your blogs much better than mine.

      I decided to write my own personal story because at the event most people shared their own stories and this made the event extraordinary. Nevertheless I don’t consider my own history as extraordinary and I don’t consider me a as a trailblazer although Moya wrote it in a comment. I think I was really naïve when I was younger and expected quick results. Now I know that my work was only possible because people like Joachim Schulte: he fought his whole life for acceptance and had endless discussion with conservative as well as progressive politicians, public authorities and many more. So he made it possible that there was a small but effective infrastructure other people could use to for social projects for LGBTI people.

      Cheers,

      Tobias

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  3. Tammy Powlas

    Tobias Trapp

    Such a moving great blog and thank you for taking the time to write it up.  I wish SAP had broadcast yesterday’s session to everyone outside of SAP – it would have been great to hear.

    I wonder how much also starts at home; I don’t recall ever growing up that my parents said anything derogatory based on anything. 

    Certainly the bullying aspect can be very painful.  

    I hope to hear more from Luisa Delgado in the future.  Thank you again for sharing.

    Regards,

    Tammy

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    1. Moya Watson

      Tammy Powlas Luisa was wonderful — among other things, she shared how she herself had experienced the pain of being bullied for being different, for speaking a different language.  I daresay there is not a single one of us who has not experienced the feeling of being the only “whatever it is” in the room at a given time.    It can be terrifying — but SAP is showing that we know it can make all the difference…

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    2. Tobias Trapp Post author

      Hi Tammy,

      it is great that your parents never said anything derogatory based on anything. From my experience the relationship between parents and their lesbian or gay children often is problematic. Let me give an example: last weekend many of my lesbian & gay friends (who are at my age) came together to in a restaurant and the discussion came that topic. Half of the people told me that the relationship to at least one of their parents is messed up. They felt being rejected all their life and have been told to give up their inheritance in favor of their (straight) siblings. Now there parents are old and I asked my friends whether they could forgive their parents before their death. The answer was no: they wouldn’t do because they tried to get acceptance and love for their whole life and have been rejected all the time. This is really sad. One friend of mine told me that his parents explained to him that they would tolerate LGBT people but not their son being one of them.

      Did the situation improve? There are 2 studies from 2001 and 2005 about LGBT youth in Germany and here are the facts: Nearly 50% of LGBT between 15 and 25 years didn’t tell the father about their sexual orientation, 25% have been rejected by their parents and expect they will be for a longer time. 8% of young gays and 15% of young lesbians ran away from home because of psychological pressure.

      This is really sad because the biggest wish of every young gay man I knew so far was being accepted by his parents.

      Best Regards,

      Tobias

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  4. Jarret Pazahanick

    Great initiative by SAP and fantastic blog Tobias.

    Agree with Tammy that it would have been great if the session yesterday had been broadcast as I for one would have listened in. 

    On a side I love the “It is my commitment as your board member in charge of HR at SAP that being different means being more” as a great message.

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  5. Susan Keohan

    Great blog Tobias.  Thanks for the interviews too. 
    I am raising two boys.  I don’t necessarily know what their orientation will be – and I would never love them less (or even, as you noted, throw them out of their home!) for being gay.  I can only hope that no matter what they are, they have the support – whether from support groups, schools, friends or even (gasp) their parents – to know that they are loved and accepted for everything they are.

     
    What I have heard described by many LGBTI friends (and from watching the ‘It Gets Better’ video) makes me so sad for the Fehr family, and others who have suffered so much.  It also makes me so proud of the people who have come thru the bullying and hatefulness to become the strong and wonderful people they are. 

    I have written my public schools ‘health’ instructor, and asked that she consider showing the SAP ‘It Gets Better’ video.  I hope other people do the same.  I know that our schools talk the talk about respecting diversity.  I hope they also walk the walk.

    BR,

    Sue

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    1. Tobias Trapp Post author

      Thank you for your encouraging words! One reason why I wrote this blog was that I wanted to help parents to understand the situation of LGBTI youth. Not everyone is so well informed like you: in fact 3 weeks ago a friend of mine came to me and told me that her son might be gay and she didn’t know how to help him because he was really frightened because of it. I wrote this small story already as a comment in a blog post on SCN:

      http://scn.sap.com/community/events/blog/2012/11/21/keep-making-it-better–join-us-in-walldorf-and-learn-how-to#comment-329374

      Best Regards,

      Tobias

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    2. Moya Watson

      Sue that’s great — let me know if we can help support the school in any way.

      How old are your kids? Do they talk about seeing/experiencing bullying?

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      1. Susan Keohan

        Hi Moya,

        My guys are 19 (as of tomorrow!) and 12.  Neither has ever told me about any bullying at school that was related to sexual orientation.  Then again, would they?  Last year, a friend of my youngest son was harassed by another kid, and although the motivation is unclear, it was good to see that the school took swift action – not being a party directly affected, I am not sure what these actions were.  The mother of the victim assured me that she felt it was handled well.

        Anti-bullying curriculum starts in Kindergarten. 

        I was glad to see many LGBT couples at my older son’s prom, and I did not see that they were treated any differently. 

        In a nearby town, however, we can see that there is a long way to go.  Back in 2005, some parents objected (strenuously!) to a book that was handed out to elementary school children.

        You can view the offensive material here:

        http://www.amazon.com/Whos-Family-Robert-Skutch/dp/188367266X#reader_188367266X

        I was sickened to learn that the family felt that discussing a same-***-parent household amounted to some sort of ‘propaganda’.  You can read about it here:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lexington_Public_Schools_%28Massachusetts%29

        Frankly, the best thing that could happen to our family is that we have two gay uncles.  The boys love them, my youngest was ring-bearer at their wedding.  I think it’s hard to generalize and hate a ‘group’ of people, when you love and embrace them in your real life.

        Sue

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        1. Moya Watson

          Hi Sue —

          I didn’t know you lived so close to Lexington and I didn’t know about the objection to the book you note, but sadly, I am all too familiar with the Massachusetts story about the Parker family objecting to King & King:

          http://www.advocate.com/politics/marriage-equality/2012/10/31/watch-antigay-parental-rights-ad-confusing-voters-four-states

          The false and deliberately misleading insinuation that schools would be somehow required to teach kids to be gay or furthermore to teach kids about (gay) *** had been shown to be effective in political campaigns — until this year.

          The fact is, my daughter goes to public school. She gets to talk about her family and her two moms as much as everyone else gets to talk about theirs.  Kids that I’ve met at her school actually “get” that this is about love and we have a great district that values diversity.

          I thank you so much for your bravery in saying that your boys’ livez are enriched by their gay uncles. 

          >  I think it’s hard to generalize and hate a ‘group’ of people, when you love and embrace them in your real life.

          so true.

          Back to showing the film at school — I think at your kids’ ages it would be ok, but it’s difficult to address the topics of suicide to younger than that.  Groundspark is a great organization that offers films for younger kids — good places to start are Let’s Get Real — an antibullying film that we showed in Palo Alto a couple years ago to great response, and That’s A Family:

          http://groundspark.org/our-films-and-campaigns/lets-get-real

          Again my great thanks for your engagement and support.

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    1. Tobias Trapp Post author

      I am really thankful for being an SAP Mentor because within this group I found many of my personal heroes like Marilyn Pratt, Moya Watson and Tammy Powlas which inspire me a lot – so being a Mentor is a possibility for personal growth. And I’m proud of SAP because at the event I learned that SAP understands the value of diversity and is doing an amazing work in that area.

      P.S.: I nearly forgot to mention Martin Gillet but he’s really an inspiration. I learned from him that we should not be shy and use the chance to get in contact with extraordinary people. I think four years ago I wouldn’t have taken the chance to speak to Luisa Delgado but now it was obvious I had to do this because I had so many questions after her great speech.

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  6. Michael Bechauf

    Really great blog, Tobias. A couple of things come to mind. One, it’s amazing how this community has grown up. We’ve all known each other for a couple of years now, and it’s wonderful to see how starting from our interaction as developers and technologists, it has reached a very personal level of sharing each other’s story. Two, I’m also impressed by the effort and the outreach that SAP Walldorf has made in order to give bullying and the general LGBT agenda a significant presence in its overall diversity programs.

    You are right, it is a matter of education which should begin in kindergarten that being different is nothing bad; on the contrary, it adds a wonderful set of colors to our communities that are fresh and vibrant. Having grown up in a small rural community in Germany, I admit that it was at first awkward for me too when I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area with its large LGBT population. Interacting with people of different sexual orientation was never a topic until then, so it took some adjustment. Thankfully, I opened up, and it enriched my life in ways that I couldn’t have imagined.

    One of my best friends who has introduced me to my wife is gay. I think my wife and I both needed a little kick in the butt to get moving, and hadn’t it not been for my friend’s wonderful intuition and sense of humor, it may have never happened. One of my childhood friends who later became a colleague at SAP came out a few years ago. He was shy about it too, but the only thing that we as his friends laughed about was why he made such a big deal out of a non-event. We loved him not a single big less – on the contrary, we were so happy that he now could be himself.

    With the outbreak of the AIDS crisis in San Francisco 30 years ago, the LGBT community is still remembering it and helping each other. I was lucky enough to participate in several fund raisers as part of the AIDS Lifecycle event where we take our bicyles from San Franciso to L.A. in 7 days. I’ve done it 7 times, and even though I have now moved on to different venues, it has always been an emotional, but equally fun-filled event. I met many terrific people.

    With all of this, I can say with absolutely conviction that it’s possibly the best thing that can happen to a community to have people in their midst that are different. Thank you again for writing this blog.

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  7. Tom Cenens

    Hi Tobias

    Love the blog post, very moving and a great read. Thank you for sharing this story and your personal story with us.

    SAP is a great company and the community around SAP is simply amazing. I love how SAP embraces inclusion & diversity, it’s an important message to put out there and it’s also important for everyone to get that message.

    As a parent, I try to mentor my kids (two & three years old now) to be inclusive and open-minded (even if they are still very young, it’s already important at home and in school).

    Glad to see SAP Mentors were present at the event.

    Best regards

    Tom

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    1. Tobias Trapp Post author

      Sharing one’s own story is more difficult than writing blogs about SAP products and technology. But it was really hard to write about Jeff, Pati and Steve Fehr. Can you imagine how a mother or father in this situation feels?

      I have greatest respect for Steve Fehr and his strength to tell us the story at events like the one in Walldorf two days ago, at the “It gets better” premiere and of course in the movie. He also supports the Trevor Project is an amazing project which is really amazing.

      Best Regards

      Tobias

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  8. Alan Rickayzen

    Tobias,

    You’ve done a brilliant job in describing the event and then taking it further.

    Afterwards I really regretted not going up to the panel members to get a deeper understanding so I’m really grateful to you for the interview.

    Discussions are still continuing in our family household so every  insight helps.

    Alan

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    1. Tobias Trapp Post author

      I visited many panel discussions in the past about LGBTI topics but this one was really outstanding and I learned at lot. Every panel member came directly to the point and had something interesting to tell. I wish there had been more time for one or two more interviews.

      Tobias

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  9. Martin Gillet

    Hi Tobias,

    Firstable thank you for standing out and taking active contribution in this ‘matter’.

    It takes a lot of courage and guts to take a stand, engage conversation and suppport this initiative. I respect and admire your convictions.

    Nothing is easy down on Earth and I’m still not convinced that we all have the right to define a norm. After all, what would matter is that no one gets hurt, that we all get along and most important that we are happy.

    We are all different in so many ways. Tolerance and education are the two best words that I can describe to my children to open up to the world.

    I was very sad to hear such sad stories from the panel, each story was quite moving.

    It was a privilege to be there with you, as an individual but also to show that we SAP Mentors also care and would like to ‘influence’ positively this challenging initiative.

    I trust the broadcast was not public as I realized most attendees would not be comfortable to go public, some are rather ‘shy’. I have made some pictures of you but did not intentionnally captured other individuals.

    You have done an astonishing wrap up blog post, well done Tobias, I’m proud of you.

    I’m looking forward to the next steps for us to chime in. Next step would also be to schedule as discussed a webinar with Luisa Delgado.

    For you information, here is also the link provided by Moya :

    Teen’s Suicide Galvanizes SAP to Tell Youth ‘It Gets Better’ (VIDEO)

    Thanks again for your integrity, your tolerance, your open mind & passion about educating other peers.

    All the best,

    Amitiés,

    Martin

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    1. Moya Watson

      > Nothing is easy down on Earth and I’m still not convinced that we all have the right to define a norm. After all, what would matter is that no one gets hurt, that we all get along and most important that we are happy.

      Beautiful sentiment.

      And thanks for pointing out the Huffington Post article.  Definitely a big reason we had so much visibility at the launch of the film on YouTube.  HuffPo helps us get an amazingly vigorous new audience as well.  Great mixture for SAP.

      thanks

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  10. Tom Van Doorslaer

    Superb Tobias!

    What you do deserves every bit of respect!

    Deviating from the “Norm” cannot be a reason for exclusion. On the contrary! Everyone is unique in some way. Boy would it be boring otherwise. This uniqueness and different perspective on things is what makes in interesting and what lifts our own insights to a higher level.

    This is what Inclusion is about.

    It is so sad to hear, on a daily basis, that people are being bullied, intimidated, attacked,… just because they stand out from the crowd. That’s not the direction that I want our society to go.

    Together we can make a change. Look at San Francisco. A melting pot of unique individuals, and yet, they all accept each other.

    You don’t have to be like-minded in order to be open-minded!

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    1. Tobias Trapp Post author

      Hi Tom,

      I’m glad you liked my blog. In fact It was really fun to do interviews because the people had interesting stories to tell. I would like to continue the interviews in follow-up blog. I would like to

      • share another “It’s getting better story” of an SAP employee.
      • interview an parent of a lesbian or gay child that told how they could help their children. This would be extremly useful for other parents.
      • interview a lesbian or gay SAP employee from non european/north american counry.

      While sitting at the panel I heard so much interesting stories and I belieye that they should being told.

      Best Regards,

      Tobias

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