Skip to Content

 

If you know me, you probably know that I’m gay. You might also know that I’m not really a flag-waving person, at least in order to call attention to myself, and I’m actually pretty claustrophobic in parades. I’m fairly out at work, have a lovely wife and a lovely teenage daughter, was lead of Pride@SAP USA – SAP’s LGBTQ employee network – for six years, manage SAP’s relationship with the awesome Lesbians Who Tech crew, and have fought for our right to be legally married ever since I was pregnant in 2004.

But I don’t like to make anyone uncomfortable, so I don’t always talk about being gay or about my family. And sometimes people are in fact uncomfortable with the idea of being, or working with, LGBTQ people, or talking about being gay, bi, or transgender in general. Occasionally there have been times, mostly far in the past, when colleagues wondered aloud why anyone should talk about that kind of thing at work and what that has to do with the workplace. Shouldn’t that remain private? Shouldn’t employers stay away from “political issues,” and meanwhile wouldn’t it be a bad example for employers to set to support such “lifestyles?”

People may genuinely be seeking answers to such questions, and they might be unaware of and surprised to hear that inside of corporations around the world there remain issues of workplace inclusion and equality, safety, and legal protections and benefits related to family rights. Even in the United States.

When I first started a career many years ago at a range of otherwise progressive tech companies, I was not able to legally marry my partner of several years. When we became domestic partners, she lost a job and did not have health insurance and I was unable to offer spousal coverage. When I was pregnant, we were not yet able to legally marry, so our health insurance benefits remained complicated (and also taxable, unlike for other colleagues). We were building a family out of love, but as legal strangers.

 

“My dad’s friends”
My family just after our daughter’s birth in 2004. Drawn by the son of a colleague.
Pride matters at work.

For my family, those issues are (currently) in the past. We’ve made a great deal of progress in the US, and internally across employee networks of all kinds at SAP. We have a strong employee network called Pride@SAP, welcoming LGBTQ colleagues and allies from around the world. SAP North America works together with Pride to ensure that we remain an employer of choice for all kinds of people, including LGBTQ people. We participate in Pride-focused conferences and SAP marched in our first ever Pride Parade in San Francisco, with my parents by my side, in 2015 — the same year it became legal to marry across the United States.

Yet we have had profound setbacks and remain on the edge of more.

In the US itself, for lack of a federal non-discrimination act, protections vary by state. One in every four LGBT employees experiences discrimination and it is legal to be fired for being gay or transgender in a majority of states. In some states there is active legislation in the works that seeks to dismantle rights to equal protections only recently gained. Outside of the US, in many countries around the world our colleagues can’t even begin to think of marching in a parade, much less of getting married. Even their existence is illegal, and in some countries, punishable by death.

And even as we celebrate gains in the US, our hearts continue to risk breaking. As we were preparing to march in the 2016 Pride parade, tragedy hit in Orlando, Florida, and 49 LGBTQ people and their friends were killed at The Pulse nightclub. SAP marched nevertheless with pride in the parade, and we continued to feel the backing of a supportive workplace.

I have it easy.

So I personally feel compelled to fly the flag for those who don’t have it so easy.

This is why I was proud to pitch in when SAP flew the Pride flag for the first time ever last year, in honor of the LGBTQ Pride month of June, in Palo Alto on the Friday before San Francisco Pride weekend.

This year we will fly the flag again, and this time for the whole of Pride month. We will honor this in a ceremony with the support of our top local executives and colleagues near and far.

As we head toward celebrations during Pride months around the world, take some time to consider your sense of pride in diversity of all kinds in your workplace.  Your confidence in flying your own bright flag, whatever it is, may send a message of hope up to someone who needs it the most.

 

Marching with my girl in the Pride Parade in San Francisco in 2007.
Our daughter is our ultimate pride.

 

PS: Read more about the history, and reason, for the Pride Rainbow Flag

To report this post you need to login first.

17 Comments

You must be Logged on to comment or reply to a post.

  1. Tammy Powlas

    So wonderful of you to share your story and inspire others.  I too, think of the Pulse nightclub tragedy, and hope lessons are learned.  Lovely picture of you and your lovely daughter Lucy.

     

    What a true inspiration you are, and true Mentor to us all, Moya Watson !

    (3) 
  2. Marilyn Pratt

    The links to SAP as “an Employer of Choice for Diversity” are very pleasing. To see your leadership in this inclusion is simply awesome.  Your impact is so tangible and inspiring.

     

    (2) 
  3. Michelle Crapo

    Such a great blog.  Sharing your experience truly saddens me.  LGBTQ  and issues at work?  Oh boy – I thought that was illegal – sad to hear it isn’t.   Your hopeful outlook is awesome.

    I have a niece.  She has friends that frequently went to Pulse (See Tammy’s comment). It was one of many tragedies lately.  It hit home because she had friends in the club when it occurred.

    I’m so glad you feel “safe” to fly the flag.  You are awesome!

     

    (1) 
    1. Moya Watson Post author

      Hi Michelle — so scary and sad to hear that Pulse touched your niece so directly! i hope her friends are ok. one thing that struck me in that aftermath was the huge outpouring of folks lined up for hours to donate blood.  hopeful when love wins.

      (1) 
      1. Michelle Crapo

        They were fine – thank goodness.  But it is something that will stay with them forever.  And it will stay with my niece forever too.  What was nice to hear from her was a complete lack of understanding on why it happened.  For her it was more like (again sadly) a high school shooting than a hate crime.

        So somehow, someway she never learned that “hate”.   It was nice that she was clueless.  So sad  that she had to learn from that experience why her friends were not accepted by some – um many.

        I know her friends that were there still have some issues. They no longer happily visit the clubs. They are looking for danger.  Not good. But not surprising.

        Yes, the outpouring of love was a wonderful thing to see.

        I love blogs like this one – you have helped others understand your struggle.  And it’s something solid I can point people to read.

         

        (1) 
  4. Jelena Perfiljeva

    Great blog, Moya, and so lovely to see a picture of you with your daughter!

    There was recently an incident at my kid’s elementary school when one boy called the other “gay”, he got offended and it turned into a big fight on a playground. My kid was just a witness, so later he asked me what is “gay” and why the other boy got offended.

    This is not an easy subject to cover with an 8 year old. Being completely unprepared, I could only explain that “gay” refers to those who like people of their own gender and that’s just how they are born. Then somehow we went on an etymology detour and I told him that this word was also used as “fun” or “joyful” (true story: in the USSR, the English-Russian dictionary only offered this translation of “gay”). So, really, I don’t know why would anyone be offended by being called “gay”. And if this happens to him the right reaction is to wave and say “thank you!”.

    Long story short, I very much hope that it’ll be in our lifetime when “gay” will be treated as a compliment. Why shouldn’t it be when so many amazing people are gay and proud of it?

    P.S. Just recently watched John Oliver’s Marlon Bundo episode. Everyone should watch it and buy a book as well!

    (2) 
    1. Moya Watson Post author

      Thank you Jelena for the comment.  It’s sad to hear that “gay” is still a taunt being cast to hurt and tease – even at a very young age. Despite being unprepared you had an *excellent* response: simple and factual. And now you’ve modeled one of the most important roles in breaking the bullying chain: the bystander. Next time he might even intervene – which could make a world of difference.

      And you’re right: at that age kids are probably not aware of what the taunt means and what same-sex love is about — they just know that this is a term that you can say to make someone feel very very bad. Most unfortunately, we know that kids as young as 13, 14 years old know enough to feel so ashamed that they are driven to take their lives based on bullying, so, words can eventually have consequences.

      Your next step, if you wish,  is to bring up the teasing or bullying to the school — they’re the ones who need to know the curriculum the most and step in before this kind of environment takes hold. If they’re unsure where to start, point them here: https://www.glsen.org/participate/programs

       

      Did I say, again, thank you so much for taking the time to stop by here and comment? 🙂 Keep talking, keep being awesome.

       

      PS: ohmy. on the book — first i’ve heard of it but i’ll leave it at how brilliant the tagline “For every bunny who has ever felt different” is — and isn’t that, really, everyone???

      (2) 
  5. Fausto Motter

    Moya Watson, since I was a boy, in my house, me and my sister grow in an absolutely libertarian environment, when my mother and father reinforced daily the message about the strongest right for all of us: the natural right, following the individual and personal choices.

    I don’t like to believe “that all of us are equal” because we don’t. There is a very famous and incredible Brazilian writer, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, that wrote:

    No one is equal to anyone. Every human being is a unique stranger.

    I don’t know if in English this phrase is clear and lovely as in Portuguese – some poetry is hard to be translated – but is based on this message that I educate my daughters.

    Well, if this world is walking ahead, if the people can seat in the same chair, take the same bus and buy in the same market, is because people like you raise a flag; not a flag only regarding LGBT, but a flag for equanimity. An equanimity that show for all of us how incredible is the diversity.

    As a father, with 2 daughters, must say thank you for your effort. People like you bring a better world for all of us.

    FM

     

     

    (4) 
    1. Moya Watson Post author

      I have thought and thought about how lovely it is that you went out of your way to drop a comment on this blog and we don’t even know each other, and I have concluded that the best way I can honor such a lovely comment, Fausto, is in return with poetry.

      And thank you to YOU for being an amazing father and all my best to your two daughters who are, I am quite sure, making the future brighter given an embrace like yours.

      “Prova de que o amor continua, em meio a toda sorte de absurdos, violências e marotices políticas e outras, e que nenhum índice de inflação, nenhum terremoto, nenhuma sinistra maquinação é capaz de cassá-lo da face da Terra.”
      ― Carlos Drummond de Andrade, As Palavras que Ninguém Diz    

      (1) 
  6. Mynyna Chau

    Thank you Moya for sharing your story and inspiring people, including me. I wish in today’s and future world people would accept and respect each other, love and don’t hate. Pride@SAP is a great initiative and statement that changes the world to become better. Thank you.

    Best wishes, Mynyna

    (2) 

Leave a Reply