The LGBTQ+ Community Is Stronger Than Ever

In Germany, I have found a home. My story started in a small village in Italy. So small that my Grandmother would call my name and wherever I was playing, I heard it and knew it was lunchtime. That was my first community. But when I came out, I realized that tolerance and non-conformity were not valued there, so I left. I arrived in Germany in 1989 with not much other than the drive to find a place where I could be myself 

Around the same time, I was growing up in Italy, gay men in New York City thought they found a place where they could express themselves freely. The LGBT+ community that developed in Greenwich village at the Stonewall Inn was raided on June 28, 1969, sparking the Stonewall riots. They may have succeeded in shutting down a club, but their actions resulted in an unstoppable Pride movement. A global community was born providing a new home for many and the ground to fight for equality. 

When I joined SAP in 2005, Natalie Lotzmann encouraged me to be out, even at SAP, and become the first openly gay manager. This was an important step in my journey because members of a minority community are sometimes discouraged by their perceived status in society. Those inadequate feelings often lead to us losing a bit of the confidence necessary to say, “This is who I am, take it or leave it.” Natalie showed me that I could be myself at SAP. It was around this point in time when, for the first time, my mother joined me at the Christopher Street Day parade in Munich. 

This year my message at Christopher Street Day Karlsruhe, Germany amplified what I learned from Natalie and my mother: we all have to tolerate each other to build a better future. You can see the results of a diverse culture at SAP, where we became LGBTQ+ Diversity Champion 2020 after passing the audit by the UHLALA group. 

From small beginnings, the pride movement is now building connections. This month I also spoke about why networks are so important to SAP’s inclusive culture at the Sticks & Stones Digital Career Fair, the largest career fair for LGBTQ+. It is easier to survive in conformity because we know how to react to our surroundings. However, non-conformity is a strong driver of creativity and innovation. Diversity is more than gender, sexual orientation, religion, skin color, or ethnicity. Someone’s experiences or their cultural background are part of it as well and there are other facets of diversity that make us who we are. Why would you want everyone to wear a gray shirt? Supporting diversity means to foster an inclusive environment where we can wear whatever shirt we like. The freedom to not conform is how we build a true environment of diversity and inclusion.

Last week Dominic Haeusler invited me to close SAP’s Pride Month activities in Germany with a session on my experiences as an openly out leader at SAP. I want to thank him and our SAP community because being the Executive Sponsor of Pride@SAP Germany is truly an honor for me. The SAP Pride community is open for everyone – allies and members of the community.

When I reflect on this month, this movement, I am reminded of how important a sense of community is. It is because of the openness of the LGBTQ+ community that I found my partner and was able to marry him. It is because of that community that I can be an openly out leader today. The progress we’ve seen so far is inspiring because I know if we continue to build on our progress we will ensure respect, dignity, and equality afforded for all.