The Orlando shooting massacre that killed some 49 patrons at Pulse nightclub recently – the youngest of which was only 18 years old – is a grim reminder that violence and hate crimes towards any groups are a real and serious threat. With the Brock Turner rape making headlines in the days before, there is little doubt that such acts to debase others cannot be tolerated.
Recent activities in Singapore have also proven worrying. From the continued existence of an anti-gay Facebook group to a commenter threatening to ‘open fire’ in a post about foreign companies’ local chapters supporting social movements such as LGBT pride event Pink Dot, much can be gleaned from the events that have happened on the past few days.
1) Watch what you say on social media
Facebook user Bryan Lim took matters into his own hands by threatening to ‘open fire’ allegedly towards homosexuals in Singapore. He made the comment Jun 4; it was flagged up on social media just hours after the Orlando shooting by photographer Audi Khalid.
“I would like to see these £@€$^*s die for their causes,” he said. Police reports were made after his comment went viral, to which investigations were launched and subsequent critique came from ministers and even pastors themselves.
This was at a time when local gay bar Backstage Bar opened it doors on Monday to provide a space for LGBTs to congregate and grieve – an irony of sorts, considering how the Orlando shooting happened within the affirming and safe confines of a gay nightclub.
In a time of sensitivity, perhaps it is best to show restraint and exhibit tact. Comments on social media can be taken seriously as matters of threat – see Amos Yee. If the comment is targeted towards hurting a member of society, it can be perceived as a threat.
2) Community can lift or break
Perhaps you were one of the many that saw outpouring across social media over the Orlando massacre. Perhaps you may not know any LGBT friends at all. But social media has proven just how powerful the spirit of community is: that we do not stand alone.
Stories of friends who spent their days in distraught thought, not being able to focus on their work were sobering reminders of how fearful people were of their safety and security. Even in a place like Singapore, a self-radicalised person’s thoughts can lead to a slash of the knife or AWOL with guns.
The possibility of our social fabric being broken by one person was made even more real, especially in a country where the LGBT community has received considerable ire from conservative sections of society.
Many found comfort in sharing tales of what had happened overseas, and spreading messages of love. And when one commenter launched a threat towards the LGBT community, many rallied in sending comments of concern to Bryan Lim’s employer, Canon Singapore.
Community also took a potent form when over 700 people attended a vigil Tuesday night at Hong Lim Park, the very space where Pink Dot was held just weeks ago. The emblem of multi-coloured lightsticks being held up for a minute’s silence not only showed solidarity, but diversity in community: that we can come together despite our identifiers, for a common cause of good.
3) Protection and anti-discrimination must increase in Singapore
We are glad to live in a cultural melting pot whereby all races and religions are able to co-exist despite our differences. Why is that so? Well, have you seen a pastor tell an imam that Islam is flawed? Or have you seen the reverse happen?
There is a clear line that discrimination towards anyone’s religious beliefs is not tolerated in a city like ours, where interfaith dialogue still happens and racial harmony is constantly being reinforced through education. Singapore’s years are still young, and some who are still alive have seen the days of the racial riots.
The same thought must then expand towards protecting other vulnerable groups. Neil Road is a safe space for LGBTs, where many come together at bars and clubs to celebrate life and companionship without fear of persecution, removal and most importantly, death.
The tragic events in Orlando – even the death of YouTube star Christina Grimmie at her own meet-and-greet event – has proven that safe spaces are only as safe as the law ascribes it to be. Who is to stop anyone from stepping into a place to exact his or her own revenge if protection laws are absent?
Minister K Shanmugam’s words about protecting LGBTs are but cold comfort, in a country where gay sex is still illegal and partners of same-sex couples cannot support each other through their Medisave should a calamity befall their other half. What will then happen if another gay person is severely wounded and his only form of support on the medical bed, after being disowned by his entire family due to his sexuality, is his life partner?
How will we then be able to say we are protecting our citizens when basic rights of support are not even extended to them?
If Singapore wants to move forward from Orlando, it must begin scrutinising its own privilege and look out for others who do not have the same privilege as them. LGBTs are not the only vulnerable community here, but if rights and protection measures are being accorded to other vulnerable groups such as foreign workers and minority religions, we must honour our brand of “safety and security” in its entirety.
Photo: Thomas Timlen/Flickr