‘Stop Hurting, Quit Labeling.’ A campaign for LGBT workplace equality in Singapore

There is a campaign going on to create awareness about workplace discrimination and to raise funds for legal costs.

People can donate to this cause via an account set up at the crowd funding site Indiegogo, where the campaign is headlined “Article 12 campaign for LGBT workplace equality”, with the summary tagline “Lawrence Wee, represented by lawyer M. Ravi, seeks to get Article 12 of the Constitution to include equal protection for LGBT workers.”

The campaign seeks to raise $30,000, which according to the Indiegogo page is needed for expenses that include “court costs, lawyers’ fees and sundry expenses, as well as the costs of campaigning.”

I first read about it on Yahoo! News Singapore in an article by Nurul Azliah Aripin, who wrote:

A former Robinsons employee seeking constitutional protection against workplace discrimination of homosexual men has launched a campaign to create awareness about the issue and raise funds for legal costs.

Lawrence Bernard Wee Kim San, together with seven other people, launched the campaign “Stop hurting, quit labeling” on Friday evening at the home of film and theatre director Glenn Goei. About 50 people turned up at the event to show their support, including local actors Lim Yu Beng and Neo Swee Lin, and former Singapore Democratic Party member Vincent Wijeysingha.

Ms. Aripin also wrote that Mr. Wee had filed a civil suit against his former employer last December for allegedly harassing him and forcing him to resign because he’s gay. The suit was dismissed on contractual grounds.

That is a horrifying story indeed, to be fired from our jobs just because we are who we are. More details on that are spelt out in this Fridae.asia article. Kudos to the immense courage of Lawrence Wee for standing up for what he believes in not just for himself but for the rest of us.

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Lawrence Wee. Image from Fridae.asia. Click to go to source.

From the campaign page on Indiegogo:

Concerned that the law is ambiguous, Lawrence is now asking the High Court to judge whether Article 12 of our Constitution, which guarantees all persons equal protection of the law should also apply to people on the basis of their sexuality.

Article 12(2) states that “…there shall be no discrimination against citizens of Singapore on the ground only of religion, race, descent or place of birth in any law…”

Lawrence, who worked at Robinson’s for six years before he was sacked, believes that people should be allowed to prove their worth at work, without fear that an immutable characteristic does not become a millstone around their neck.

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Verbal abuse against transgender passenger, SBS Transit takes action.

I came across this article  on Yahoo! Singapore only recently. It was written earlier this month on the 4th, but oh well better late than never. I’m just happy I still caught it. It’s such a pleasant surprise, and of course I want to record it here.

Leona Lo, a transgender woman, had reported to SBS Transit that a bus driver of theirs had yelled ‘ah kua’ at her, which is a derogatory term used to taunt effeminate men and transgendered women. To make matters worse, the drivers’ colleagues joined in by hooting and clapping.

Image from Yahoo! Singapore. Click photo to go there.

Yahoo! Singapore reported that besides writing a letter to SBS Transit to report the incident, Ms. Lo also posted it on her Facebook page, and that this created an uproar in the online community.

Fridae.asia’s article has more details. They had contacted the company and a spokesperson told them that they had conducted an investigation and identified the ‘Bus Captain’ (we call our bus drivers here ‘bus captains’ LOL) who committed the act.

“He is deeply apologetic and we will be taking disciplinary action against him. I would like to extend my deep regret to the complainant and to assure her that this is not something we at SBS Transit condone.”

However the spokesperson, a Ms. Tammy Tan whose post is the ‘Senior Vice President of Group Corporate Communications’ at ComfortDelgro which owns SBS Transit, declined to elaborate what disciplinary action exactly will be taken, citing company policies. She added that the incident was not something the company takes lightly, and that ‘this is the first time the company has received a complaint involving an employee using a gay slur on a passenger or member of the public.

Kudos, SBS Transit. I have to say I can’t help but feel touched and proud to hear that a Singapore company stepped up and addressed such a complaint and taking some form of action.

Okay, it could have been better and clearer if she had elaborated what exactly is the disciplinary action. Plus, from my understanding of the Fridae article, it seems that SBS Transit had declined an offer from Ms. Lo to give ‘a talk on diversity’, with the spokesperson saying instead that the company has in place “internal training processes which cover a wide range of topics.

But that’s okay. To me it’s like, ‘baby steps’, although this feels more like big strides, to be honest. I hope it’s not just me, being impressed that they have done the right thing firstly by taking Ms. Lo’s complaint seriously and conducting an investigation, and then by acknowledging that the verbal abuse act did happen and for apologising to Ms. Lo, getting a customer service representative to call her. Even Ms. Lo said that she is “happy with how SBS has handled the matter”.

Kudos also to Fridae.com for picking up the story and contacting the company, and most of all to Ms. Leona Lo for pursuing the matter instead of just suffering in silence and brushing it aside, even though the incident had initially made her feel intimidated. What an inspiration, not just to trans folks, but to everyone.

Ms. Lo told Fridae that she hopes it will be a learning experience for all, that such incidents need to be reported so that they can be stopped.

“I’ve received emails from transgender women humiliated by bouncers at nightclubs but when I ask them for an incident report they back out for fear of ‘reprisals’. In 2007, Lo offered to conduct diversity training for the employees of a bar where she was asked leave after she was told that the venue did not welcome “lady boys”.

Her compelling account and thoughts on her blog is a must-read.