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.

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