Dear Ministers and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Thank you for your various statements on the Orlando massacre on your own Facebook pages and the Ministry’s statement.
In your carefully worded statement and Facebook postings, you have avoided to state that the deadly violence took place in a gay club where most of the victims are from lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.
It might be hard for you to use the word “gay” in them because it reminds you on how Singapore either abstained or was not present at UN resolutions passed to protect people of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity against violence and discrimination.
It must be difficult for you to draft them having to realise that LGBTQ community in Singapore faced that same violence in different forms. After all, you know violence does not have to be physical, it can be psychological and that is no less deadly.
Perhaps you could take comfort that we have no gun shooting incident involved LGBTQ community in Singapore yet. However many people can access their firearms while in active or reservist armed units, which will allow them to carry out mass violence. We already have previous cases of people taking firearms outside their duty hours and harmed others. I hope by now you have a file on Bryan Lim if your social media surveillance is working. Of course, let’s remind ourselves that physical violence does not need firearms.
It might be hard for you to appreciate that a gay club is not just a place to dance and drink. For many, it is the only safe space for them to be who they are and in the comfort of those who do not judge or ostracise them. It is a private space in the public sphere.
What took place in the Orlando Pulse is not a random target selection. It is planned specifically to harm the victims because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and the club’s identity as a gay business. In killing and injuring these people in the private space, it is also a deliberated violation on the safety provided by the club. It will send the chilling reminder that even such private spaces are not safe anymore. The suffering will continue for their parents, loved ones, friends and straight allies. For some, their sexuality is now revealed against their will in the most violent and tragic way and their loved ones will have to deal with the unanswered question on their own.
I want to end this by asking you to reflect on something simple but yet profound on your exclusion of the word “gay”. I believe you will not have problem naming the nature of space if it was a church, temple, mosque, synagogue or even any random private spaces.
What you might not realise is that when you removed the word “gay”, you have erased the identity of the victims and its core connection of that private space. It is denying the general public to have a glimpse or a chance to think about the legal, social and religious discrimination that faced by the LGBT community.
Finally, I am quite certain that you have not even think about this. For many and including myself, erasure of the identity of the victims in the midst of such a tragedy, is a violence itself.