“You must remember this: A kiss is just a kiss.” Or is it? Recent incidents have shown that a kiss is more than a just a kiss.
Firstly, it was the undeclared kiss in the internationally renowned musical, Les Miserable (currently performing in Singapore). The rouge kiss took place near the end of the musical when the drunk Thénardier, a minor rogue character, crashes Cosette and Marius’ wedding. His song, Beggars at the Feast, includes the word ‘queer’ and the cast decided that to introduce a dramatic, funny moment, Thénardier should execute a same-sex kiss. Taken in context, it was a kiss to humiliate and scoff at homosexuality and homosexuals.
But not everyone in the audience was laughing. The kiss was all it takes for someone, presumably someone from the Christian right, who see themselves as the moral protectors and gatekeepers of the country, in the audience to complain and inform MDA of the infringement. MDA, being MDA, of course promptly investigated and out goes the kissing with little loss except to the spirit of creativity and creative freedom on top of making us the laughing stock to the world. It was a complaint which backfired and made the Christian right look silly and ignorant (Read Alfian Sa’at’s June 12th excellent Facebook piece).
The Orlando Massacre
Picture source: http://graphics.wsj.com/orlando-shooting/
The second incident far outweighs the first in terms of proportions as well as serious impact on the LGBTQ community. By now, everyone, well at least the majority, would have known about what happened in Orlando, Florida in the US of America. Fifty people were killed and 53 injured at the gay club Pulse when a lone terrorist, Omar Mateen, opened fire at the largely gay clients.
News of this sent shock waves throughout the world and as we grieve together with the loved ones of the victims, the gay community is reeling from the sudden realization that safe spaces aren’t really that safe anymore. In Singapore, where the weekend gay night scene is rather concentrated in the Tanjong Pagar area, the community would feel even more vulnerable.
Can something like this happen here in Singapore where firearm laws are strict – illegal possession of firearms is punishable by jail and cane and illegal attempts to use or using of firearms is capital punishment?
Judging from the hideous and bizarre support shown to Mateen online from homophobes in the US and as near home as in Malaysia, whether metaphorically or actually, we need to be cautious.
On the home front, a Singaporean has openly declared war in public space: “Give me the permission to open fire. I would like to see these XXXX die for their causes” in protest against Pink Dot.
Do I think he will actually carry out his threat Orlando massacre style? I think unlikely. In part because he doesn’t look like a deranged killer, judging from his smiling face on the posts and largely because reports have been made to the police who have acted. But then, Mateen didn’t look like a killer in the online photos either.
Picture source: adapted from http://abcnews.go.com/US/polite-shy-troubled-sick-portrait-orlando-shooter-emerges/story?id=39812395
Anyway, the Singaporean guy has apologized for his remarks and whether it is sincere or not, I choose to believe that he will not act as he had threatened. I choose to forgive and move on. By the way, if we are talking about kissing, the chap has ranted about lesbians he saw kissing.
But his threat is a dangerous one, albeit just a metaphorical one.
The Mind of a Killer
The Orlando massacre must have started as a verbal threat. After all, Mateen’s father claims that he most likely acted this way because he was angry at the same-sex kiss he had seen earlier. He must have verbally ranted about it at home or at least to his father. What started off as a verbal rant always has the potential of becoming reality in the hands of a disturbed mind. We know from reports that the police were aware of Mateen’s inclinations but for some reason had decided to close the files. I do not want to blame the police because I’m sure they had their reasons for so doing. But the young man who had shown violence to his ex-wife was a ticking time bomb. From anger at a same-sex kiss, it became an fatal attack on innocent party-goers at a gay club.
What does it mean for Singapore?
- We need to be more vigilant to possibilities of this sort of things happening here. Although we have strict firearm laws, there are people here with access to them and past incidents have shown that it is possible that some of them may use them in the wrong way.
- As the culture war wages on, the government needs to be cautious to ensure that the polarization in terms of LGBTQ issues does not escalate into such violence.
- The government needs to recognize that what happened in Orlando is a hate crime against the LGBTQ community and not just a general case of terrorist violence. It has serious impact here because although the repeal of 377A is nowhere in sight, while promising that the police will not act against the gay sex done in private, the government needs to protect and ensure the safety of the community who are also citizens of the country. (Read Bryan Choong’s well-reasoned open letter to the government on Facebook).
- The LGBTQ community here needs to be vigilant. It is better to act swiftly if something seems out of the ordinary than to wait and see or worse – to be in drunken stupor. The night scene at Tanjong Pagar has shown caution cast to the winds as revelers party into the weekend nights, often spilling onto the roads, drunk and oblivious of their surroundings. Such wanton abandonment spells trouble if no one is alert enough. We should also alert the authorities to any potential threats including online ones.
And yes, finally, DON’T KISS IN PUBLIC. Such public displays of affection can lead to disastrous violent consequences.