Miriam is into women and is not allowed to engage in relationship conversations with her colleagues

Where is the line between innocent contact and sexual harassment in the workplace? Miriam found out the hard way when she were accused of sexual harassment at her place of work.

Miriam, 29, is a lesbian and last year, her sexuality suddenly became an issue at her workplace after she had touched a female colleagues hand and was suddenly accused of sexual harassment because of this incident.

Miriam had seen her colleague as a confidant and only seen the touch as an innocent touch without a sexual thought in mind when they talked about their relationships. To her it were an emphatic gesture that were meant as a mean of emotional support and not in any way of communicating sexual interest at all.

But after this episode her sexuality suddenly became a problem at her workplace and her team leader demanded that she did not participate in personal conversations with her colleagues any longer. Something that she felt were crossing several boundaries, since she and her colleagues used to talk about their personal life’s daily, and that it were an integrated part of their work day.

Miriam were happy about her job at a retail store at Vivo City, a shopping mall in Singapore. A company she had been working with for several years and generally felt that she had been well treated and in the past also worked at their other locations around in Singapore. She had never concealed the fact that she had a girlfriend and that she were lesbian to her colleagues or superiors. It never felt that she had to limit herself or hide her sexuality while she worked because it weren’t something that came up negatively and she felt liked and accepted where she worked.

It therefore came as a huge shock to her when she suddenly were accused of having violated a colleague and were called into her manager’s office to discuss a “sensitive situation.”, where she were told by her manager that a colleague had felt physically and verbally sexually assaulted by Miriam and had accused her of sexual harassment.

“I was told that I should have touched my colleagues hand a little too affectionate and in the wrong way, and that three other colleagues felt that I had looked at them wrongly in the backroom of the store”.

While talking to her manager, Miriam were told that she no longer were allowed to participate in any personal conversations with her colleagues, especially of any that related to relationship matters and that she should walk away if any of her other colleagues began to discuss their personal relationships while she were near them. Her manager also stressed to Miriam that colleagues do not touch each other in any way whatsoever.

“My manager said that it had nothing to do with the fact that I liked women. But I think it had everything to do with it” said Miriam.

She later found out that the accusation of sexual harassment came from her very close colleague that she had known for years and that the colleague also had told the manager that three other women in the department also felt harassed, but that the manager haven’t directly confirmed this on her own.

Miriam and her colleague had been good friends and close colleagues for some time, they had often lunch together and seen each other outside work as well. Her colleague had even been to her home and met her partner at least twice before in the past, so things between them quickly became very familiar and they had often talked about private matters together both at work and outside work. Her colleague had more than once curiously asked into Miriam’s sexuality and at the same time expresses that she weren’t happy in her marriage and often thought of leaving her husband.

“I asked at one point whether she considered whether she were into women or felt attracted to women, but she answered ‘no’ to that” said Miriam, who at the same time stressed that there had never been anything but friendly feelings between them as colleagues.

The accusation of sexual harassment ends in a sick leave for Miriam and she end up asking if she could be transferred because she didn’t feel welcome there any longer and felt really bad about the whole incident and felt unfairly treated by both her colleague and manager.

 

“No raised eyebrows if I were heterosexual”

Her other colleagues whom she were told, that they should have felt that Miriam should have looked at them wrongly  in the backroom of her workplace, never acknowledged to have been part of the accusation of sexual harassment when she confronted and asked them about it, and Miriam feels convinced that if she had been heterosexual and had behaved in exactly the same way then neither her colleague or manager would have raised an eyebrow.

“I’m more careful at my new workplace. When we make fun and joke with one another, I am always a little nervous and think, uh, oh, I don’t hope they perceive anything I’ve said in the wrong way”.

Miriam is not her real name and she wants to remain anonymous. She confided in me through a number of emails and conversations from August to November 2015 where I got to know about her story. I know about her workplace in Vivo City and her new place of work, and have been able to confirm the existence of several of her colleagues and manager that she named while telling me her story.

Can you be out at your workplace? Are you able to be fully open about your relationship to another woman, or do you feel that you need to limit yourself compared to your heterosexual colleagues?

 

 

I pray for your HIV soul when it go to Hell

There is an active anti-gay group who have more than 4,000 members that includes Doctors, Directors and even includes several police officers. Generally – or mostly – it is a group of people from the lower social end of the Singapore.

They use Facebook and Tumblr groups to organize rally’s against pro LGBT personalities and organizations who support the LGBT movement in Singapore, and from what I can see then they feel that Pink Dot is a very personal insult to everything Singaporean.

They take pride in the number of dislikes on YouTube videos they can generate when Pinkdot or other pro-gay organizations post videos there and take pride in organizing and advice it’s members on how to attack people and companies who are positive towards LGBT rights in Singapore.

The group members are not always factual right. Facts is not really something they spend much time on and if you study (not even in a detailed way) them then they are more often factual wrong in what they are saying.

For example according to some of them HIV and Ebola is only something that happens to homosexuals. Heterosexuals can’t get HIV. Christian and Muslim heterosexuals especially can’t. That is according to them.

Thoughts and believes like that are outright dangerous to everyone in Singapore.

Most of them wish Singapore back to the pre Facebook and Internet days where free speech were more limited – not that there are real free speech in Singapore today, but it is better than when I went to school in Singapore.

The last couple of days I have tried to contact members of the group as I am trying to find out about their thinking and reason for why they are acting like they do.

Unfortunately out of the 60 people that I have contacted either by email, social media, phone and I don’t know what, then not a single one wanted to talk to me. Not one wanted to stand by what they believe – or at least say in the so-called “anonymity” of Facebook. Most became outright surprised and even angry at me when I contacted them, but refused to come out of their own closet to have a talk about why they organize and promote hate speech against LGBT’s in Singapore – and elsewhere.

They don’t really like to get challenged or told when they are wrong.

Or like one told me “I pray for your HIV (infested) soul when it go to Hell” when I challenged Her/Him on YouTube.

But why do they hate us so much?

It is clear that not a single one of these more than 4,000 people personally know – or is aware of – any gay or lesbians in their personal life’s. They don’t socialize with anyone like us. They don’t wish to go into an open discussion about why we want to be recognized.

They don’t get that we are all in for family values and that we want the same rights as they do, so we can secure our families. Not more than they have.

We-just-want-the-same.

“Acceptance”

But they see us as a threat to what they know and feel that we are dangerous to them and what “they”, the “others” represent. They see the Pink Dot supporters even grow larger and larger every year. They see more and more come out of their closets and say, “yes I am gay and find other men hot”, “yes I like other women like me”, “I like everyone so much that I want to share my flower with any gender”, or even come out and say “I am not supposed to be in this body”.

And it scares them.

It makes them feel uncomfortable.

Those few see themselves as they are the minority and not part of the heterosexual majority.

Every year they see that Pink Dot get’s larger and larger and that it has even become larger their own local religious community.

It is not like it is either religion or homosexuality. But to many of them it is turning into a religious quest where they see that homosexuality is dangerous to their own religious believes. Something like that is outright ridiculous, and I feel it is absolutely possible to be religious and still be gay at the same time. Yes it is possible to pray and still be gay. I am even sure that anyone who is gay will be heard just as much as heterosexuals get’s heard by whoever they now pray to.

Same sex couples can have great, fantastic and fulfilling families together. They can have wonderful children. They can take care of them just as well – and sometimes even better than heterosexual couples.

But Pink Dot scares them.

The idea of same-sex families scares them.

It makes them feel uncomfortable.

To them, it is just yet another party they feel that they aren’t invited to, and they hate the idea of it.

To them it is not Singaporean and is yet another evil western scheme to ruin the pure Singapore.

 

Gender equality? Well, not in Singapore

Are you looking for equality, equal pay and equal rights between genders? Well, don’t look for it in Singapore.

The Swiss non-profit organization World Economic Forum (WEF) has published its annual report, which identifies the state of gender equality arund the world.

Last year Singapore was on a 58th spot, but this year we have moved us one seats and is now occupying the 59th place in the rankings. The countries that are on the top of the list are the Scandinavian countries, who for the last six years have dominated the list with Iceland as number one on the list but is closely followed by Finland, Norway and Sweden.WEF has established four criterias which they assess each country from. The criteria are education, economic participation, politics and health.
What is worth noting is that the countries that dominate the list, is also countries that takes LGBT rights seriously and does not oppress individuals based on their sexuality. Even more. Iceland who have dominated the list for the last 6 years even had a prime minister, Johanna Sigurdardottir, who is gay.
See the full list here.

Are you girlfriends? Why don’t you want to talk to me?

It haven’t happened to me in years, ages or for quite a while now. But earlier tonight I had this so-called homo visible situation.

I went out for coffee with my chronically unemployed lesbian friend from down the road. According to herself she is not unemployed “I am just a poet in a world who don’t get me”. Anyway, it’s not about her life.

Just after I came home from my late teaching experience, that also was the first time that I was a few minutes late for class, because my brain got set on a conversation with S….. and I lost all track of time. .. shit. But, I had only closed the front door before she brutally tried to open it. No knocking and the way she opens the front door, any door, is with an expectation that doors are not locked for her. Ever! – And that it is peoples own fault if they stand behind a door that she is about to open.

“Hey! Want coffee? It’s your time to pay” – well like the last 40 times as far as I can recall, but never mind. I enjoy her company.

So with no dinner or anything we ended up at a boring cafe in Amsterdam’s city center.

Engrossed in an intimate conversation about her latest conquests, knees facing each other on a couch at the end wall at the secluded spot – the only secluded spot in the cafe.

Nice, easy and very relaxing.

Until … a boy, eh a guy, of about 40 years sit in a chair facing us. He leans across the table – towards us.

I initially first thought that the guy just found one of the few vacant seats in the cafe and peace with that, no harm at all. But then when he leaned toward me. And I could just feel that he was one of those, who when he see lesbians in half an intimate (not physically intimate , dialogic intimate – we did not kiss at all!) situation, then he clearly believes that there are more than enough room for one more – him and his face.

He tried to engage in our conversation and asked if we are lovers . And I replied – somehow with a sharp voice:

“We’re just having a private conversation and don’t really want to engage with others right now, so now, please excuse us.”

I thought that would give him leeway enough – without losing face to move away or at least lean back and drink the rest of his coffee in silence. But no.

“Why will not you talk to me? Are you two lovers ? Is this your girlfriend?”

I felt that I was getting angry. And replied confrontational .

“It’s – I am sorry to say – none of your f….ing business. But sure, to you, this could be my girlfriend, but right now we are busy with our own conversation that is only about the two of us, and neither of us want any other company right now. OK ? ”

He drones on. That I am a tight, Asian and closed-minded woman and that she is a beautiful Caucasian and open woman. What he was 200 percent right about. Well, in that moment he were.

I answer in a relatively red-hot-ready-for-war-attitude , that he might have to take my silence as a sign that he is not welcome and that it was rude to interfere when he clearly had been told that we would prefer our own privacy.

I looked over at my friend, after which she leans forward pats his hand and quietly asks him to leave us alone. Educational and friendly. He simply gets up and leaves. Mission accomplished .

Sometimes fuck my temper.

I felt my privacy massively violated. And my sexuality visible and vulnerable. And was – not quite fair  – angry that she didn’t get excited at all.

“It’s not worth it to let such an idiot ruin your day, ” she replied. And squeezed my hand.

And she’s right. But once in a while I can’t help to read a thousand years of gender inequality into such a situation. The guy would never like that have invaded a heterosexual couple’s privacy, the way he did, but with two women, then it is okay to do so.

It’s actually been a while since I last felt this homo visible, but I can clearly feel that it evokes a lot of quivering indignation in me when it happens. Still, I find it so hard just to see him as a lone shallow idiot and not as a symptom of a sick and chauvinistic world.

What do you do when it happens to you – if ever?