Sunday 7 October 2012

Transgender Ah Kua Show star called 'ah kua' by sashaying bus driver

October is National Bullying Prevention Month in the US. Not to be confused with Anti-Bullying Week in the UK which is in November. Also not to be confused with Anti-Bullying Day in Canada which is in February.

In Singapore, Anti-Bullying Day is on ...actually, we don’t have an Anti-Bullying Day. Yet.

If we decide to have such a day, may I suggest that it should be on Oct 2?

On that day, which was Tuesday, Ms Leona Lo, author of From Leonard To Leona: A Singapore Transsexual's Journey To Womanhood, was at the Bedok bus interchange when a uniformed bus driver “shouted ‘ah kua’ and adopted a woman’s gait as he ‘sashayed’ past” her.

According to Ms Lo’s blog, the driver’s colleagues “hooted and clapped”.

She wrote: “I was stunned and I felt intimidated (one woman versus so many men intent on shaming her).”

The irony is that two years earlier, Ms Lo had written, produced and starred in a stage show called Ah Kua Show and now the name of her show was being used against her.

She once said in an interview promoting the show: “Yes, ‘ah kua’ is about the most common insult hurled at transsexuals. ...The title was also chosen because it is our way of re-framing a term that has a negative connotation into something positive.”

Unfortunately, the bus driver was re-re-framing the term as something negative again (unless he was paying homage to Ms Lo’s Ah Kua Show by re-enacting a scene from it, which I doubt).

As she was late for an appointment, Ms Lo just kept walking, but later decided to go back.

She wrote in her blog: “To walk away from bullies is not my style – unless they are wielding guns and knives. Foolhardiness is also not my style. By the time I returned, the perpetrator was nowhere to be seen. I took some photos and left.”

Ms Lo, who is also a public relations consultant, wrote to the bus company, SBS Transit, about the incident. The company replied soon after that it had identified the sashaying bus driver.

The company spokesman said: “He is deeply apologetic and we will be taking disciplinary action against him.”

In response, Ms Lo wrote in her blog: “My intention was never to seek revenge, and that the important thing is to use this sorry episode as an opportunity to educate on basic human respect.

“I can perfectly understand the bus driver and his colleagues’ discomfort with transgender people. Our everyday social environment fosters and encourages this discomfort – just look at the portrayal of transgender people in MediaCorp productions. We are either sex workers or psychopaths.”

Oh, burn!

MediaCorp must be thinking: “Alamak! How come another company’s employee made fun of her and we’re the ones who get blamed?”

Yes, how did MediaCorp get - ahem - "dragged" into this?

I’m not sure what MediaCorp productions Ms Lo was referring to, where transgenders are portrayed as sex workers or psychopaths.

Did she mean Liang Ximei? Or Aunty Lucy? I didn’t know they’re sex workers although their behaviour is sometimes borderline psychopathic. They’re also not transgenders, but men in drag.

Maybe Ms Lo was referring to The Silence Of The Lambs, since the movie is old enough to be still shown on Channel 5, but then The Silence Of The Lambs is not a MediaCorp production.

Maybe there was an episode of Crimewatch about a psychopathic transgender sex worker I missed.

Maybe I’m just not watching enough MediaCorp productions. I have the Internet.

Anyway, despite the unexpected dissing of MediaCorp productions (hey, that’s my job), I appreciate Ms Lo’s measured response to the situation and that she didn’t resort to name-calling or worse.

Too often, in our over-eagerness to punish bullies, we succumb to behaviour akin to or even more abhorrent than that of the bullies themselves and justify it by saying: “They’re bullies. They deserve it.”

Perhaps on Oct 2 next year, Ms Lo can commemorate Singapore’s first Anti-Bullying Awareness Day by re-staging her Ah Kua Show and send free tickets to the bus driver and his friends.

She can even invite MediaCorp.

But maybe not Aunty Lucy.

- Published in The New Paper, 7 October 2012