Still much work needed to promote respect for all

The horrific attack on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Orlando, Florida, broke our hearts ("50 dead in worst mass shooting in US history"; Monday).

As family and friends of LGBT people in Singapore, we extend our condolences to the loved ones of those killed and injured.

This tragedy reminds us again why we need to keep working towards a society that respects, and not just tolerates, everyone, including our LGBT family and friends. Tolerance still means that they are not seen as fully human and equal, and not worthy of having their stories heard.

On the other hand, hate-filled speech targeted at any group of people, be it based on religion, race, nationality, gender or sexual orientation should not be tolerated.

It is not a long journey from hate-filled speech to hate-filled actions. It is not enough for religious leaders to claim that their religions do not condone violence.

Similarly, the state should not pander to individuals who want it to oppress the LGBT community. This will encourage homophobia and ignorance in Singapore.

United States President Barack Obama said: "This is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American - regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation - is an attack on all of us and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country."

We are very grateful to Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong for speaking out against hate crime, and for the affirmation that all Singaporeans will be protected from the threat of violence, regardless of their race, religion or sexual orientation ("Govt 'will protect all from threat of violence'" and "Candlelight gathering at Hong Lim Park"; both published yesterday).

When our family members and friends came out to us, we expected that they would be discriminated against.

That is why the group Safe (Supporting, Affirming and Empowering our LGBT family and friends) was formed, so that we could try to educate and support the wider community.

The tragic loss of so many LGBT lives in Orlando tells us that there is still very much more work that needs to be done.

Khoo Hoon Eng (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2016, with the headline 'Still much work needed to promote respect for all'. Print Edition | Subscribe