12 Sep – Hong Kong singer-songwriter Pong Nan recently took to social media to express his disappointment over Eric Kwok's recent perceived homophobic statement.
As reported on Mingpao, last week, Eric, who is one of the mentors of ViuTV's new reality show, "Good Night Show - King Maker", posted a photo of him with the contestants, writing, "This was a memorable day. I'll never forget when I walked in the room, the first thing I asked these boys was, "Raise your hands if you are not gay! [laughing emoji]"
Angered by the now deleted post and its subsequent apology, Pong Nan took to his official Facebook to write an open letter to Eric, as well as others who also display homophobic sentiment and discrimination.
The post read, "Dear Eric, imagine this. You are one of the contestants on a TV talent show. You are sitting in a room with other hopefuls and one of the judges walks into the room and demanded this: "Raise your hand if you are not homophobic." I'm very sure you will raise your hand. You don't have to answer me whether or not you really are homophobic. But stay with the feeling inside your mind. How do you feel?
"Your feelings are most likely the same as the feelings of your contestants when you walked into a room and asked them to raise their hands to declare their sexual orientation publicly. Because in this day and age, homophobia is just as "controversial" as homosexuality, if not more."
Pong stated that although Eric has already apologised, there is a need for proper etiquette regarding LGBT issues, and to address the forms of micro-aggression, bullying and discrimination the LGBT community faces everyday especially in the workplace.
"I'm taking this incident seriously because from my personal experience, this is not just a one-time slip-up for you," he added.
Pong said that he remembered a long time ago when he met Eric privately and were greeted by a friendly man, but only to find out that the singer turned into a different person when the media's attention was on him.
"[...] once there were audiences, media or other people around and when the cameras were turned on, you would start making insinuating and demeaning gay jokes about me and in front of me. Jokes and comments even my closest friends wouldn't dare to make in public.
"At first, I didn't really pay too much attention. I just brushed it off as juvenile and trivial. In fact, I had been so used to these jokes since growing up that I learned not to react much.
"However, as time progressed and we worked on more occasions, the same thing would happen repeatedly. The teasing and the stereotypical gay jokes continued and you would make sure that the spotlight would fall on me afterwards. The jokes no longer felt light. They felt hostile, even vindictive. In fact, it felt like bullying."
Pong said that some of these incidents are recorded by the tabloids and can be found on the internet.
"I came to the realisation that it was not just a one-time thing. I don't know if it's intentional or unintentional but it's definitely a habit and a pattern.
"So many questions would be in my mind every time after working with you. Why does Eric do that every time? Is he picking on me? Does he hate me? Is he homophobic? Does he think homosexuality is something funny? Does he do this to other people too? Did I do something that pissed him off? I remember I was nothing but courteous. So why do I deserve this?
"I had no answers for all of these questions. All I knew was I became fearful of working with you, dreading what words would fall out of your mouth to put me in an awkwardly embarrassing position. But still I tried to give you the benefit of the doubt. You're from California you shouldn't be homophobic. I even defended you in my head by telling myself to loosen up."
Pong also stated that Eric was not the only perpetrator in the industry, as there are many people in showbiz who like to joke about homosexuality.
"It's not only me. I'm sure many people of the LGBT community faces this every day in their workplace. People around them would claim their intentions were harmless but we all knew deep down that these "jokes" have the power to put someone in an embarrassing, inferior and even threatening positions.
"We kept quiet and tolerated. Sometimes we even felt obligated to laugh along just so we don't look "petty" or "stiff", especially in front of people of higher authority and stature.
"So Eric I want to ask you, why have you been so obsessed with my sexuality all these years? Why are you so fascinated by other people's sexuality? Why is being gay such a huge issue to you even to this day that you had to make it the first thing you asked your contestants? Why you also had to specifically make a post on social media about that fact you questioned people about their sexuality?
"Why do you take so much pride publicly in your ability to guess who are the gay contestants even when they weren't ready to share that information? And most of all why do you find all this to be so funny?
"To begin with one's sexual orientation is a very personal thing which others have no right to intrude, even in the entertainment industry where you are supposed to be fine with "controversy".
"This is for you and everyone out there: using your power and authority to demand someone to declare his or her sexual orientation, especially in a work environment, is ancient, barbaric and unacceptable. Kicking someone out of the closet is just pure evil.
"The fact you did what you did, especially with your stature and on broadcast TV, is not only wrong, but also you are telling the Hong Kong audience that it's alright to continue this form of intrusion and micro aggression that the LGBT community wants to see gone.
"You're leading a very poor example by giving Hong Kong audience the impression that being gay is still a taboo. How are your contestants, who are boys of young age, going to offer new perspectives to the Hong Kong audience under your guidance if you perpetuate stereotyping and demonstrate to them that being gay is still an issue?
"But most of all, it's the attitude, tone and manner with which you shared about this incident on social media, giving people the impression that any matter regarding sexual orientation is still something shameful and laughable, which is on top of list the thing that the LGBT community fights hard every day to change.
"When you said in your apology you "have great respect for gay people, especially their hard fight for equality" I became baffled as what you did, in the past to me or in that room to the boys, is the exact thing that makes the LGBT community's ongoing fight for equality so difficult.
Putting people down, perpetuate stereotypes, heckling and ridiculing yet making it look OK is anything but liberal and respectful, or Californian. I don't see any "entertainment values" that are of good taste if they are made up at the expense of other people's struggle.
If this incident happened in America, where you grew up, you would've gotten yourself in such hot waters that you probably can't get out of. I just want you and everyone out there to know that it's not okay. And it never was. Never will be."
(Photo Source: Pong Nam Instagram)