Singapore eatery praised for LGBTQ allyship after homophobic incident in shop

Health food restaurant, Smol Singapore, posted an account on 18 January 2020 of a hostile homophobic patron abusing staff over a Pride flag which was displayed at the counter.
Food outlet Smol posted an account of a hostile patron abusing staff over a Pride flag which was displayed at the counter.

This article was updated on 22 January 2021 after Smol’s owner said police had located the abusive man and were investigating.

SINGAPORE — A homophobic incident at an outlet in Lau Pa Sat food centre has drawn a flock of supporters – including local celebrities – commending the business for taking a stand against hate.

Health food kiosk, Smol, posted an account yesterday of a hostile patron abusing staff over an LGBTQ pride flag which was displayed at the counter.

The posts were accompanied by CCTV video which shows a middle-aged man in business wear and a tie throwing the rainbow flag at a worker and gesticulating angrily.

Charmaine Low, the owner of Smol, wrote in the post, “This afternoon, our SMOL outlet at Lau Pa Sat encountered homophobic abuse from a middle-aged man.”

According to Low, the man became angry after he saw the pride flag at the shop’s cashier station. He objected to the store displaying the symbol of support for LGBTQ equality in a “public” location, saying that “not everybody support LGBT” (sic).

There were two workers behind the counter during the incident. The man grabbed the flag from the counter and threw it at one of the workers before leaving the store. He apparently said, “You are the kind of people who is destroying Singapore! (sic) Go to hell!”

Low wrote, “I support diversity and inclusion in all its forms, especially the inclusion of marginalised communities such as the LGBTQ community. I have had the privilege of starting SMOL, and believe in using the business as a platform to amplify the voices of those who are not heard. Our display of the small pride flag on our countertop not only shows solidarity with the LGBTQ community, but is also a conversation starter with our customers.”

“While I am concerned about the safety of my team, we will not stop displaying our little pride flag at both our outlets (Lau Pa Sat and PLQ Mall) as a way to support the community, and we urge other homegrown SMEs to show their support for the LGBTQ community in their own ways,” Low continued.

The shop’s allyship with the LGBTQ community has received praise from supporters. Netizens posted hundreds of comments on Facebook and Instagram, with many saying that they would eat more often at Smol’s outlets as a show of support. Smol serves salads and protein bowls.

Local celebrities also chimed in to endorse the eatery’s inclusiveness. Singer Nathan Hartono wrote on Instagram, “Tons of respect to your staff for standing their ground. Sorry this happened.♥️”

Actor Nat Ho posted, “I’m sorry this happened. Hope you guys are alright.♥️”

Singer Inch Chua wrote, “Heading to Smol sometime this week.”

It appears that a crowd of customers indeed turned up the next day to support Smol, as Low said in an Instagram post later on 19 Jan that the Lau Pa Sat outlet had sold out early. “I am truly heartened and humbled by the love and support from the community,” she said.

In the same post, Low also said that Smol had made a police report regarding the incident.

Smol later posted another update on its Instagram page on 20 Jan: “Thanks to the efficiency of the @singaporepoliceforce, the man in the video has been located. Investigations are ongoing.” It wasn’t clear what offence the man was being investigated for.

Activists have called for homosexuality to be decriminalised in Singapore, and for an end to discrimination against LGBTQ people in Singapore.

Three separate legal challenges against Section 377A of the Penal Code, a law which criminalises sex between men, were dismissed by the High Court in March last year.

A survey commissioned by Yahoo News Singapore in 2019 found that four in five Singaporeans (80 per cent) agree that discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community exists here.

Just over the weekend, a transgender student’s story went viral after she said that her school barred her from lessons and accused the education ministry of attempting to stop her from receiving hormonal therapy. The ministry denied such reports.

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High Court dismisses 3 constitutional challenges to Section 377A

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