The interesting thing about making a stand is the people who believe in you will reach out to help and support you. Even without you asking. I’ve received emails, comments and Facebook messages from numerous people. Out of these, 2 people who wrote to me stand out.
One of them was a silent reader of my blog who felt obliged to share with me that there was a thread on hardwarezone EDMW forums about our family. She had wanted to share it with me because there were some untrue allegations in it and thought I should know. I went in, read the thread and had a good laugh. The person who started the thread has no clue what our family is about and made all sorts of amusing assumptions (our daughter is adopted because PAP government now allows gay people to adopt and she only gets to read books about LGBTs so she is going to turn out gay). My favourite comment has to be by someone who posted “real life lesbians, always more disappointing than imagined.” Yeah, we’re just like everyone else. We don’t actually go out partying every night and invite random straight men to join us for threesomes. Instead, we get married, have children and blog about parenting stuff. Boring right? HAHA.
All in all, it was good for a laugh on my bus ride home.
The other person was a Singaporean who is now living overseas. Her specialty is in PR and she had read my blog because her friend had shared it on Facebook. She offered to write to IKEA HQ on my behalf and before I got a chance to reply to her email, she had written in and got a response from IKEA HQ.
Here is the email she wrote:
Dear Ms Sonne,Hope this email finds you well. I am a Singaporean writer/blogger based out of Macau and IKEA in Singapore has been making the headlines over it’s discriminatory stance against the LGBT community.I have no affiliations to the blogger Olivia who is copied here, but have many friends in the LGBT community.From a media and marketing point of view, I felt the need to bring this to your attention and highlight this because it goes against what the IKEA brand believes in and stands for. In this case, IKEA Singapore has unfortunately chosen the wrong partner to collaborate with, endorsing messages of hate and discrimination with its partnership – and we all know what happens when partnerships don’t share the same raison d’être , or worse still endorse insidiously biased bigoted messaging.I am a big IKEA fan and customer and I think it is important that I should bring it up should this hit the global media outlets for a PR crisis given how Singapore has been on the media radar quite recently since the passing of Lee Kuan Yew and any controversy is a juicy piece of news.http://olivia.thechiongs.com/2015/04/19/ikea-please-stop-supporting-lawrence-khong-and-his-hate-agenda/Should you have any questions, perhaps Olivia would be best to furnish you with more information as I don’t live in the country but seeing the affiliation of your brand with a cult magic show taints my impression and love of your brand.Best,Juliana Loh
Thank you for your email. Please note that all IKEA stores are run under franchise agreements and that we are not directly involved in the Singapore operations. We are however aware of the situation and are in contact with Ikano Group who are running the Singapore store. They are managing the situation and are communicating their actions via e.g. their Facebook page. Please refer to them for more details about this. I have also forwarded your email to them. IKEA does indeed support equal rights independent of sexual, religious or other preferences and we take this seriously.Regards,
Dear IKEA fans, thanks for your patience while we took time to come to an informed decision on an issue that has raised sensitivities in our community.
After listening to the questions raised, we decided to do a thorough review. We spoke directly with the organisers, reviewed the content and confirmed that the Vision show offers high family entertainment value, therefore we will be continuing our promotion. We regularly offer promotions to our IKEA FAMILY members across a variety of entertainment options, and in this case, our IKEA FAMILY members were being offered a discount on tickets to the show.
As a company, IKEA Singapore respects the diversity and equality of all people living in our community. We also respect that all individuals have a right to their opinions and personal choices, including the freedom to choose their preferred entertainment.
What this really means is
IKEA HQ has spoken. Compared to brands like Google, who have shown their consistent support to LGBTQ around the world, IKEA HQ does not have enough clout to maintain their own global policy within certain countries. Even after I have pointed out what Lawrence Khong stands for and how his church uses the magic shows. I suppose that is what happens when you are a franchise business. You lose control of certain elements, even if you have clearly outlined that it is a global policy. Either that or IKEA HQ is just making the financially sound decision of appeasing the majority and displaying corporate hypocrisy. It’s fine to support the LGBTQ community in countries like USA, but not so much when it comes to us in Singapore.
However, I am glad IKEA Singapore has made their stand public this time. I now realise that I had missed it the first time round when they chose to remove a lesbian couple and their daughter from the IKEA Singapore magazine. This puts IKEA Singapore’s LGBTQ policy on the same level as IKEA Russia. I had not known about it and wish I had found out earlier. Now that I know, it allows me to make better decisions on whether to spend more money at IKEA Singapore.
In conclusion, IKEA HQ, if you wish to make good on this incident, show us that you truly believe in diversity and that your LGBTQ policy is the same around the world. Support Pink Dot by promoting the event or becoming one of the corporate sponsors. Other global brands like Google, Goldman Sachs and BP have done so. An international company like IKEA which prides itself on being socially conscious can surely do better.
So since I posted the latest blog post, I’ve had some people ask me why I decided to take a stand on this, given that this seems like something so small and inconsequential. After all, Lawrence Khong is just putting on a magic show and he is not putting on an “anti-gay” show.
Someone asked me to “Grow Up”
What does it mean to Grow Up? If it means to make logical and well thought out requests, I think I have done that. I have not thrown any tantrums. I have not called for a boycott of IKEA or campaigned for Lawrence Khong’s show be cancelled. I have not requested the other sponsors/partners of his show to stop supporting him. After all, I don’t know who they are and they have not made a public and global stand for diversity and equal rights over the last 20 years. However, I’ve been a loyal customer of IKEA and part of the reason is because I agree with their values and policies. So now all I ask is that IKEA review whether promoting Lawrence Khong, a man known for his anti-gay views, is in line with their global policy of having “a positive influence on societies” in the countries that IKEA operates in.
I say this because there is evidence that it is not just a magic show.
The magic shows produced by Lawrence Khong are evangelical vehicles. My proof comes from their website about a similar show they did in Hong Kong last year called Magic Nova.
Screenshot from Gateway Entertainment website
Do note that they do not talk about what the “stars” were, however, they talk about the “novas that will carry and continue that light”. So what are the stars?
From FCBC’s website, same picture, with more information captured below.
Screenshot from FCBC website
The stars are actually audience members who “responded to the altar call” and “made the commitment to shine for Jesus”. There is no mention of this evangalising on the Gateway Entertainment website. However, more details are available on the FCBC website including how it was mostly children who responded to his altar call.
Screenshot from FCBC website
It is clear from the almost similar press releases found on both Gateway Entertainment & FCBC websites that these two entities are closely linked and related. In fact, Gateway Entertainment is owned by FCBC. However, the part where the children were the ones who responded to the altar call was again conveniently left out in the Gateway Entertainment website. The entire segment does not even exist on their website – proof here.
So what am I trying to prove?
I am simply pointing out that this is not just any magic show. It has long been documented that the magic shows put on by Lawrence Khong are a way of getting people exposed to his church. It is a pathway for people to join FCBC. In fact, VISION is touted as their gateway into China and one of their five focuses for this year. I have no problems with it as long as Gateway Entertainment and FCBC are upfront and honest in the advertising and promotions of the event. This includes highlighting that it is led by a Christian pastor who will be sharing his Christian values and organising an altar call.
So yes, I have a problem with a show that is masquerading as “a theatrical illusion performance that offers high family entertainment value” when it’s really the sales funnel for a church. A church that is led by Lawrence Khong who has publicly stated that accepting the LGBTQ community is “no good for Singapore.”
My biggest frustration stems from the fact that people think I am making a mountain out of a molehill. However, in this case, I felt that IKEA had no idea what they were endorsing when they signed up to promote Lawrence Khong’s magic show. Did they know it’s an evangelising vehicle? Are they comfortable with continuing to support an event that seeks to convert its audience? If yes, can IKEA please include this information in their promotion of the event so that IKEA Family members who may want to see the show are aware of what they are about to buy tickets to see?
As LGBTQs living in Singapore, we are often told to just lead our own lives and not to bother anyone. Every time, we try to stand up for our rights, we are told that society is not ready. Even when we try to hold a peaceful, love centric event like Pink Dot, there are groups that insist the government should shut it down. The LGBTQ community has constantly been accused of trying to polarise society by raising various issues including this and “Penguin gate”. Yet, when other parties raise it, it’s for the good of Singapore. I think it is ridiculous to expect us to sit down and shut up, especially when we see something that needs to be called out. Personally, I am standing up for this because I feel the sneaky agenda has been quite well hidden from public view, as you can see from the 2 different press releases. I think it’s time the truth was exposed. I really hope IKEA sees and understand the true meaning of what their association with Lawrence Khong means. With this information, I hope IKEA makes the right decisions.
I am writing this post at my IKEA desk that is backed by my IKEA shelves. We had dinner on our IKEA dining table using IKEA cutlery. Our books are stored in IKEA Billy bookcases. The shelves in Zoey’s playroom consists of one IKEA Expedit and one IKEA Trofast complete with storage boxes. Our t-shirts are stored in a simple IKEA closet with an IKEA mirror nailed to its front. When HDB upgraded our bathrooms recently, we headed to IKEA to pick out the new accessories. Even the clocks on our walls and the bath mats on our floors are from IKEA. I’ve been an IKEA Friend since I was 18 and become part of the IKEA Family when they revamped their membership program. A trip to IKEA has always been a treat. Whether it is chicken wings, swedish meatballs or hot dogs, I have enjoyed the simple pleasures of shopping and eating at IKEA. I especially delight in the process of putting together IKEA furniture and have been a loyal fan over the past 20 years.
So I was deeply disappointed and unhappy to find out from Sylvia at Gay Star News that IKEA Family is now supporting Lawrence Khong’s show due to take the stage in July. They are listed on the sponsors and partners page.
Lawrence Khong has publicly initiated discrimination and hate against any types of families that do not confirm to his ideal. An ideal that he intends to force down people’s throat. His blatant disregard and disrespect for fundamental human rights has been demonstrated in his attempt to rally his troops in a crusade against the LGBT community (details here) and denying one of his previous employees her salary and maternity leave because she was pregnant before her divorce was final. (details here).
IKEA was the first company to feature a same-sex couple in one of their commercials that aired in 1994, more than 20 years ago. When they had to pull a same-sex couple out of the magazine in Russia, they clearly stated that it was due to their need for compliance to the laws in Russia. In fact, they issued a response to a petition request for IKEA to support same-sex couples in Russia with the following response:
At IKEA, we believe in people
In the latest issue of our customer magazine IKEA FAMILY LIVE we ran a feature about two women, Kirsty and Clara, living in England with their child. The article appeared in 24 countries but not in Russia where a law prevents us from publishing it. It is a law that has been widely criticized but one that we have to comply with. However, we wanted to take the opportunity to speak about what the IKEA values mean and what we stand for. This is why the current online version of the magazine in 25 countries, including Russia, contains this letter from IKEA Group:
“At IKEA, we believe in people.
We are guided by our vision – to help create a better everyday life for the many people. We also believe you can be yourself as an IKEA co-worker, an IKEA customer or in your home. We do our best to stand for equal opportunities and support the human rights of all people. And every co-worker can expect fair treatment and equal opportunities whatever their ethnicity, religion, gender, physical ability, sexual orientation or age.
This guides us and inspires us when we work together with our colleagues and the people in our value chain. After all, it’s our differences that make us great!
Petra Hesser, Human Resources, & Steve Howard, Sustainability, IKEA Group”
As an employer, we work purposefully and in a structured way to promote equal rights and equal opportunities. It is part of our code of conduct for everyone working for the IKEA Group and it is also a part of our diversity and inclusion approach.
We want the way we communicate our offer in different commercial channels to mirror the world around us and we believe that publishing an article featuring a lesbian couple in 24 countries is a good example of that. In some of these countries the subject is still considered to be controversial. In the long term, we believe that we can have a positive influence on societies in the countries where we operate by constantly working based on our values.
Greg Priest, Policy & Compliance Manager, IKEA Group
IKEA has consistently supported equal rights around the world. Therefore, their support of Lawrence Khong’s show is a direct contradiction of IKEA’s values. As one of the families Lawrence Khong has condemned as evil, I am concerned that IKEA will be seen as endorsing his continued hate speech against us.
I hope that IKEA Singapore will review their partnership and channel their support to more worthy causes. I believe that the IKEA Family does not discriminate, so please do the right thing and start supporting all families.