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18 May 2009

Singapore's gay community holds first-ever public rally

2,500 people – straight and gay – turned up at a park on a humid and rainy Saturday afternoon to support the “freedom to love” regardless of sexual orientation and show their support and acceptance of LGBT people in mainstream society.

Not only was it the first-ever public rally to show support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Singapore, the turnout was also the largest of its kind since the government eased a ban on public demonstrations last year.

Second pic from the top: Co-organiser Roy Tan, picnickers at the event and co-organiser Daniel K, with actress Pam Oei, and ambassadors Neo Swee Lin and Timothy Nga. For more photos, click onto Pink Dot's Facebook page.
About 2,500 people heeded the organiser Pink Dot Sg's call to turn up in pink at Speaker's Corner at Hong Lim to make a pink dot – with reference to Singapore being a 'little red dot' – to celebrate diversity and equality and as a “symbol of Singapore’s more inclusive future.”

Organisers say the turnout far exceeded their target of having 500 attendees. Roy Tan, a co-organiser of the event, said the success of the event is a “milestone in the development of civil society in Singapore.”

“It is a testament to the fact that the Government sincerely wants us to be a more open society. We are grateful for the opportunity to make our case for the equal treatment of the LGBT community,” Tan told Fridae.

The 50-year-old health-care professional registered with the National Parks Board last September wanting to stage Singapore’s first gay event last year to "set a precedent to make subsequent gay pride parades easier." The idea eventually became Pink Dot when more individuals volunteered to help organise an event.

With cultural performances and a parade of flamboyantly dressed dogs, the event resembled a mass picnic more than a political rally even as ambassadors Timothy Nga and Neo Swee Lin – both of whom are well known local actors and heterosexual - took to the mic to tell the crowd why they support the event.

Nga, said to a cheering audience, “We need to stand up for what we believe in and I don't think that anyone of my friends who are LGBT - or anything else for that matter - need to apologise to anyone else for what they are.”

“We are born alone, we go to our graves alone but there is no reason why any of us should have to live alone in this life without love purely because of intolerance and judgment, “ Neo told the crowd as she choked up.

“I support the freedom to love because I believe in love. Too many of my gay friends have left these shores because of intolerance... Let's be the change we want to see.” She said quoting Mahatma Gandhi.

Although laws against oral and anal sex were repealed in 2007 after an extended public and parliamentary debate, Singapore continues to criminalise sex between men under Section 377A of the Penal Code which dates back to British colonial days.

Hong Lim Park

Hong Lim Park, a government-designated park for free speech and public assembly, is also a well known and documented gay cruising venue as early as the 1950s, according to Laurence Wai-Teng Leong who wrote in his paper "The 'Straights' Times: News media and sexual citizenship in Singapore" which was published in Journalism and democracy in Asia (2005, edited by Angela Rose Romano and Michael Bromley).

Roy Tan, a co-organiser of the event, recalled meeting his first boyfriend at the park in 1984, and where he discovered that “there was such a thing as a gay community in Singapore, or at least, other gay men here apart from myself.”

“I think holding Pink Dot at the park has a great symbolic significance for many gay men, including myself,” Tan told Fridae.

Although he did not recall any instances of police entrapment operations at the park, he remembers one complaint published in The Straits Times in the late 1970s, when casual park strollers chanced upon young men holding hands at the park.

According to the same newspaper, over a hundred men were arrested for solicitation in 1989 and 1990.

Recalling newspaper reports detailing police entrapment of gay men in the park, Alfian Sa’at, a 31-year-old poet-playwright and co-organiser of Pink Dot, hopes for the community to remember that slice of the venue’s history.

“20 years later. Today, the youngest of those men who were arrested would be 45, the oldest, 71. Were they in the park with us on Saturday? Did they ever know of the event? Did they even imagine 20 years ago that a park which was used by gay men to seek each other out might host, in broad daylight, this tremendous gathering of LGBT and straight people, affirming the right to love, the right not to be harassed, not to be persecuted, for their sexual orientations?”

“We always say that we have a short history. But the truth sometimes is that we have short memories."

"I feel moved that I was standing on the very grounds where some lives were broken simply because of the application of unjust laws. As much as the event was a celebration of certain values we hold dear, I also felt that it was a commemoration, an attempt to find some healing for our community's bruised history.”

Today, the park is Singapore’s only government-designated venue for public assembly and free speech where a police permit is not required; speakers however must be citizens and have to register with the National Parks Board prior to the event and must not speak on matters pertaining to race, language and/or religion.


Reader's Comments

1. 2009-05-18 20:59  
go Singapore!
2. 2009-05-18 21:54  
Congratulations! Such a happy event.
3. 2009-05-18 22:35  
congra !
4. 2009-05-18 23:06  
I am SOOOO proud that I was part of Pink Dot!
Looking forward to a BIGGER & PINKIER Pink Dot soon!

5. 2009-05-19 01:26  
I'm SO happy reading this article - go gang!! :)
6. 2009-05-19 04:11  
Wish I could have been there to support you! Very moving!
7. 2009-05-19 06:23  
This is HUGE! I applaud all who turned up at the event and anyone who cheered for them. Go Singapore! Indeed!
8. 2009-05-19 07:30  
bless...... some serious cute guys there as well
9. 2009-05-19 09:25  
I never felt closer to this land until we became a part of that Pink Dot in the park.
10. 2009-05-19 09:35  
11. 2009-05-19 11:14  
Congratulation, Singapore!!!
12. 2009-05-19 12:23  
when will the bigger dots coming? will be there.
Cheers for all.
13. 2009-05-19 12:39  
Freedom to love.... yes.
Have you guys noticed something interesting ? The new "and improved" fridae simply erased several points on our profiles. These point are : "shoe size" (the euphemism already said a lot), "cut or uncut", "role" (as in top, bottom or versatile)...
How interesting...
So... I would like to ask if the new "and improved" fridae has chosen to pretend that gay sex doesn't exist any more ? To be acceptable, respectable and fridae-able do we have to become a-sexual ?

Is there a connection between this new policy and the fact that Fridae published innumerable articles about religion in the past few years ?

Freedom to love, yes. Great. Fine. How about freedom to have sex ?
True, being gay is more about who you LOVE than who you have sex with. But it doesn't mean that sex is not implied as well does it ? How about giving up the stinking hypocrisy, included in its more subtle forms ?
Comment #14 was deleted by its author
15. 2009-05-19 15:18  
Hey guys, no need to write me and tell me that the points have not been erased on MY profile. I know that already!! What i'm saying is that when i open someone ELSE's profile, I cannot see their sexual "data" anymore. Or if I can, thanks for telling me how to do it. I don't need to check my own, i know them already, lol.
16. 2009-05-19 16:07  
17. 2009-05-19 16:28  
Hi yverserwan,
To view the detailed user profile, just click on the ABOUT ME or PROFILE links below the main profile picture on the left of the user profile window.
18. 2009-05-19 16:34  
19. 2009-05-19 16:48  
20. 2009-05-19 18:58  
it's amazing! bravo! :) in progressing steps towards our identity.
Comment edited on 2009-05-19 19:00:40
21. 2009-05-19 19:15  
i'm moved! wished i was there myself!
22. 2009-05-19 20:38  
Wish I could have been there!
23. 2009-05-19 21:15  
Truly wonderful !
24. 2009-05-19 21:17  
That's a good start for a more embracive society... Singapore has truly moved on... Keep it up!
25. 2009-05-19 22:00  
It make me happy to see that the work of accepting people with love instead of hate is in progress in Singapore to:)
26. 2009-05-19 22:43  
Sylvia, it did rain earlier in the afternoon, but when the time came, the sky cleared up and i was a perfect afternoon for photo taking. Was so glad I was a part of the pink dot. May the dot grow!
27. 2009-05-19 23:22  

Wish I could have been there too, But, hey, Canada is not bad either.

But here I go again shamelessly plugging for the SDP.

You may view evidence of the SDP's support of pinkdot for instance - it's The Online Citizen's spontaneous inteview with Ms Chee Siok Chin:


Just a few minutes before logging in here, I noticed an article on the SDP website reporting the same event:


Go Pinkapore! Go SDP!
28. 2009-05-20 00:12  
FABULOUS PIX!! Sent to friends all over the world! Blessings and prayers for S'pores continued struggle. History and time are on your side...Excelsior!
29. 2009-05-20 01:31  
Congratulations... Hope your dots stay on forever so when my plane lands it knows its landing in the right island.
30. 2009-05-20 02:43  
Congratulations! I'm glad to read that!
31. 2009-05-20 08:39  
I'm proud to have been involved! :)
32. 2009-05-20 08:59  
Very interesting! Go! go! go!
33. 2009-05-20 11:50  

Was there last Sat, though I came rather late *blush*....bt one thing I noticed - there were many straight friends / family members of PLUS...cool affair ;-)
34. 2009-05-20 13:04  
I was actually pretty surprise with the huge turn out! I am so glad I was part of this historical moment. May this be the first step in the much deserved direction for you and me!;-)
35. 2009-05-20 17:00  
There's a nice write up of this event on the BBC website:


36. 2009-05-20 20:36  
One and only One . You can do it.
37. 2009-05-21 02:06  
even we in Msia..we did support the pink dot by wearing all pinky for the night out....
check this out...
38. 2009-05-21 14:53  
thats the spirit! well done
39. 2009-05-22 00:02  
so inspiring, was there and the spirit was great! GO PINKdOT
40. 2009-05-22 02:41  
Hmmm... I guess my Ex was at that too... but, seeing as we don't speak at all any more, I guess I'll never know...
41. 2009-05-22 10:55  
YAAA! I wish I could have been a part of this.
42. 2009-05-22 12:31  
Well done, Singapore. Great that you kept it clean, and hope you will stay that way in the future too. For once it seems, parents passing by didn't have to shield their kids' eyes (or cover their ears) all that much. Encouraging to see the focus shifted away from hardcore sex and body worship. You guys actually had a meaningful and credible message to pass on too. Certainly destroyed some stereotypes there. Not much ammunition there for the homophobes, as far as I could see (unless they objected to the dancing). Great job.
43. 2009-05-22 14:22  
Congratulations fm Singapore & fridae with PLU family member.! Truly Wonderful.! & I'm glad 2 Read tat.! & I'm proud 2 hv been involved.! & Very interesting.! Go! go! go! & Last Sat-16th May 2009., though I came rather late *blush*....bt one thing I noticed - there were many Str8=straight friends / family members of PLUS+++... So Cool Affair & Everyone ... ;-)

Rgds: Name 4=four Id support ...
( 1168./ s1168./ ian_sg./ ian88. )
44. 2009-05-22 15:27  
so touching at that moment....... tears
45. 2009-05-24 06:17  
I was not impressed with this event at all. The organisers bowed to the advice given from the government and said that foreigners could watch but not take part.

As far as I am concerned the organisers of Pink Dot were total cowards. If it was not a political event then we should have been allowed to come.

All this event did was make me feel more isolated than ever in this town. PLU does not speak for me and neither does Yawning Bread.

It was total discrimination as far as I am concerned. Not that would I have expected a lot of the foreign workers to show up but there are all sorts of gay people out there who need to be supported.
46. 2009-05-24 10:39  
Iggy, I too received that advice ... but I was there in the dot, as were a lot of foreigners.

When I got there on the day I thought there'd be police or some kind of enforcer stopping foreigners entering the park itself, but there was no problem at all.

I don't think following the 'advice' given to you by the government is an act of cowardice, when NOT following the 'advice' could conceivably lead to the cancellation of the enitre event. As far as I know they don't have different rules for demonstrations in Hong Lim Park based on the type of demonstration taking place.
47. 2009-05-24 12:54  
Singapore has been reaching another step as a wonderful city...!!!
48. 2009-05-25 16:13  
Singapore has been under such oppression for so long that even those that are oppressed have developed the Stockholm syndrome. There are no civil liberties there and the oppressed even argue and support the most inane and blatant discrimination from the Government and the Justice system. The religious groups commit fraud yet if the word is mentioned the yocals like to state 'keep religion out of it' or as one simpleminded person said.."It's very dangerous to bring religion into the argument." What a bunch of gutless ninnys marching to the tune of a Government that does not even recognize them. For those that attended this event to bring the issue of equal rights to the park...bravo. I am sure the trees and the birds welcomed the message.
49. 2009-05-25 16:17  
I applaud what Pink Dot Sg did! The message was loud and clear.

"Today, the park is Singapore’s only government-designated venue for public assembly and free speech where a police permit is not required."

To me, this is the key to holding the first gay rally in Singapore. Without free speech where a police permit is not required, plus a government-designated venue for public assembly, this event would not have materialized. So I applaud what the Singapore government did to allow its citizens to voice out freely without fear of arrest, albeit a long way coming. This is a sign of real progress.

How about the Malaysian government doing the same for us here? Sigh!
50. 2009-05-25 20:10  
This was a wonderful, historic event.

51. 2009-05-26 23:09  
Singapore Great ! I love you singapore
52. 2009-05-27 12:21  
that's very warm,.. very real,. cheers!!
53. 2009-05-28 16:40  
Tawson, it may sound easy to just overturn the govt's decision...bt bear in mind that Singapore is NO democracy unlike Europe.
Being too straighforward will land you straight on yr oppressors' dinner table.
54. 2009-06-01 23:04  
There's just little hope for Singapore. It's in the hands of despots, clever as they are.
55. 2009-10-18 12:32  
hmm.. its quite moving.. tears..

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