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25 Feb 2010

Putting the gay back into Chingay

Two gay Singaporean men will go down in history as the first gay ‘contingent’ to march at Singapore’s Chingay parade last week.

With a huge rainbow flag in hand at the annual Chingay Parade last Friday night, two gay Singaporean men have literally put the gay back into Chingay as despite its name, the Chingay Parade is not a gay parade.

The two-day event, which was held in conjunction with the Lunar New Year Celebrations, kicked off at the F1 Pit Building in Marina Bay last Friday night, in front of an 18,000 to 60,000-strong audience (according to numbers reported in various media) which included Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. 

Roy Tan, a well known member of Singapore’s gay community, posted a message on a local newslist about his intent to march in the parade in January.

“The idea is to have fun and to get Singaporeans used to the idea of people in pink and waving rainbow flags marching along a public thoroughfare. It is not a protest, nor is it intended to have any political or gay message. Once we've softened public opinion after they see how harmless the whole exercise is, applying for a permit to have a dedicated LGBT pride parade along a main road will be so much easier.”

He was joined by Kim, a Singaporean who was visiting from Australia where he currently resides; and according to Tan, the pair was apparently the only two members of the public who signed up on the same day to march that night.

Tan, a 52-year-old healthcare professional, was also the first to moot the idea of a gay pride parade at the Speakers' Corner in Hong Lim Park in August 2008 when rules on public speaking and demonstrations were relaxed. His idea and determination eventually became the foundation of the PinkDot campaign and first-ever official LGBT 2,500-strong public rally held on May 16 last year.

He told Fridae:

“We decided to participate in the Chingay because we wanted to take advantage of the invitation to the public, by the government (specifically, the People's Association which comes under the purview of Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports) to march, or rather dance the samba, in a contingent for the very first time in the history of Chingay.

“We wanted to show the government and the Singaporean public what a harmless exercise it was for a contingent, dressed in pink or rainbow colours and waving a rainbow flag, to march in a parade along a major thoroughfare.

“We hope it will soften attitudes enough for the authorities to eventually approve of the organisation of an LGBT pride parade along a main road, instead of merely restricting it to Hong Lim Park. We also wanted to publicly demonstrate our pride in being gay and to set a precedent to encourage other LGBT citizens to take part in future marches. But most of all, we took part because we thought it was going to be fun... and it was! 

“Yes, we were disappointed that no one else joined us. There were three people who expressed interest initially but they eventually backed out. 

“I hope more LGBT Singaporeans will take part next year and that the government does not take steps to curb our participation. After all, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was the guest-of-honour that night and he applauded as we marched past, just as he did all the other contingents.”

[According to the official Chingay Parade website, there is no historical record of how the word “originated." "But records show that as early as the 19 th century, Chingay appeared in South East Asia, beginning in Penang. The word was coined from its phonetic Hokkien equivalent, which means 'the art of costume and masquerade'. It alluded to a Chinese styled decorated miniature stage or float borne on the shoulders of performers. This miniature stage depicts an important historical scene. It was probably the beginning of the manual float. During New Year processions in old China, such floats were carried through the streets on men's shoulders while dancers, jugglers and magicians entertained the crowds. Huge animals, both real and mythical took part in the processions, which were essentially religious in nature and aimed at honouring deities at the beginning of each new year." Click on chingay.org.sg/2010/about-chingay.asp for more.]


Reader's Comments

1. 2010-02-25 23:42  
2. 2010-02-25 23:46  
3. 2010-02-25 23:55  
hey hey!!!! i thought it is really cool that we gay are allowed to join the Chingay Parade... does that mean that Singapore are finally moving forward??? i shall really wait and see... i am pretty excited about it...
4. 2010-02-26 00:06  
The 2 of them look so cute with cute outfits. Chingay Parade have definately look more colourful with our 2 representative.

Peace out:)
5. 2010-02-26 01:03  
What jaw-dropping guts! More gay Singaporeans should march next year! Hey it sure looks like fun. Make it an annual gay parade!
6. 2010-02-26 01:11  
a new chapter of us ... =)
7. 2010-02-26 02:00  
Bravo! Roy tan 1, Rony tan 0... ;)
8. 2010-02-26 11:23  
YAY! Good for you my gay Asian brothers!
9. 2010-02-26 11:53  
Luv it !
10. 2010-02-26 12:31  
If I am not mistaken, this is the first time Chingay has allowed members of the public to join in....hence the appearance of our 2 brave souls...I think they just mingled in...

the only regret is, there were not enough representatives from the pink contingent...2 men in pink boas, feathers and angel wings err really isnt me...I want to flaunt my leather outfit!!! haha...get my jist?

nonetheless, now the rainbow flag has caught the attention, will we have the chance to do it again next year?....

boy to father: "daddy, why is the flag in multi colours?"
father to boy: "that is a rainbow flag my boy, its stands for gay pride"
boy to father: "daddy, what is gay and why gay pride?"
father to boy: "tell you when we get home, its too loud here...just cheer and clap for them...they need our support"

11. 2010-02-26 12:48  
love d colours.. it feel like rainbows.. mesmerizing
12. 2010-02-26 14:28  
Thanks guys, especially to Roy for bringing the idea to me. The march just wouldn't be the same without you!
13. 2010-02-26 15:14  
I was part of the Chingay parade this year as well and I must say they weren't the only 2 gay men there. What I commend is that they were the only 2 gay men proud enough to march in their own skin and wave that flag proudly. Yes I marched, but I doubt I have even half the courage each one of them had to do what they did. For that, I salute them and feel ashamed at myself.

Keep up the good work for us all and hopefully next year, they'll be a larger contingent.
14. 2010-02-26 16:00  
Garry, were you one of the storm troopers? I took a picture with some of them. Did you see me?
15. 2010-02-26 17:37  
Its so proud to see the rainbow flag. Though it was a miserable two men show, it was spectacular! I wonder the public knows about the rainbow flag representing a gay contingent. I am not surprising that some of the public might mistaken those dancers around the two guys represent the whole gay contingent. Really wish we can form a larger contingent of our own, marching and performing along with our own theme. Not necessary have to be cross-dressed or feminine but in manly attires.
16. 2010-02-26 21:17  
I initially thought Chingay = Chinese Gay = Chinese Gay Pride Parade. Glad that they managed to stay to the roots :-)
17. 2010-02-26 22:08  
18. 2010-02-26 22:08  
bravo! you guys are awesome
19. 2010-02-26 22:13  
Hey guys !!! I am so proud of you two !

I would like to echo and commend that even though they were the only 2 gay men proud enough to march in their own skin and wave that flag proudly. Yes there would alot of "us" there, but I doubt I, too, have even half the courage each one of them had to do what they did. For that, I salute and applaud them.
20. 2010-02-26 22:39  
wow. first step :D
21. 2010-02-27 00:47  
Well done guys, bravo! Took an awful lot of guys.

The spectators and authorities were obviously way too dense to know what the rainbow flag stood for other than probably merging with the flamboyant samba dancers and contingent. It a nice slip into the cracks of the parade. Am pretty sure that if the authorities knew, they would have had not allowed it. So well done, you pulled one biggie over the cat's eyes. :)
Comment #22 was deleted by its author on 2010-02-27 02:14
Comment #23 was deleted by its author on 2010-02-27 02:15
24. 2010-02-27 02:12  
good on you, fight for the gay's rights, after all we are human being and we do have equal rights.
25. 2010-02-27 06:18  
Just pray that nobody's head will roll from People Association after this round and the rainbow flag will continue to be waved proudly again on this event again next year.

Cheers to the 2 rainbow flag bearers! Well done!
26. 2010-02-27 07:15  
I want to lend my support.
If I had known it's okay to participate, I would have proudly marched with my brothers.
27. 2010-02-27 09:36  
Fantastic effort guys. We take our freedom for granted here in Oz and we need to keep in mind that our G&L brothers and sisters in other parts of the world are still fighting for basic human rights. May you go from strength to strength.
28. 2010-02-27 10:08  
I honestly wonder how many of us would publicly dare to walk and participate in such a march as these two of our brothers did. We must be aware who is watching and the consequences after that. By taking part in such a march, we will be out as in out infront of the whole of Singapore. How many are ready to take that plunge? I would not because I know what would happen next.

The other issue is the flag. I believe it was not noticed as it blended in with the samba dancers. I honestly do not think that the authorities would give permission for a gay contingent to march under the rainbow flag in a public event as it is watched by all levels of society. Dont forget that children and young people would be watching too. I dont think that Singapore society is ready for this as yet.

So I am not getting my hopes up. I wonder whats going to happen next when they review the whole parade on tape and happen to see our two brothers carrying the flag. There will definitely be a more stringent check on participants next year and in all future public events.

I hope also that we can dispel the fears and myths the general public has of gays and lesbians by doing something more concrete such as giving back to society through some form of charity work or helping a sector of our society. That way we wont be seen in a negative light but as people who have something to give to society and contribute to society inspite of our sexuality. We are gay and lesbian. Yes. But we are also people with talents, hearts and faith. We need to change their mindset about us.

Then only perhaps that day will come when all of us can march as a contingent in public under the rainbow flag.

29. 2010-02-27 10:31  
Congratulations, Applause and Hugs to Kim and Tan for having the great idea and courage to 'Just Do It': March at the Parade, showing what we all hope should and could be Singapore's 'True Colours'.. :))

I wonder what the 'authorities' would/will do once a few hundred, or better: a few thousand, proud and open gay brothers AND sisters show up next year... ;))

Does anyone know how MediaCorp/Singapore TV covered the parade and if anyone was able to spot the two proud gay participants and their rainbow flag on TV or in any published photo, besides this self-posted YouTube video?

Again: Applause to both of you Kim and Tan!!!!

Comment edited on 2010-02-27 10:33:18
30. 2010-02-27 10:39  
Hey 'keepfit'.. why do you seem to sound so 'self depreciating' in a way..?
There should be NOTHING objectionable to 'families and young kids' watching the parade and seeing a rainbow flag or two proud pink dressed gay men at ths or any other event.. they are not doing anything objectionable at all.. right? :))
Gay people in Singapore, and around the world, are already contributing a lot to society everyday.. there should be no need for the gay community to have to 'prove itself' to anyone. Just be ourselves and be proud of who we are and how we contribute to society.. all in our own ways :))

Peace and Love :))
Comment edited on 2010-02-27 11:36:54
31. 2010-02-27 14:49  
It is so exciting to see the vibrancy of the LGBTQ community in Singapore...it makes me wish I lived there! Keep up the good work, and thanks to Fridae.com for your role in the empowerment!
32. 2010-02-27 15:46  
proud of u guys man~ =) hope that in future, more LGBT friends can march in Chingay together and wave the flag up high!!
Comment #33 was deleted by an administrator on 2010-03-02 17:50
Comment #34 was deleted by an administrator on 2010-03-02 17:50
35. 2010-02-27 23:12  
Nice work
i know one of the guys
think its great as most of the people would have not known what its all about because it was not publicised, kind of like gay or hetereo life
Everyone at chingay jusy blended in and worked together

36. 2010-02-28 02:27  
the times are changing...WOHOOOO

Comment #37 was deleted by an administrator on 2010-03-02 17:50
38. 2010-02-28 17:34  
We need brave men to trail-blaze right? Bravo! =)
39. 2010-02-28 19:55  
i think Roy tan and Kim shld get CREDITS for this ...
way too go guys!!!!
40. 2010-02-28 22:26  
nice :D
41. 2010-02-28 23:02  
Good on you! Thanks for being strong enough to get out there. If I had been in Singapore at the time, I would have been proud to join you!!!
42. 2010-03-01 05:52  
BRAVO!! (standg ovation)
43. 2010-03-01 07:58  
congratulations Guys!!! Excellent .. simply excellent
44. 2010-03-01 08:25  
i like comment no. 10
and cannot wait for my singapore trip..this 10 march till 15 march.
cya there chingay (China Gay)
45. 2010-03-01 09:26  
Does gay parade has to always wear like a drag to tell ppl i m a proud gay?
46. 2010-03-01 10:31  

I am sure you'll be allowed to wear anything you want IF you marched.
47. 2010-03-01 12:05  
If you want to show you are proud, get out there and dress however you like to show yourself. dont fault others if you didnt get out there to improve your lot. its all about diversity and social justice. KUDOS to them. It takes a lot of courage to stand up and march as the only two... they are truely brave men! Much courage than sitting at home. I hope your "democratic" government finds the same courage to remove that antiquated british law, bill 377.I
48. 2010-03-01 13:30  
its just bold awesome!!! do it again next yr.. if its still open to public:)
49. 2010-03-01 19:56  
Congratulations Singapore.
My dream was always having a plu cheerleader group walking at a National Day Parade in SGP.
coming closer to it babes...
50. 2010-03-03 10:05  
KEEPFIT, one have to take the chance to do it. Whatever we do, always there is a risk. The question is, are you ready or not to taking it? You said you know what will happen next when you do it, did you really ever done it? It's call assumption ...

You never know when we are ready ... by taking the action ... you will know the answer and no matter what, I am happy and proud to two of them who stand for us.

Been in Singapore long enought to see the progress year by year in gay society and they are positive one ... as long as we are looking in positive side, things will turn up just fine :)
51. 2010-03-04 19:20  
52. 2010-03-04 22:48  
this is so great! such a step forward for gay pride in singapore. next year can i be there with you and share the pride by marching beside my chinese boyfriend?
53. 2010-03-04 22:48  
this is so great! such a step forward for gay pride in singapore. next year can i be there with you and share the pride by marching beside my chinese boyfriend?
54. 2010-03-05 04:50  
The more the merrier! But I doubt I will be back in Singapore next year. Roy would take your offer up in a heartbeat!
55. 2010-03-06 09:16  
Very courageous!!
56. 2010-03-06 13:28  
Good job. Sorry I withdrew, Roy. I did feel the first event should be Singaporean only. Also I'd look very silly in one of those outfits!
57. 2010-03-08 14:59  
I was there. Quite suprise to see the rainbow flags. Though its part of the other contingent. Asking myself how come they didnt know thats a gay flag? There are many gays participants but only 2 courage brothers represented our gay community in Sg marched the parade. So proud of you guys. I hope there is always a room for gays in every year Chingay parade.

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