16 May 2010

4,000 attend Singapore's second LGBT-supportive public rally

Over 4,000 people turned up and turned Hong Lim Park pink as a show of support for their LGBT friends, family and community, and made it the largest event ever held at the urban park.

It broke last year's record and made prime-time news the same night – marking the first time a gay (supportive) event received coverage on local television.

Top image: Ambassadors for Pink Dot 2010: prominent veteran actors Tan Kheng Hua (left), DJ Big Kid aka Johnson Ong and Adrian Pang (right); Eileena Lee (left) with her mother, Mdm Yiap (middle); 2nd image from bottom: Glen Goei (2nd from left) and Ivan Heng (2nd from right).

The 30-second clip on Singapore-based Channel NewsAsia showed participants in a carnival-like atmosphere and cultural performances at Hong Lim Park where over 4,000 people turned up to show their support for the gay community by forming a huge pink human dot on Saturday. The record turnout makes Pink Dot 2010 the largest public gathering at Speakers’ Corner, Singapore’s only government-designated venue for public assembly and free speech where a police permit is not required. The inaugural Pink Dot event, held at the same venue last year, was attended by 2,500 people.

Roy Tan, one of the organisers of Pink Dot, told Fridae, "I think it is groundbreaking in that this is the first time Singapore television has reported on a local LGBT-supportive event in positive terms."

The 50-year-old health-care professional said he considers "the use of the phrase 'lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Singaporeans' to be a milestone" [on local television] because it "raises public awareness of the existence of our community and our struggle for equality in the face of misconceptions, prejudice, discrimination and hate."

Although laws against oral and anal sex (and along with it lesbian sex) were repealed in 2007 after an extended public and parliamentary debate, Singapore continues to criminalise sex between men under Section 377A of the Penal Code.

Gays and lesbians in Singapore have often been accused by anti-gay "pro-family" groups of being anti-family, and acceptance of gay and lesbian individuals to be against societal and moral values.

With that in mind, organisers say the campaign seeks to "underscore the importance of celebrating diversity in its myriad forms amid social prejudices that continue to exist today."

The event date, organisers said in a statment, was chosen to coincide with the International Day of Families and aims to "raise awareness and foster deeper understanding of the basic human need to love and be loved, regardless of one’s sexual orientation."

"The bond between family members is unique and irreplaceable – yet, there are those who choose to deny themselves this privilege that many others take for granted. Many LGBT Singaporeans choose not to reveal their sexual orientation to their loved ones, worried that their honesty will push family members away."

A series of videos released weeks before the event had several sets of parents and family members of gay, lesbian and transgender individuals talk about their journey towards accepting and supporting their loved ones.

Yiap Geok Khuan, 67, mother of Eileena Lee who's openly lesbian, told the crowd why she was there: "This (homosexuality, bisexuality and transgenderism) is God's gift to them (gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people) and is a natural trait. It's is not an easy journey for them and as parents, we should stand by them and overcome society's prejudices."

Lee, 38, founder of Singapore's oldest lesbian newslist Redqueen! and co-founder of Pelangi Pride Centre and Women's Nite, added, "Mum says she knows that there are a lot of people who are still not accepting of LGBT people and so in order for us to live in light, my mum decided to come out together with me."

Actor and father of two Adrian Pang, one of the three ambassadors who appeared in a publicity video and present at the event, said: “Pink Dot carries a meaningful message about the belief that we all have a right to love and be loved. These values about love and harmony are ones that I would want to impart to my two boys – to teach them that life is so much happier when we live with love, understanding, generosity of spirit and compassion.

“This is why Pink Dot is significant. Things and views won’t change overnight, and the wider society will take some time to understand LGBT issues. But it is a start to building positive attitudes to a more open, inclusive and loving society.”

Agreeing with his sentiments is Ivan Heng, the founding Artistic Director of theatre company Wild Rice – who cheered the crowd on at Hong Lim Park alongside Glen Goei, both of whom wore white and pink-polka dotted dresses by Frederick Lee – told Fridae: "Too often we are told that the GLBT community are the anathema to 'family values'; as if we don't have families, as if we don’t love our families.

"Today we proved the detractors wrong. Today we glimpse Singapore as a city of possibilities."

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