In order for society to be considered successful or to even enjoy any sort of longevity, a few things must be present.
According to Francis Fukuyuma, society must have a strong centralized state, a rule of law that is fair as well as a strong civil society. While it is impossible to debate that we possess both a strong state as well as a fair justice system what we are often criticized for lacking a strong and independent civil society. The importance of civil society lies in its role as a check and balance against a strong centralized state. Often in the pursuit of the general betterment of society, we often marginalize the rights of the minority and their pursuit of happiness. Just as the 20th century was characterized by the pursuit of equality for all races especially African American, the 21st century will be remembered for its fight for the equality of all human beings regardless of sexual orientation.
While the epicenter of the fight is without a doubt in the Supreme Court in the United States, Singapore is fighting its own little battles. Pink Dot is an initiative that also serves as the vehicle for the fight for LGBT rights in Singapore. We were lucky enough to have a little chat with Paerin Choa, Spokesperson for Pink Dot SG to find out why exactly is LGBT rights worth fighting and what everyone can expect from Pink Dot 2015.
From the mouth of Pink Dot itself, here is a short little introduction to what Pink Dot is about. “Pink Dot is an annual rally to support the Freedom to Love, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity… which continues to face a considerable amount of legal and social prejudice.” Pink Dot started off in 2009, an “intimate gathering of about 2,500 taking a stand against fear and ignorance. Since then, the event has grown from strength to strength, with a record 26,000 attending last year.”
However, beyond what Pink Dot is about, what I was really curious about how someone got started with such a massive social intiative as Pink Dot and what motivates them to do what they do. My curiousity was satisfied in Paerin’s repsonse, who explains “[Though] I was not very socially conscious when I was younger. But I was personally very affected by how the LGBT community was continually marginalised and discriminated upon by the Keep377A campaign and the AWARE saga, initiated by the so-called “silent majority”. That spurred me to answer a call to volunteer for the very first Pink Dot in 2009.” It’s fascinating to see the difference between social activists such as Paerin and your average Joe. We all have our own opinions, what we believe to be right and wrong. I believe that the difference between them and us is not in the amount of passion or conviction that we possess but rather in that they are willing to act & achieve the change they want to see. Just as the Civil Rights March was so memorable for the atmosphere that it created & the more recent Hong Kong Umbrella Revolution, the spirit of revolution can be overwhelmingly life changing. “There is something that can be said about a group of people coming together to fight for their freedom to be themselves. The atmosphere electrifying and uplifting.”
Pink Dot in 2009
I personally believe in Pink Dot and its mission “to help inform and create greater visibility for the LGBT community with the rest of Singapore” and increasingly even in ‘conservative’ Singapore, an increasing number of people are of the same opinion. This is obvious and reflected in the “movement’s growth – more than five-fold increase in over 6 years – we are confident that we are gaining traction with a significant portion of the Singapore public.” However, what’s even more important is the change in mindset in the people who matter – family and friends of the LGBT community. “Over and above the numbers, we are also heartened at the increasing support from families, who turn up en masse in support of sons, daughters, or friends who are LGBT.” This feature article is not about trying to convince you that being LGBT is a choice or whether it is natural or unnatural in which there is no certain answer and will continue to be debated for years to come. Instead, just as it is impossible to ascertain the existence of God which has been constantly and consistently questioned for centuries yet religions of all kinds are tolerated, the rationale behind the freedom to love is as unshakable as the freedom to practice all and any religion. Yet the continued “existence of Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises sex between men, despite efforts to get it repealed [ensures the] curtail[ment] of any positive representation of LGBT people [in] mainstream media here, which severely reinforces stereotypes and misrepresentations of LGBT people.”
The importance of the law in upholding the constitution – the basic rights of all human beings cannot be understated thus the gravity in the battle being fought in the US Supreme Court. This is to prevent the individual states on infringing on what they consider to be a basic right. In the case of Singapore, Pink Dot strives to create a society that our founding fathers hoped to see “as enshrined in our National Pledge, a nation built on justice and equality for all.” It seems a little ironic to be a multi-religious and multi-racial country, a country proud of its diversity yet reluctant to hand over the remain puzzle of equality. The unfair representation of the LGBT community is really quite unacceptable in our journey to become open-minded ‘citizens of the world’. Thus the importance of initiatives such as Pink Dot which hopefully “will help to open people’s eyes to the truth about the LGBT community – the real human beings that make up this significant segment of Singapore society, and not the stereotypes and misrepresentations.” Just as African Americans and even women were once unfairly represented and portrayed, this injustice needs to be stopped. In order for them to be viewed as the ‘normal’ human beings that they are, we cannot be led to believe that they are someone they are not.
For those who support LGBT rights and the freedom to love for all, Pink Dot is something that is definitely worth supporting. While we may not be to enact earth shattering individually, there is strength in numbers. When you look back on your years in the future, being a part of a noble cause as the fight for LGBT rights and recognition will definitely be an unforgettable memory. Just ask Paerin, “since joining Pink Dot… I’ve had many good memories, but two stand out as the most exceptional ones. The first was when we first gathered to form Pink Dot in 2009 – because of its significance as the first-ever event of its kind in Singapore, and the first time I stood up for something I felt passionate for.The second memorable experience was when we did the first night-time Pink Dot in 2012. The moment when everyone lit their pink torches – turning the Speakers Corner into a sea of shimmering pink lights – was an incredibly heart-warming event.”
For those interested in attending Pink Dot 2015 on June 13th, here’s a little on what to expect! “Pink Dot 2015 will see a reprise of some important segments… We will see the return of the Community Voices, where prominent members of the LGBT community and their straight allies are invited to tell stories about their experiences, and speak about their hopes and dreams for Singapore. The ubiquitous Pink Dot Concert will see a fresh line-up of local talents entertaining the crowds, while the Community Tent will house various LGBT-centric and LGBT-friendly community and support groups as our way of bringing the community closer to everyone.” Something new includes the start-up of “‘Pink Street’, where a few shops along North Canal Road, adjacent to Hong Lim Park, will show their support for the Freedom to Love, providing additional ‘hang-out space prior to the formation of the Dot.” Pink Dot is not trying to force its opnions on you and it more than understands that a lifetime of misunderstanding and conviction cannot be easily changed. Instead all they hope for is to create “greater dialogue between all segments of society; through conversation, we hope to engender understanding and eventually, acceptance.”
All Images Courtesy of Pink Dot SG