Pink Dot campaigned for the freedom to love regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity for the ninth time this year amid new laws banning foreign participants and funding, but let’s remember why the event first started.
It has been 10 years since the debate to repeal Section 377A criminalising sex between two men was discussed in Parliament, and indeed – a lot has changed since then.
Pink Dot was held the year after that debate and the event has gotten bigger and better; among this year’s ambassadors include singer Nathan Hartono and Paralympic swimmer Theresa Goh, who publicly came out as lesbian.
Despite the new restrictions by Singapore authorities, 20,000 Singaporeans and permanent residents including straight people turned up to support the event alongside 120 local sponsors – up from 5 local ones last year – contributing the highest sponsorship amount the event has ever received.
“We hope it sends a signal to everyone these are not foreign concepts, these are embraced and valued by Singaporeans here,” said Pink Dot spokesperson Paerin Choa in an interview, in a nod to overwhelming local support.
And while we have a beautiful and emotional video about this year’s Pink Dot:
…can we ask ourselves what truly has changed?
Here are 3 things that show society has evolved since 10 years ago:
1) Many young people have said positive things about LGBT rights
If you need any further convincing that young people today are increasingly in support of LGBT rights, look at the majority of positive messages in these three videos by Ministry Of Funny, The Authority and Millennials of Singapore:
Youth under the age of 35 are growing to become an increasingly important part of the country’s electorate; in a Blackbox survey, up to 10% of voters in the 2015 general elections were first-time voters including young millennials.
It would not be surprising if the Singaporeans coming together to support Pink Dot and LGBT rights will form part of the mandate that politicians need to secure the youth vote from Singapore’s millennials.
In a post-election survey by the Institute of Policy Studies, 60% of Singapore youth believe that the government will respond to citizens’ needs if people band together and demand change, reported The Straits Times, in a sign that youth voters can make or break an election win.
Even some young Christians have come out in support of LGBTs and same-sex marriage, as evidenced by a contributor who write into Popspoken supporting same-sex marriage, as well as opinions on local millennial Christian site Thir.st.
And one of the most influential youth leaders ever to speak out, is none other than Lee Hsien Yang’s son, Li Huanwu:
The voice of the new generation of Singaporeans cannot be ignored by the government of the day, especially when part of it also comes from the bloodline of Singapore’s first family.
2) There will always be opposition from religious groups… but this is not their fight
The Facebook pages We Are Against Pinkdot In Singapore and Singaporeans Defending Marriage and Family have been more vociferous than ever in their activism against Pink Dot, with the latter even releasing a video addressing their concerns:
What we must remember is that while straight Singaporeans can opine about LGBT issues, the ones that are hurting the most are LGBTs themselves:
In an exclusive report by Popspoken, Parliament member Baey Yam Keng said in a student forum that the voice of the “silent majority” is important for the government to make a judgment call.
“We hope there will be more conversations about it though so we can accept that there are differences in views and realise that authorities need to make a call,” he added. “It’s not an easy balance to strike.”
However, the fight for LGBT rights and equality is one that is being led by the LGBT community, and to ask for the opinions of the silent majority in Singapore discounts the struggles that the LGBT community is facing and the steps needed to be taken to remedy it.
3) The middle ground is shifting
The Middle Ground’s Bertha Henson once opined that “maybe, we shouldn’t be too worried about a potential clash of cultures, so long as it’s done peacefully with neither side presuming to impose its convictions on the other”.
Oh boy, how things have changed since then.
Most notably, a row over a Pink Dot advertisement at the Cathay Cineleisure mall has led to the mall standing firm on the ad – an unusual move from the former Pink Dot sponsor.
“This is and has always been in line with our mission of bringing people together,” a spokesperson from Cathay said in a statement. “We hope to inspire people to embrace the values of equality where one can live and love freely.”
The 120 local sponsors are also a growing list of voices, an indication that “society is evolving”, said spokesperson Paerin Choa to reporters at Pink Dot’s press conference last Saturday.
“People on the middle ground can change their minds about the community and become more accepting,” said Must Share News in an article.
Here’s how you can show that society is shifting beyond Pink Dot:
1) Write in to your MP
All that you have said on social media is great, but this will not change the state of affairs unless a Member of Parliament speaks up when Parliament convenes next. Key in your postal code here to find your MP and drop them an email or phone call, and let your voice be heard.
An MP who has recently spoken up about LGBT issues is K Shanmugam, in this interview by LGBT counselling group Oogachaga:
2) Ensure LGBT rights and issues are discussed in Parliament
Beyond calling up your MP, ask them to discuss these issues in Parliament:
– Repealing Section 377A of the Penal Code
– Setting anti-discrimination laws for everyone including LGBTs, especially at the workplace
– Ending media censorship regarding positive portrayals of LGBTs
– Having sex education that is inclusive of the needs of LGBT students
– Removing discriminatory laws against LGBTs in the army/National Service
– Legalising same-sex marriage and ensuring spousal benefits in CPF policies
Some of these issues were brought up by Singapore LGBT pride month organisers Indignation last year in a campaign called “Write To Your MP”.
3) Tell your stories openly, online and offline, individually and with a support group
Social media has afforded a space to share your opinions. The fight for LGBT equality begins with others trying to understand your views, and it’s not until the LGBT community presents their views that society will understand and evolve.
A way to do this is to lend your support to the various community groups that go beyond what Pink Dot does with support channels, policy recommendations and outreach efforts:
Join them, be part of something bigger and make the change that you want to see, beyond the annual Pink Dot parade.
Disclaimer: The writer is the public relations director of the Inter-University LGBT Network and this post is not affiliated to the network.
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