By now, you would probably have known that 21,000 people rallied around Pink Dot 2013 to shine Hong Lim Park awash in a sea of glittery pink lights. You would also have known, from my story on Yahoo! Singapore, that politician Vincent Wijeysingha has become Singapore’s first openly gay politician. Also, how about the United States’ Supreme Court ruling the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional?
All this seems like progressive steps forward for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) as well as civil rights in Singapore and the world. But for a country like ours, Alex Au argues that it will take much more to muscle the government to move forward in granting equal rights to our LGBT brothers and sisters.
Section 377A of the Penal Code still stands despite a constitutional challenge by two brave men who stepped forward to tackle the relationship between court and state. Pastors still are trying to keep the law intact and recent rumours on the Internet watercooler of fundie Christian members in Parliament do not bode well for civil rights.
Going to Pink Dot is an experience, not because of the overtly-sexual messages other pride parades have around the world. No flesh parades, gratuitous displays of skin and brazen messages of hot, dripping sex. (Bubble tea company ShareTea pulled their topless models from their booth display this year.)
Instead, what one sees at Pink Dot is truly something almost innocent but, in actual fact, good-natured: families coming together in all races and religions, companies who have stepped forward to lend their brand and support for LGBT inclusivity to the event, messages of hope, love and freedom from the 21 community partners who champion the freedom to love.
The image of the sex-crazed LGBT member is hard to find in the 21,000 people smiling as they passionately sing “Home” (this year’s Pink Dot song) and sing the National Anthem with a capella group Vocaluptuous. And it really is no wonder why: the image that conservative Singapore has painted of the perverted LGBT community is just that — a myth that is busted time and again with positivity and hope.
For Pink Dot to reach the success it has in these past five years shows — more than ever — that the message is getting through. So powerful is the message that straight allies are comfortable hanging out at an event championing LGBT rights. However, the event has gotten so big that it seems almost inevitable that — just like previous attempts at such LGBT-driven events — the government might begin to hover its influence on it as an attempt to reassure Singapore’s religious right that it has its worries in mind.
An event that grows bigger meets an increasingly vocal religious right: the way forward will be rough.
If the government’s aim is to keep Section 377A to protect conservative Singapore, then there really can be no arguing with denying a specific segment of society towards their rights and feelings. Everyone has their rights and they are entitled to them. But what can be changed is the power of perception and of image. That LGBTs are not sexual deviants, that they are not corrupted members of society, but that they — like everyone else — have the right to lead their best life. Their life is not defined by their sexuality, but their sexuality should not be denied a chance to live.
That is why Pink Dot must continue. Its message is not old despite the repetition because its people constantly have stories to tell: stories of hope, love and everything in between. Stories that make all of us human. From that humanity, the negative perception of LGBTs in Singapore has a chance of being crushed, if the community keeps reinforcing that people like them are just like everyone else. They have bills to pay, families to feed, and lives to lead.
If the government is unwilling to move, hopefully society will take the step forward first.