Charity Starts At Home: On Pink Dot and Priorities

By Sam Hussain

So, Pink Dot right? Hmm, yes yes yes. Here, the unsolicited thoughts of a man who’s been to a few but still thinks “hey, there’s this other huge problem with the community that’s clogging up the pipes. We should probably, I don’t know, talk about it?” Note: I use language that should be understood as hyperbole.

Acceptance among our own community members. Courage to stand with the weak, even when we ourselves are weak against the law’s insurmountable power. Yes, charity starts at home my dear siblings of the sexual (or asexual) spectrum.

Those who experience fat-shaming, those who find themselves negatively profiled for their socioeconomic background, people of colour, representation for neurodiversity, etc. When might their causes be taken seriously by Queer Singapore’s tribunal of wealthy, influential overlords?

We’re at a point where we need to put down our fake equality pitchforks and start helping each other out on the home front. Equality to previous generations might mean marriage rights and/or sexual liberties, but it certainly isn’t the bedrock of queer equality for the future, not when we’ve progressed to a point where we have the power to identify long-silenced minority struggles. (This is my subjective opinion.)

Queer Singapore’s obsession with marriage

We are after all very well acquainted with oppression, us LGBTQIA folk. And yet, our ego to emulate oppressive power structures betray us.

When can we ever have a day (heck, an hour even) where queer folk gather together to communicate with the weak among us, or are we too far gone, trapped in tunnel vision, seduced by the (entirely valid, but slightly out of touch) need to “protest” for the decriminalisation of gay sex/queer marriage rights.

Marriage and sex are privileges that occupy the minds of those in power. There exists a sizable group of queer folk who can’t fathom the idea of marriage. There exist queer folk in Singapore who have internalised the community’s sexual disgust for their bodies. There exist those among us who detest the colour of their skin. And what takes centre stage ever single year to represent queer equality? Marriage and sexual freedom.

What do we stand on/for?

The safe space Pink Dot creates for those who feel unsafe being themselves in their normal settings is not to be confused with the intentions driving Pink Dot’s agenda. This safe space is a home, built upon the courage vulnerable queer people show to present themselves to other queer folk with a lot more social capital, to say “I know you might not always see me, and you might not always care, but today, I see you. I give you what little strength I have, to fight for us all.”

Maybe in the midst of shouting through our megaphones to exorcise Singapore’s spirit of hegemonic heterosexuality, we forget that we stand on the heels of broken backs and soil damp with the sweat and tears of those unseen, unheard, underrepresented.

Yes, this dead horse has been beaten to a bloody pulp by disengaged minority LGBTQIA folks like yours truly since the dawn of time. And yet, our show pony of a pride protest always manages to skirt around the issue. Am I surprised? No. Many of my peers who identify as young, driven members of the community who actually want to contribute, feel disillusioned by how much Pink Dot has digressed.

Question: What kind of effect does Pink Dot have on the average gay individual when it comes to acceptance and equality? Like, true equality. Not the farcical kind endorsed by frills attached to satin fans or one-size-too-small neon pink tank tops.

How much do we truly believe in it, or do we just wanna get married first, and then address all that crap later? Sounds like all the bad stuff hyper-conservative heterosexual men do to oppress women, if you ask me. Am I surprised that we end up reproducing their power structures? Not at all.

On protest and priorities

The world moves fast. It’s not 2014 anymore. We can afford to focus on these issues, especially when so many young LGBTQIA people tell themselves “Sure its a problem, but it isn’t a major discussion, so whatever.”

We just don’t have this conversation often enough, and we sure as hell won’t hear it from Pink Dot organisers. Or maybe I’m wrong, but if you ask me, I’d say Pink Dot’s old guard might want to consider a shift in priority. Heck, we should all consider this.

If you show up to Pink Dot this year, recognise that you are part of a protest. A peaceful protest, but a protest nonetheless. Show up and actually fight for something. You can do it silently. You could do it by engaging in conversation with other queer folk about what equality should look like.

Fight for someone weaker. Fight for each other. Fight for yourself. We’re all oppressed. We’re all looking for a way out. It helps to remember each other by mentally squeezing the hand your holding.

We hold no moral high ground to coerce heterosexual laws when we actively disengage with the vulnerable among us, made vulnerable by the community we’ve built.

P.S. I wrote this because I was at The Projector for a drag show event, and everyone in the room was either Caucasian or Chinese. Those with darker pigmentations were like spectres, you’d be lucky to see one in the crowd. Homogeneous looks all around. I was with a dear friend from Sri Lanka; she had never been to an LGBTQIA event in Singapore before.

We left the space for some air, but what we really wanted was to leave the space. We felt like foreign bodies, out of place and isolated. I could make out the taunts some guys were making about me in Chinese as I rode the elevator up to The Projector. I notice how I stood out. I realise that despite my experience, I still hold a lot more power than those who can’t even bring themselves to show up for events like this because of fear. Fear of ostracism, fear of rejection. Fear, and an all too familiar fear at that.

This isn’t an isolated incident, it certainly isn’t the worst, and it definitely isn’t limited to just me.


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