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London’s history, Singapore’s future?

James Goh

The party had already commenced the night before with throngs of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) crowd from different parts of the European Union (EU) and beyond descending upon one of the most popular gay capitals in Europe - London. It was London’s Gay Pride Parade 2010 in celebration of 40 years of gay liberation.

Amidst the air of jubilance and nervous anticipation of what the day will bring, I joined in for the first time in a gay pride parade which marched from Baker street to Trafalgar Square. The scene was a sea of rainbow flags and blaring music from incredulously colourful floats. I was extremely heartened and secretly envious that the LGBT crowd could march proudly in public with their partners and family members, both young and old, in tow.

Members of the LGBT parade contingent enthusiastically engaged fellow comrades and curious onlookers lining the parade route by giving out pro-LGBT brochures and badges. It was a casual and friendly atmosphere designed to put everyone and anyone at ease, but under the enduring truth that as “Love is a human right”, LGBTs deserve the same rights to love and be loved regardless of their sexuality.

As the crowd congregated at the parade destination of Trafalgar Square, feelings of camaraderie climaxed; the crowd grooved to the music projected from the center stage of the mega outdoor party. The party spirit was stoked by the heat of the summer sun and the abundance of love and unconditional acceptance that was in the air.

A reporter at the event asked me for my sentiments as an Asian about this annual event, and many from the local community quizzed me about the general acceptance of Singaporeans toward the LGBT community. Many of them found it incomprehensible that our globalized and cosmopolitan society still criminalized sex between mutually consenting adults and were quick to offer their sympathies that I would be returning to Singapore to live under such a legally repressive environment.

As tourists marvel at the modernity and ever changing landscape of Singapore, and as we gallop ahead in the development of our sophisticated business and research infrastructure and climate, the legal standpoint on LGBT issues (i.e. section 377A of the Singapore Penal Code) has not turned a page as Singapore chronicles chapters upon chapters in her other areas of development and progress (for example, the presence of  casinos in the integrated resorts).

As London’s Gay Pride 2010 goes into yet another chapter of UK’s history, Singapore is still stuck in a limbo about her official stand towards LGBTs in our society, due to the preservation of section 377A of the penal code. Perhaps it is time for decision-makers to take direction from our very own citizens: our citizens who have demonstrated the capacity to embrace liberalism by participating in the Pinkdot campaign to support their LGBT family members and friends; our citizens who cheered on the first LGBT contingent made up of only two but extremely brave souls who marched proudly  with the rainbow flag through the Chingay 2010 parade to demonstrate the true diversity that exists in our society.

I’d just like to share with you some thoughts of another fellow Singaporean who attended the London parade. Preferring to remain annonymous, he commented, “The main impression I got from the pride parade was the sense of total freedom enjoyed - freedom to celebrate who you are and what you do without fear of repercussions and reprisals. Everyone is just having a good time, without having to look over their shoulders. There were gay, straight, bi, whatever, just enjoying the festivities for the sake of it, and not having to prove a point (too much) or even think that it was a political statement. I hate how everything back home is reduced to a matter of politics and policy, including the area of who to love.”

In a society where change is a part of our culture, it is now time to cease being ironic, to legally acknowledge and accord every LGBT citizen of Singapore his equal right - the human right to love and be loved for who they truly are.

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The author is a returning Singaporean student who completed his tertiary education in Europe. He hopes to maintain awareness about the injustice done to the local LGBT crowd associated with keeping section 377A of the Penal Code of Singapore through his short article. He hopes that section 377A of the Penal Code could be repealed as a first step for the open social acknowledgement and acceptance of the Singaporean LGBT crowd.