Ho Rui An/
Pink Dot 2011 will be held on the 18 June, Saturday at Hong Lim Park. The event which celebrates the freedom of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) people to love is now in its third year and seeks to continue its mission in making Singapore a more inclusive and cohesive society. Last year, the event saw a record turnout of over 4000 people.
With less than two weeks to go, the hype for the event has been steadily rising with its official video going viral worldwide and reaching 180,000 views within just three weeks. The campaign has also inspired the sprouting of Pink Dots across the world in places like New York, London, Montreal, Alaska, Taiwan, Malaysia and the Philippines.
In this exclusive interview, we speak to Pink Dot spokespersons, Paerin Choa and Rebecca Ling, director of the campaign video, Boo Junfeng, as well as the Dim Sum Dollies, who are the official ambassadors for the event this year.
Pink Dot is heading into its third year. Within the past two years, how do you think our society has changed with regard to its acceptance of LGBT individuals? What role do you think did the past two editions of Pink Dot play?
Paerin Choa (PC): I think that there is a definite undercurrent that is slowly sweeping through the social fabric. If what we saw during the General Elections is any indication, it shows that Singaporeans are no longer the bunch of apathetic people that we had thought ourselves to be. I think Pink Dot has played its part in helping to engender this greater understanding and appreciation of Singapore’s LGBT community – and from what we have seen of the level of participation at Pink Dot over the past two years, we are certainly making positive headway.
Is there anything new that we can expect of Pink Dot this year?
Rebecca Ling (RL): Format-wise, Pink Dot 2011 seeks to create a bigger statement by involving many of the country’s leading LGBT groups. Organisations such as Oogachaga and Pelangi Pride Centre to name a few, will be setting themselves up around Hong Lim Park to interact with participants. Our aim is to better inform our audiences about the good work that these groups do, and also to celebrate their efforts in supporting the LGBT community.
We've also been getting more support from companies and organisations who firmly believe in the values we advocate. This year marks the first time an MNC, Google Singapore, is officially supporting Pink Dot. We have also strong support from local artistes, including our ambassadors, the Dim Sum Dollies, who will be performing at the Pink Dot concert. It’s heartening to see support coming from all these different quarters as the movement grows.
The theme for last year’s Pink Dot was Focusing on the Family. Is there any specific theme this year?
RL: This year’s message isn’t so much a theme as it is a call to action – as exemplified by our campaign video. This year, Pink Dot’s focus is to get Singaporeans to come together to take a stand – to reinforce more strongly our credo “Supporting the Freedom to Love” and encouraging people to walk the talk.
Pink Dot has reached out to thousands of people within its very short history, but of course, we do know that there are still individuals who continue to perpetuate the social stigma against LGBT individuals, at times, or in fact, most of the time, unwittingly. How does this year’s Pink Dot intend to reach out to this part of our society?
PC: People don’t know what they don’t know, and as you said, many of the cases in which LGBT people are being stigmatised are done unwittingly, so this is more an issue of ignorance rather than something borne out of malice. Education is the key and the challenge in this respect is that it does take time for a society to change its mindset – more so one that is as diverse, with the multitude of beliefs and viewpoints, as ours is.
I think the first thing we need to do is to review censorship in the mainstream media. With regards to sexuality, positive portrayals of the LGBT characters are often censored or restricted. It is really appalling that the Oscar-winning film, The Kids are All Right, was restricted to a single print run in Singapore. Positive and realistic portrayals of LGBT characters in mainstream media are critical in raising social consciousness among Singaporeans and eradicating stereotypes that lead to LGBT discrimination in Singapore. The liberalisation of censorship, with proper regulation, would go a long way in strengthening public discourse and building a more open, thinking society.
RL: Furthermore, the existence of Section 377A in our Penal Code, continue to reinforce negative stereotypes and wrongful perceptions of LGBT people on the ground and creates a social stigma against the community.
Let’s talk about the video, which has become quite a phenomenon online. I notice that this year’s video has departed quite significantly from the more confessional format of past years’. It appears to be taking a more general look of the situation on the ground, looking at the currents of fear and bigotry that permeate everyday life, which I find is a very relevant position to be taken. How did this whole concept come about?
Boo Junfeng (BJF): In 2010, the Pink Dot campaign videos focused on families in Singapore. This year, we wanted to reach out to the wider community. I developed the video concept in close consultation with my LGBT friends as I wanted to highlight real situations and stories that Singaporeans could connect with.
I wanted to show the diversity of LGBT experiences in Singapore. It was important for me that the stories, though fictional, were authentic in flavour and based on real experiences of Singaporeans – so we presented them with a slice-of-life outlook that would resonate across the demographic spectrum. Further to this, and as a way to engage the non-English speaking crowd, we included close captioning in all 4 official languages to make it truly Singaporean.
It must have been a tremendous effort putting this together. How did you guys pull it off? What kind of support did the team receive from the community?
BJF: The production team comprised volunteers and film students from my personal network. They dedicated their time and professionalism to create this high-value production on a shoe-string budget. Seeing the diverse team working together with such passion and conviction makes me feel especially proud of this project.
Cast-wise, with the exception of Rev Dr Yap Kim Hao who played himself, the rest are actors who are supporters of Pink Dot. After we developed the concept, we called up a few individuals whom we thought were suitable for the roles and they all came for the casting sessions without hesitation.
What are some of the comments which you have received with regard to the video? I also hear that it has also gotten some attention internationally. How have our foreign friends been responding to it?
BJF: Since the video was launched, it has gone viral on the internet with many people sharing it on their personal facebook wall. We've received tremendously positive feedback from many, including parents who have shared it with their children. So it has definitely reached out beyond the converted audience.
We have also heard news of little Pink Dots being formed outside Singapore within days of the tremendous response our video got. The message of love, diversity and acceptance is universal and should spread beyond our shores. We are just psyched that something that started in this small island can have such an impact overseas.
Interestingly, the past year has seen anti-gay bullying emerging as a key issue in many parts of the world, followed by a series of grassroots campaigns started to tackle it. In America, for instance, there is It Gets Better project, which has since inspired a Singapore version. Have these developments informed or influenced Pink Dot in any way?
RL: Certainly, social movements like It Gets Better have had some bearing on our resolve - these occurrences are significant to the LGBT community, and there will be a level of empathy. If anything, it’s a validation of sorts – that what we in the Organising Committee are doing is important.
A question for the ambassadors. How did the three of you come on board?
Dim Sum Dollies: The Dim Sum Dollies are happily honoured to be this year’s Pink Dot Ambassadors! Pink Dot represents everything that the Dollies believe it. Freedom and Love. We proudly support our LGBT family and friends and we know that they should be free to live in a country, in a world, where they never have to apologise for being who they are. This is why when we were approached by the Pink Dot organisers, we knew it was something we had to be a part of.
The Dim Sum Dollies are passionately and wildly Singaporean. We love Singapore and we love Singaporeans. We cannot bear the thought that Singapore might not be “big” enough to accept ALL Singaporeans, whatever their sexual orientation. In fact, we refuse to accept it. We believe that Singapore and Singaporeans are BIG enough to love and embrace each and every person, however different that person may appear to be from us. That is why we have joined PINK DOT in its drive for a more open-minded and more inclusive Singapore.
Singaporeans and, indeed, every last person on earth MUST be allowed the Freedom to Love. We believe in a world where prejudice against LGBTs can be a thing of the past. But active steps must be taken by one and all. That is why it so important to support Pink Dot everyday of the year and in particular, for all of us to turn up on June 18th 2011 at the Hong Lim Park (that great bastion of freedom) in PINK. So I hope we are all tickled Pink this year when thousands more join in our support for LGBT communities in Singapore and worldwide at PINK DOT 2011.
Finally, any message to anyone who is still having apprehensions on whether they should attend Pink Dot this year?
PC: There is a happy vibe at Pink Dot that will liberate one's spirit. You have to be there to experience it. But most importantly, you can be part of a change.
RL: Many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people keep lifelong secrets or lead double lives and it can be difficult to know if your family member, friend or colleague is gay. By supporting the freedom to love, your actions can lend a hand to encourage him/her to lead a full, authentic life that isn't stifled by fear and discrimination.
Pink Dot 2011 will be held at Hong Lim Park on 18 June, Saturday. Activities will commence at 4:30pm, followed by the formation of the pink dot at 6pm. For more details, visit the Pink Dot website at http://pinkdotsg.blogspot.com/.
Pledge your attendance today at http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=213227668705748!
Read also MDA: Abnormalizing the normal?