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LGBT communities are never homogeneous, and never will be

by: Bryan Choong

We saw 10,000 people showing up to show support for PinkDot yesterday. Today the Facebook, Internet portals and mainstream press covered the event extensively.

There was something else I saw in Hong Lim Park and it probably will not be picked up in any news. I saw some faces of anxiety. As I watched the people streaming out of the station into the park, some looked reluctant, some looked out of place, some in a wrong colour and some looked like they are ready to bolt.

I am guessing apart from those who are just attending PinkDot for the first time because they could not do so for the past two years or others who took a wrong exit and got a shock out of their lives, there must be many who are taking their first bold step to be seen in a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities event, especially a big and very public one.

Like how I stepped into a gay bar 10 years ago, my first instinct was "I wanted to get out of that place" even though there must be only 10 other people. I have seen these faces many times in Oogachaga's events, including one last year when a guy claimed to "stroll past" the Furama hotel lobby, saw our event and decided to join us. He looked like he want to fade into the wall so that no one could recognise him. I have learnt over the past few years, leave participants like him alone and do not suffocate them by being too enthusatic. They need that space and time to adjust.

For each of the 10,000 people who attended PinkDot yesterday, there will be another 10, 15 or even 20 others who decided not to come for a whole range of reasons. There will be some who ask "what after PinkDot, will the society change?", there will be some who see "PinkDot as discriminatory based on nationalities" despite on how much explanation the organisers gave and there are many who see this as a Chinese Singaporean thing. The list goes on. For those who attended, thank you for making there. For those who stayed away, as long as you are comfortable with your own reason.

A close friend reminded me when I was preparing an event proposal many years ago, the term to use in the proposal has to be the LGBT communities, and not a community. Simply because there are too many groups and segments within the LGBT population. I used to think that our only connection is that we are attracted to the same sex, now I think even that explanation is filmsy because we are attracted to many sexes or not attracted to any sex at all. In fact, we know so little about about each other and at times, we are just happily using the LGBT terms without putting much thoughts into it. The more I learnt, the more I realised that I do not know much.

And as I meet more people involved in LGBT works in the region, I have to re-adjust my opinions. A transgender lady reminded us at the recent Jakarta's ASEAN LGBTIQ caucus meeting that we need to be mindful on how words like "Pride", "IDAHO" or LGBT are used. Some phrases have different meanings and some are meaningless. As I am learning to define sexuality in our own local context, breaking away from the Western definitions, I am learning how diversity is taken for granted.

After the euphoria is over, reflect on how open minded you are towards others are different from you, in term of views, religious background, races, sexual orientation, gender identities, HIV status and expression of his/her sexual-being. Be patient with someone who is struggling to find his/her place in this LGBT communities, hold his/her hands in the journey if possible Learn to live with differences.

The freedom to love is more than just an event. It is also an ideology.

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Bryan Choong is Centre Manager of Oogachaga, a gay affirmative LGBT counselling and support organisation in Singapore.