Describing Pink Dot as having had a “record turnout” is starting to become old hat, as organisers say 28,000 people joined in on the annual gay rights rally this year, breaking the record of 26,000 in 2014.
Hong Lim Park was once again packed with pink-clad supporters from Singapore and overseas, although only Singaporeans and Permanent Residents were able to form the lit-up human pink dot at the end of the night.
Growing in size and scope every year, this year’s Pink Dot featured speeches from LGBT individuals and allies such as Vanessa Ho from Project X, Avin Tan from Action for AIDS and long-time gay rights activist Russell Heng. Performers in the well-received concert included singer-songwriter Inch Chua, rapper ShiGGa Shay and dance group Plus Point.
Yet many challenges still remain for the LGBT community. With Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong still insisting that Singapore is “not ready” for same-sex marriage, LGBT activists are no closer to getting Section 377A of the Penal Code – which criminalises sex between men – repealed.
The Media Development Authority (MDA), too, has remained steadfast in its treatment of media with LGBT themes. Taiwanese pop star Jolin Tsai’s song and music video We’re All Different, Yet The Same – which depicted the discrimination that LGBT people face in not being able have their families formally recognised – was recently banned from mainstream broadcast.
Pink Dot’s spokesperson Paerin Choa revealed at the press conference that a 15-second promotional video made for screening in cinemas was yesterday refused a rating by the MDA. This means that the video, which contained footage of last year’s lit-up Pink Dot, cannot be screened in Singapore and is effectively banned.
Organisers said MDA’s cited reason was that “it is not in the public interest to allow cinema halls to carry advertising on LGBT issues, whether they are advocating for the cause, or against the cause.”
“After the setbacks that we had experienced over the last 12 months, giving up and losing hope would have been the easy thing to do. But we also know that Singapore’s LGBT community are a very resilient bunch, and in view of these challenges, we still have much to celebrate,” Choa said.
As he stood in the hot, humid crowd, long-time LGBT ally Reverend Doctor Yap Kim Hao believed that the growing crowd indicated a “very promising future” for the LGBT community.
“This shows a lot of public support,” he told The Online Citizen. “It shows a public awareness of the injustice faced by the community. And the LGBT people are also no longer hiding themselves, they are out and proud.”
Olivia Chiong, whose blog on same-sex parenting was recently picked up by Buzzfeed, said she and her partner Irene has watched the numbers at Pink Dot grow. “It’s a nice time to catch up with friends, some of whom we only saw last year!” she said. “Pink Dot is like Chinese New Year for gay people!”
That said, Chiong would prefer not to have need of an event like Pink Dot at all: “We need to do this now, but I hope we eventually grow [in acceptance of LGBT people] until we no longer need Pink Dot.”