By Leow Yangfa
It really doesn’t require much effort to go down to Pink Dot, does it?
You’ve marked the date on your calendar, and selected your pink outfit. Catching the MRT down to Clarke Quay, you’ve arranged to meet your friends and even curated a picnic. You know you’ll have a great time, come home exhausted and slightly dehydrated, then proceed to share/ tag/ retweet all those gorgeous photos the next day.
But for many people, it’s not that easy.
Maybe they’re not feeling very good about themselves. Maybe they have difficulties coming to terms with being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ) or just different.
Perhaps they’re unwell. With a mental health condition or addiction problem, or even struggling with self-harming thoughts.
Or they’re in hospital after a suicide attempt, or recovering from injuries inflicted by someone they love. Or still grieving a painful loss.
Some could be afraid to be seen at such a large public event, where they worry about being recognised. Their own experiences of being bullied by peers or persecuted by their religious community have taught them fear of those who hate them.
Others might have decided that they just want to blend into mainstream society, and dislike the sensitive issues of sexuality, sexual orientation, gender identity and same-sex love to be raised in public.
Or they just can’t imagine being surrounded by other LGBTQ persons and allies, as the shame and self-hatred they have internalised all their lives still run deep.
And then there are those who have left Singapore because they’ve decided that here is a country that does not respect people who are different.
Many of Oogachaga’s counselling clients may not be attending this year’s Pink Dot for the reasons above. Yet over the years, many have also found the courage to take their first steps to attend the event; just as many more learn of Oogachaga’s services through our presence every year at the Community Tent.
But for every person who, for whatever reason, is unable or unwilling to be at Hong Lim Park on Saturday, 4 June 2016, there will be the rest of us who can and will.
Let us all be there for those who can’t or won’t, and believe that someday, they too might join us.
Leow Yangfa is a registered social worker and executive director of Oogachaga, a community-based, professional counselling, support & personal development agency working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender & questioning (LGBTQ) individuals, couples & families in Singapore.