The COVID-19 situation did not hamper Singapore-based lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) movement Pink Dot’s efforts to commemorate its 13th year on Saturday (12 June).
Held virtually for the second time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the event, themed “Let Light Lead The Way”, saw attendees participating from their own homes via Zoom, illuminated by the movement’s signature pink light-up.
The event was live-streamed on YouTube for members of the public.
Over 15,000 pink dots lit up on the digital map shown at the end of the livestream, with each carrying a message of support and encouragement for the LGBT community.
Pink Dot 13’s livestream featured a brand new chat show segment with hosts Pam Oei and Harris Zaidi, where guests discussed pressing issues in the LGBT community.
Pageant queen and LGBT activist, Andrea Razali shared her journey as a transgender woman in Singapore.
She also spoke about the challenges faced by the trans community, ranging from barriers in securing employment in Singapore outside sex work to the lack of positive representation in the media.
Lawyer Remy Choo shed some light on the importance of the constitutional challenges against Section 377A of the Penal Code.
While the LGBT community is frequently associated with young people, Pink Dot 13 showcased several stories from older LGBT individuals.
Zuby, 56, detailed their experience of having to reconcile being part of the LGBT community with their upbringing as a Muslim, particularly growing up in the 1970s and 1980s before the age of the Internet — a stark difference from the realities of young LGBT people at present, who are able to access the resources they need at their fingertips.
Russell, 70, who formerly worked in The Straits Times’ newsroom, said growing up as a gay man in the 1960s was something that he had “just lived” with.
“Your friends, your classmates also don’t seem to mind very much,” he said.
Russell also lived through the shift of the meaning of the word “gay”, stating that “gay” only came to mean homosexual in the mid-60s.
“Gay was just ‘happy’! We had Gay World,” he exclaimed.
Russell, however, recalled the ‘Rascals’ raid in May 1993, when police asked everyone to show their identity cards. Those who did not have their ICs were taken to the police station, he said.
“Gay people were angry, and some of them decided to write a letter to the police precinct,” said Russell, noting that the law in Singapore does not oblige citizens to carry ICs at all times.
The police later issued a letter of apology for the raid, which Russell said gave “a sense of empowerment”.
The raid derived its name from the disco in which it took place. Every Sunday, said Russell, was ‘Gay Night’ at Rascals.
Collaborations with Rough Cuts Productions and Our Grandfather Story respectively showcased conversations between LGBT activists across different generations and a father’s acceptance and love for his daughter.
From ‘A’ to ‘Z’, YouTube personality Preeti Nair released her own glossary of terms aimed at educating the public on how to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals better.
Contextualised to fit Singapore society, Preeti began her glossary by saying: “Can we stop anyhow only assuming people’s pronouns? Because you can just ask them what they want to be referred to as.”
Citing reports from TOC and other media, she also highlighted instances where discrimination still persists against the LGBT community, from the experiences of transgender students prohibited from presenting as their true gender in schools to the use of the word ‘gay’ as a slur.
Preeti also stressed the importance of intersectionality within LGBT advocacy, stating that minorities within the minority face double discrimination as a result of how their gender and/or sexuality intersects with race, religion, class, and other facets of their identity.
“If your advocacy doesn’t have room for the most vulnerable based on these intersectionalities, then we must ask: What kind of advocacy is this?”
Preeti — alongside her brother, rap artist Subhas Nair — was chosen as one of Pink Dot’s Ambassadors in the 11th year of the movement in 2019, when in-person celebrations were still allowed at Hong Lim Park prior to the pandemic.
A mainstay of every Pink Dot celebration, Pink Dot 13 also featured music performances from local LGBT artists, including Joshua Simon and aeriqah & RENE.
Going digital last year proved to be a powerful way to connect the LGBT community and its allies across the island. Bringing Pink Dot online has helped those struggling with isolation during the pandemic, said Pink Dot SG.
Pink Dot SG spokesperson, Paerin Choa said that despite ongoing challenges faced by LGBT people in Singapore, “we still believe that a diverse and inclusive Singapore is one that is worth fighting for”.
“When we light up our homes and workspaces this June, we lead the way with hope towards a better, kinder and more equal Singapore,” he said.