The hashtag says it all – #freedomtolove. Held on the 4th of June, Pink Dot, an annual event celebrating love in all forms, was bigger and bolder this year, featuring a star-studded celebrity line-up and a whole host of prominent sponsors.
I certainly felt the love when I stepped out at Clarke Quay MRT, and was immediately surrounded by a gaggle of volunteers clad in pink who were enthusiastically welcoming visitors with chants of “FREE HUG, FREE HUG!”. Being my first time at Pink Dot, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but a subversive socio-political statement definitely was not it.
Photo: Pink Dot FB page
Looking out at the gaily-dressed crowd (mostly in shades of pink, save for those not in the know of the unofficial dress code), it’s hard to believe that this event was at the centre of much furore last year when a “Wear White” campaign was launched in protest of Pink Dot 2015. Why all the fuss about an event that appears to just be about fun and live music?
Except, it isn’t just that.
Pink Dot is, at its heart, a Pride event for the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, and Queer) community and all their straight allies. Regardless of how harmless it appears, the increasing attendance and sponsorship support sends a powerful message – one that resonates with the increasing acceptance of LGBTQ people all around the world. This, unfortunately, clashes with a contrasting reluctance in Singapore to be similarly all-embracing.
Mere days after Pink Dot, it was announced that a review of the regulations for Speaker’s Corner was in order. The reason: reviewing foreign sponsorship for events such as Pink Dot. While it has been reaffirmed that no action will be taken against the foreign sponsors this year, it certainly is something to think about.
It is alarming for several reasons: chief of which is events of any nature being reliant on sponsorship. There is no doubt that foreign sponsors for Pink Dot (such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter, just to name a few) have gone a long way in helping Pink Dot go off without a hitch. As an event that only saw 2,500 participants in its infancy to its current (2015 estimate) numbers of 28,000 participants in its eighth year of occasion, the cutting of large avenues of funding could very well sound the death knell for next year’s Pink Dot. Additionally, foreign sponsorship has done much to empower the voices of the sexual minority in Singapore, by aiding them to celebrate their cause. These companies now face the conundrum of human rights versus local culture.
The very nature of any minority is that it cannot, by its own power, be easily heard. Only with access to platforms, or sponsorship, can their message be brought to the attention of the majority. To take away that financial support could cripple the LGBTQ community’s ability to speak in their defense, and in support of their own cause.
If the biggest names in the corporate world are following the biggest countries in the world, and beginning to accept love in all forms, perhaps it should be seen not as unwanted outside interference, but as a wake-up call, a clarion call for change.
If our society as a whole is not ready to accept the LGBTQ community just yet, so be it. Every cause is bound to have supporters and detractors, but we cannot, and should not, muzzle entire communities.