PinkDot 2012: A Celebration of Our Love

(Photo credit: Singaypore.sg’s Facebook page)

I attended PinkDot for the fourth time this year. I was so proud. So beaming proud. We have done it again. We, the people of Singapore, the lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgendered, queers, questioning (LGBTQ), curious, undecided, and our straight friends, families, colleagues and loved ones, have done it again.

I was so proud.

I was so proud that we could stand here together, once again, in a sea of pink, believing and knowing that we have the freedom to love, knowing that if we have the commitment and dignity to love whom we love genuinely and sincerely, and to be loved in return, that we can continue to live our lives with pride, with honesty and with our strength in belief, that we are leading fulfilling, proud and inspirational lives, as our own.

As the helicopters flew past with the Singapore flag and we started serenading to the national anthem, my heart beamed with so much pride. I am a Singaporean. I am a proud Singaporean, living in a place, where even if there was 377A, or even if our society is perceived as being conservative, I can be here, I can be who I am, I can be proud that I am someone whom I can respect, and whom can live a life like all of us here, proud, and affirmed. I sang the national anthem with pride. Never have I felt so much pride for Singapore and my fellow Singaporeans before.

As the jet planes flew past next, it felt almost like a sign that our government was blessing us with their congrats – our pride, our reason to be. It was almost as if we are together as one, regardless of race, language or religion, and sexual orientation, as host Lim Yu Beng, had said. Indeed, we were – families with strollers. A single father with his adopted child; gay friends dressed in dynamic costumes. Everyone, in every creed, dancing alive to the music and even if they were standing awkwardly on the grass patch; today, once again, we have been affirmed for who we are, and we know today, we can walk on, head held high, knowing that we are proud individuals who can show others that love is who we all are, and love is who we will take pride in, and have the freedom to be, because we know what being committed to love, being genuine in love and being sincere in love is.

Even if tomorrow, we go back to work or school, or back to our homes, and things may look the same, but we know, inside, we have grown. We are able to hold our esteem high within ourselves and continue to believe in who we are, what we can do, and really, be ourselves – happy and free.

I am very grateful to the organisers for PinkDot for dreaming up this amazing ideal – the freedom to love – and to continue to reinvent themselves. Indeed, today, it did felt like the National Day Parade (NDP), but one that we truly feel for, are grateful and proud of, and are truly happy to be part of. As a friend had remarked, PinkDot is better than NDP.

I cannot put in words the immense pride, dignity and fulfillment I have, as I stood today, shining my pink light up into the sky, as all us of came together to form the PinkDot, as we sang our hearts out, under the stars, knowing that things can be better, will be better, and that we are part of what will make things better. I was beaming so proudly, as I looked to the faces of those around me, the hope in their eyes, the belief, the happiness and the knowing – that yes, things are better, and we have come this far, and can only go further.

(Photo credit: PinkDot’s Facebook page)

As PinkDot illuminated itself in the night, it felt as if all our lives have been illuminated, that our hopes are renewed and our faiths inspired.

I believe, and I know, together, we can, and we will – we will lead fulfilling, happy lives that we are proud of, with dignity and strength, and that we can have the freedom to love, be committed in loving relationships, and be blessed by the people around us, because simply, love is who we are. And today, we have come together, to show love, love, and be loved in return. And to let our love expand and be lit, like a beacon of hope to all LGBTQs, our straight friends and all alike.

Thank you PinkDot for an amazing fourth year running, and more to come. Thank you for making me feel alive and proud. I am grateful, from the bottom of my heart.

(Photo credit: PinkDot’s Facebook page)

(This post was written on 1 July 2012.)

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Launch of Google’s Legalise Love Campaign in Singapore – A Powerful Opportunity and Hope for Change

(Photo credit: Google)

Google launched the ‘Legalise Love‘ campaign on Sunday (7 July 2012) to encourage countries which continue to criminalize homosexuality to decriminalize homosexuality and to encourage the acceptance of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning) individuals.

In their statement, Google shared that, “Though our business and employees are located in offices around the world, our policies on non-discrimination are universal throughout Google. We are proud to be recognised as a leader in LGBT inclusion efforts, but there is still a long way to go to achieve full equality. Legalise Love is our call to decriminalise homosexuality and eliminate homophobia around the world.

At Google, we encourage people to bring their whole selves to work. In all of our 60 offices around the world, we are committed to cultivating a work environment where Googlers can be themselves and thrive. We also want our employees to have the same inclusive experience outside of the office, as they do at work, and for LGBT communities to be safe and to be accepted wherever they are.”

Google’s Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe had shared that Google has decided to launch the campaign in Singapore because, “Singapore wants to be a global financial center and world leader and we can push them on the fact that being a global center and a world leader means you have to treat all people the same, irrespective of their sexual orientation.”

The campaign website can be found at: http://www.google.com/diversity/legalise-love.html

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I’m very excited that Google has decided to launch the campaign in Singapore. Firstly, I’m excited because this will provide a platform for LGBTQ individuals in Singapore to advocate for their rights. It also means that there can now be a renewed vigour within our community for the advocacy of our rights.

This is thanks, in part to PinkDot and their successful campaign and partnership with Google, as well as Google’s commitment and their sense of social responsibility to equal rights, and their extensive capacity to be able to advocate effectively in their realm.

Singapore is actually very well-placed, among the current crop of countries which continue to retain the archaic law which criminalizes gay sex, to be able to move beyond towards decriminalization.

If we look at other countries where gay rights have been achieved at various levels, Singapore actually compares favourably, as ironic as it may seem. For example, if you look at Brazil, it may be a country where gay sex is legal but around 200 LGBTQ people are killed every year for hate crimes targeted at LGBTQ people. In South Africa, same sex marriage is legal but there is still corrective rape targeted at lesbian women – to “turn them straight”. There are civil unions in the UK but there is also violence enacted against LGBTQ people. In America, gay youths would commit suicide because of the bullying they face in school.

In Singapore, it might still be illegal for gays to have sex. But the government has said that they would not proactively enforce the law. Of course, if they decide to change their minds – they can do so, and that’s why Google’s campaign is so important.

(Photo credit: suite101.com)

I do think Singapore provides a safe and, ironic as it is, a supportive environment for LGBTQ individuals to grow in. The government might keep up with the propaganda speech that Singapore is conservative – they need to so, so that conservative Singaporeans will vote for them. Our government functions a bit like the Republicans in the States in that sense. But if we look beyond their rhetoric, we know Singapore isn’t all that conservative. It’s propaganda. We also know the government isn’t policing gay issues as much because they know they shouldn’t. There are obvious economic reasons, and gradually, also the recognition of basic right issues which affects their thinking.

Our government, I think, isn’t against gays having our rights, but they have to keep up with the anti-gay rhetoric, or rather, pro-family front. They need to appease the conservative factions and they need to keep up with the conservative votes. So we should, as much as possible, understand that stance. Of course whether this stance is truly theirs, or one that is imagined is open for debate.

But what this means is this – if we know that underlying it all, the government isn’t unsupportive, we know that we can continue learn to live our lives as LGBTQ people and learn to function as well as we can. And this is also one reason why Google has picked Singapore to launch the campaign. They know our government is not unsupportive. No corporate company would pitch themselves against a government if it’s not in their interest. Of course, Google has generally tried to push against boundaries as well. But I think Google is betting on our government looking at repealing the law (against gay sex) in the near future and have placed their eggs in our basket – it would be in their favor when the government does repeal 377A. It’s a win-win situation.

Of course, even though we are in a safe environment to grow in, LGBTQ people don’t sometimes realise it, because the government’s public discourse seems to be against the practice of our rights. We need to perhaps learn to read between the lines.

What I do think is that, this means that given a safe environment, we can decide to learn to accept ourselves better, learn to have better self esteem, so that we can learn to be stronger gay individuals and be able to develop our overall well-being favourably. I think for now, this would be of utmost importance for gay people in Singapore – to recognise ourselves and our strengths, believe in ourselves and stand up for ourselves.

Singapore offers a safe and favorable environment for LGBTQ individuals to learn more about themselves and there’s the availability of structural features which facilitate the development of our well-being, if we learn to take advantage of it, for ourselves, to grow and support one another in this growth. The ball, it can be said, is in our court now.

Google cannot run this campaign on its own. It needs the support, strength and courage of LGBTQ individuals in Singapore to rally behind it, to believe in ourselves and our dignity, to come together and realise our potential as one, and to believe that we have a right to be recognised because it is our given right. We are born this way.

So, what say you, my fellow LGBTQ friends and family members of these friends in Singapore, will we take pride in ourselves, and take up the mantle to live our lives with dignity, acceptance, respect and self-belief?

I know I have.

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