Singapore’s Pink Dot, an annual gathering at Hong Lim Park in celebration of love, equality, and LGBT rights, attracted more than 26,000 people on June 28, 2014 — the largest ever Pink Dot event since the first in 2009.
But this year was the first time that religious groups openly and actively opposed the Pink Dot by urging the people to wear white on the same day.
Islamic educator Noor Deros initiated the #WearWhite campaign to rally Muslims against homosexuality. Then, influential pastor Lawrence Khong of the Faith Community Baptist Church publicly supported the campaign and organized a “family worship” also on June 28, which was attended by about 6,400 people.
The LGBT community has grown considerably in recent years in Singapore, although its marginalization is still reflected in the country's laws like the notorious Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalizes gay sex.
Despite the opposition, this year’s Pink Dot was a success in terms of the number of participants and sponsors who supported the event. Aside from uniting the LGBT community, it also gathered a broad section of Singapore society including government officials who expressed support for LGBT rights.
Miyagi, one of the speakers in the rally, talked on his blog about the rising number of Singapore families who have already embraced the LGBT as part of the community:
I am glad that we are raising our son amongst friends who share the same family values. That two people can love each other regardless of gender, gender identity or labelling.
If this is the “gay lifestyle”, then my family and I will wholeheartedly promote it.
Qing Erisa Tan, one of the participants in the event, blogged how the Pink Dot lived up to its promise of fostering openness and love:
…at Pink Dot 2014, I saw no activists, no one pushing for the decline of religious influences, no one ‘actively promoting’ their ‘lifestyle’: what I saw was people – walking breathing feeling people – celebrating their right to love.
Stripped of all differences, they are fundamentally humans capable of love, who are looking for love. I cannot convince myself to go against that.
Activist writer Kirsten further appreciated the relevance of the Pink Dot because of the sudden emergence of ‘hatred’ coming from conservative religious forces:
Pink Dot is by no means a perfect event or movement. There is plenty that needs to be said about diversity and differences in experiences – straight or queer – in Singapore and around the world. But I still believe that Pink Dot is worth supporting, and it’s a belief that has been further reinforced by the outpouring of hatred and fear-mongering that has come from religious conservatives.
The Wear White movement against Pink Dot was launched ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. It encouraged those attending prayer services to wear white to oppose the “normalization of LGBT in Singapore” and “help Muslims return to their natural disposition.”
Meanwhile, Catholic Archbishop William Goh issued a pastoral letter criticizing the LGBT lifestyle as “detrimental to society.” “This kind of lifestyle should not be promoted by Catholics as it is detrimental to society, is not helpful to integral human development and contrary to Christian values,” he wrote.
Writing for The Online Citizen, Ghui took on criticism of Pink Dot:
For detractors who will argue that the Pink Dot are inflicting their way of life on others, please note that they are not asking for anything more than equality. They just want the freedom to live their own lives. They are not converting anyone to homosexuality nor are they advocating that being homosexual is superior to traditional family life.
Some Singaporean netizens refrained from taking sides with either #WearWhite or #PinkDot. For instance, Abdillah Zamzuri preferred #WearPinkWithWhitePolkaDots. Marcellie advocated #RedDot, the “color of the blood that flows within each of us”:
I think there’s enough lines dividing us as a nation and it’s time to stand united as one. Whatever your choice, I hope we will stop fighting and dividing but instead celebrate our common denominator – our shared humanity.
The Pink Dot revealed the growing strength of the LGBT community in Singapore, but it also underscored the continuing influence of conservative values in society. The tug of war continues.