Despite all efforts, I've only ever made it to Pink Dot once, in 2011. All the other times I have been overseas, watching my friends back home with envy.
This year I'm in Athens, Greece, running around the city talking to bloggers, journalists and musicians about the sudden shutdown of the country's only public broadcasting network. Today I've been hanging out with some amazing citizen journalists talking politics, activism and the media, but I’ve kept an eye (and a finger on my iPhone) on Pink Dot developments.
Seeing the pink dot of over 20,000 lit up against the Singaporean cityscape made me miss home more than ever, especially since I knew that many of my friends would be there.
There’s something special about Pink Dot. While it does address a very serious national issue – that of LGBT rights and discrimination within our society – it’s a day in Singapore when people aren’t divided. People don’t go to Pink Dot to shout or argue or fight. They go to celebrate diversity and acceptance and love.
When I was at Pink Dot I found couples, friends and plenty of families. There were families with three (or more) generations represented. Old grandmothers and grandfathers – supposedly meant to be the most conservative and staunch defenders of anti-gay “Asian values” – told me that they were there to support their grandchildren, and to support the freedom to love.
It is on Pink Dot day that we see the inclusivity we want for Singapore. Where people of all shapes and sizes assemble and no one is that quick to judge or to exclude.
It makes me wonder: what if we could extend this inclusivity beyond just one day in Hong Lim Park? What if we, as a society, decided that we didn't want this celebration of freedom to love to be just an event, but an everyday reality?
Achieving equality is not easy, and anyone who expects it to be is naïve. There are nations much older than us who have had much longer struggles for LGBT rights. Yet it is not impossible. The recent Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) shows us that change is possible.
In Singapore the struggle is not even about same-sex marriage. It is about the decriminalisation of sex between men; essentially, the decriminalisation of homosexuality (for men). And this is not just an issue for gay men. It is an issue for all of us who live, work, study and love in Singapore. Without clearing this hurdle, we will never be able to declare that we live in a truly inclusive society.
Over the years Singapore has made much progress in many aspects. We've got so much to be proud of. We shouldn't stop now.
In working towards the Singapore that we want to see in 30 years' time, we should never forget the beauty of diversity and acceptance. Rather than resting on our laurels and accepting the status quo just because "it's always been there", we should be taking active steps to improve the community in which we live. Repealing Section 377A of the Penal Code would be a wonderful first step in making sure that the freedom to love is not just restricted to a one-day festival of pink, but an everyday reality that we can all count on.