Record-breaking attendance at Pink Dot 2013

An estimated record-high of 21,000 people turned up at Hong Lim Park on Saturday evening for this year's Pink Dot rally, forming a sea of pink at the Speaker's Corner.

Straight and gay, young and old, they were there to show their support for Singapore's LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) community and to campaign for equal rights regardless of sexual orientation.

[See pictures of the event in our slideshow here]

This year's Pink Dot ambassadors were actress and television host Michelle Chia, sportscaster Mark Richmond and well-known thespian Ivan Heng.

Speaking to Yahoo! Singapore on his appointment as ambassador, Heng, who is gay, said, “I had no role models as a young man.”

“So I felt it was important for me to stand up and in some way dispel the fear, the ignorance, the prejudice,” he added.

Higher acceptance rates?

The issue of gay rights have been in the news recently. Earlier in April this year, a petition by two gay men to the Singapore High Court asking for Section 377a to be repealed was rejected. They are in the process of appealing again.

For years, activists such as Maruah, a local human rights non-governmental organisation, have been calling for the Singapore government to repeal the section because it is a “critical first step” towards eliminating discrimination against homosexuals.

This year’s Pink Dot turnout of 21,000 is a marked increase from 2012's 15,000. In its first year, 2,500 people attended Pink Dot. This number grew to 4,000 in 2010 and 10,000 in 2011.

According to Pink Dot spokesperson Alan Seah, the importance of such statistics cannot be downplayed.

“We’ve always thought the size of the dot would be a signifier of how open Singapore is, in terms of accepting its LGBT citizens,” he said.

Singapore Democratic Party politician Vincent Wijeysingha, who was spotted at the event, agreed.

“The growing number of attendees suggests to me that the more people hear about the issue of homosexuality, the more straight people understand issues around it, the less it becomes stigmatised,” he said. “And it can only bode well for everyone in Singapore, not just gay people.”

When asked to comment on his “official” coming out as a gay man a day before Pink Dot, Wijeysingha replied that he has “never been anything but open about (his) sexuality”.

“I wanted to say to young people that it’s okay, you can come out, you can attend events like this, you can start living the person that you are,” he said.

Squid Wan, a 28-year-old producer who has attended the event four times now, took her girlfriend Elle to her first Pink Dot experience.

“Every year I come back and it gets bigger and bigger, with better sponsors, better coverage,” said Wan. “It’s really amazing where we’re heading towards.”

Her optimism was echoed by Jau, 33. “I hope that one day, we don’t actually need Pink Dot anymore, because it’s just the normal thing to do (sic),” said the architect.

More still to be done

But there were some who were left disappointed by their Pink Dot experience.

“The event is not as inclusive as it should be,” said 23-year-old Low Yim Kuan. “It could have had more representation from groups like female-to-male transsexuals.”

The Nanyang Technological University student felt that Pink Dot should have addressed topics like Section 377a. “With the mainstream success and critical mass that it has achieved, it should be more radical,” commented Low.

Mark Sheng, 32, told Yahoo! Singapore that he was “ambivalent” about the entire event, if only because its predominantly feel-good factor might have glossed over deeper issues concerning gay people.

“Focusing on love is unsatisfactory, to me,” said the artist. “It’s so family-friendly that it almost feels like we have to beg for approval from the straight community.”

But Sheng ultimately conceded that “it’s better to have this event than not to, or else gay people will just stay invisible."

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Pics: Pink Dot 2013