Celebrate the progress made towards LGBTQ rights and a more inclusive society. By SAMANTHA FRANCIS.
Beyond waving rainbow flags and donning pink at flamboyant parades, June is a celebration of LGBTQ+ communities around the world. The arrival of Global Pride Month also marks Singapore’s own line-up of online festivals and programs including Pink Dot, Pink Fest, and IndigNation. While same-sex marriages are currently not recognised by law in The Lion City, the largely conservative society has in recent years become more liberal in its views towards gay rights.
According to a survey conducted by the Institute of Policy Studies from November 2019 to March 2020, over a quarter also agreed that homosexual parents were just as good as other couples. This gradual shift in attitude is a heartening sign towards inclusivity. For the uninitiated, Pride Month is a time for allies to render support to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people. Traditionally, the progress made in LGBTQ rights is honoured by parades, protests, and performances, but the current pandemic has moved these same events to online platforms where anyone can participate.
The significance of June is tied to the anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, a series of spontaneous demonstrations by members of the gay community in response to a police raid in the Greenwich Village of Manhattan, New York City. Through fighting back for their rights, these riots led to widespread protests that continued for days. Following the incident, activist organisations later emerged to build safe social spaces for gays and lesbians. For subsequent years, pride parades were held to mark the Stonewall Uprising.
Here, a similar incident in 1993 was coined “Singapore’s Stonewall” by local gay activists. On a regular Sunday gay disco night at Pan Pacific Hotel, plainclothes police officers held a raid of the venue. According to a statement by gay lawyer Wilfred Ong, his friends were detained without their identity cards, sans any evidence of wrongdoing. It was eventually found that the police had no authority to do so, resulting in an apology from the Central Police Division Headquarters.
Today, Pride Month is celebrated in the city-state through various events including the well-loved Pink Dot. Inaugurated in 2009 as a soapbox at Hong Lim Park—historically known as a gay venue, the event is marked by gatherings and picnics, backdropped by performances by celebrities and personalities of the LGBTQ community. The highlight is a light-up ceremony where participants set the area aglow with pink torches. Meanwhile, Pink Fest draws attention to the talented LGBTQ community through Pink Screen by The Projector, which showcases queer and queer-friendly movies throughout June. Other noteworthy activities include an LGBTQ+-led panel discussion and career mentorship sessions.
In a nutshell, these events have helped to foster a safe space for the LGBTQ community in Singapore, along with raising awareness on queer rights and issues.