Pink Dot SG

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The LGBT community converging at Hong Lim Park in Singapore for the inaugural Pink Dot SG in 2009

Pink Dot SG is an annual, non-profit movement, free-for-all event which started in 2009, in support of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in Singapore. Attendees of the Pink Dot SG events gather to form a giant pink dot in a show of support for inclusiveness, diversity and the freedom to love.[1]

History[edit]

In September 2008, the rules governing activities that can be conducted at the Singapore's Speakers' Corner at Hong Lim Park was relaxed. It became possible to hold demonstrations at the park, provided that they are organised by Singapore citizens and the participants are only citizens and permanent residents.[2][3][4] The first Pink Dot SG event took place at the Speakers' Corner in Hong Lim Park on 16 May 2009.

The design of the Pink Dot SG mascot was provided by graphic designer Soh Ee Shaun.[5]

The Events[edit]

Pink Dot SG 2009[edit]

Pink Dot SG 2009 was held on Saturday, 16 May 2009 and was Singapore's first open-air, LGBT-supportive event. It established the record for the greatest number of participants to turn up for any gathering at Speakers' Corner at Hong Lim Park since the latter's inception. It was given extensive coverage in the international and local media.[6]

Local celebrities stood as ambassadors of the event, namely actor Timothy Nga, actress Neo Swee Lin & radio DJ Rosalyn Lee.[7]

The highlight and end of the event was the formation of the titular Pink Dot. Preceding that were 2 smaller formations by several dozen people of the words 'LOVE' and '4All'.[8][9] It was deemed by news reports as a milestone for the LGBT community in Singapore.[10]

Media coverage for Pink Dot SG 2009 was garnered locally on The Straits Times, and TODAY newspaper. However, the turn out numbers reported by the local media were inconsistent. Organisers estimated 2,500 attendance while local newspaper the Straits Times reported a turn out of 1,000, and TODAY reported "at least 500". The event also received significant international coverage from the BBC[11] and the New York Times[12] with reports being syndicated to various publications around the world through wire services Associated Press,[13] and Agence France-Presse.[14]

Pink Dot SG 2010[edit]

Pink Dot 2010, under the campaign theme "Focusing on Our Families",[15] was held on Saturday, 15 May at the Speakers' Corner in Hong Lim Park. A new record turnout of 4,000 people gathered at the speakers' corner to form a giant pink dot.

The event also received video coverage from the local media, namely, Channel News Asia. The Sunday Times also carried an article with a photograph of the event.[16] Similar to Pink Dot SG 2009, the international media including the BBC, Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse showed widespread coverage on the event.[17]

Local celebrities who stood as ambassadors of the event were namely actor Adrian Pang, actress Tan Kheng Hua & DJ Bigkid.[18]

Pink Dot SG 2011[edit]

Pink Dot SG 2011 was held on Saturday, 18 June at the Speakers' Corner in Hong Lim Park. It was the first that that Pink Dot SG 2011 was featured as an event in "Time Out Singapore" with a fill article devoted to it. An article about the event was also published on CNNGo to advertise Pink Dot SG 2011.[19] Google Singapore was the official corporate supporter and sponsor of the event, the first multinational company in Singapore to do so.

This was also the first time the event flew under a theme song, "I Want To Hold Your Hand" by the Beatles.[20] The local musical cabaret trio, the Dim Sum Dollies made an appearance as the official ambassadors of the event.[21]

A record of more than 10,000 people turned up at Hong Lim Park to form the pink dot, the largest turnout at the Speakers' Corner to date. Pink Dot SG 2011 was widely reported in the mainstream media, with coverage by The Straits times, Yahoo! Singapore, Lianhe Zaobao, ChannelNews Asia and other international media agencies.[22] An aerial shot of Pink Dot SG was also featured on xinmsn news for June's "2011 Year in Pictures" under the category of politics.[23]

The success of the event has since spurred the organising of international renditions of Pink Dot around the globe in locations like Utah, New York, Hong Kong, Anchorage and Koahsiung.

Pink Dot SG 2012[edit]

Pink Dot 2012, under the campaign "Someday"[24] was held on Saturday, 30 June at the Speakers' Corner in Hong Lim Park. It was the first time Pink Dot was held at night. Also for a first, Barclays was an official supporter of the event with Google Singapore returning as an official supporter.[25][26] The 2012 event flew under the theme song "True Colours"[27] with former-actress Sharon Au, actor Lim Yu-Beng as well as actor-comedian-diva drag queen Kumar being the ambassadors of the event.[28]

With mobile phones, torches and flashlights, a record of over 15,000 Singaporeans turned Hong Lim Park into a sea of shimmering pink lights, the largest turnout at the Speakers' Corner to date.[29] Pink Dot SG 2012 once again was widely reported in the mainstream media, with coverage by Today,[30][31] Yahoo! Singapore,[32] ChannelNews Asia[33] and also widely covered by international media agencies like The Wall Street Journal,[34] Taiwan's lihpao,[35] Thailand's PBS,[36] and Egypt's bikyamasr.[37]

Before the event, singer Jason Mraz, who was then delivering a performance on 29 June in Singapore,[38] made a shout out in a video support of Pink Dot 2012.

The event inspired the start-up of Pink Dot Okinawa.

Pink Dot SG 2013[edit]

Pink Dot 2013 was held on the night of 29 June at the Speakers' Corner in Hong Lim Park marking its fifth year with aims to recognise the efforts of Singapore's LGBT community. This year's list of Corporate Contributors for event has grown to include global financial firm J.P. Morgan, local hotel PARKROYAL on Pickering, contact lens specialist CooperVision and audio branding agency The Gunnery, in addition to giant Google and international banking group Barclays.[39]

The event ran under the title "Home", which is also the title of a national day song, which doubled as the event's theme song. The campaign features a video directed by local filmmaker Boo Junfeng, which depicts three individual true life experiences.[40][41]

Like the previous year, the highlight of event saw the formation of a large Pink Dot with mobile pinks and torchlights. It saw a turnout of 21,000 supporters of the LGBT community, the strongest-yet turnout, with 6,000 more participants compared to last year's crowd of 15,000. The event was the largest ever civil-society gathering in the country.[42] To accommodate the increase in participants, a second ‘satellite’ focal point was created beyond the traditional gathering spot to help channel traffic away from high concentration areas. Prior to the formation of Pink Dot, participants were treated to a range of activities and offerings – courtesy of more than 20 community groups and partners.[43]

The event was covered even more widely than the previous year by both local and international media like Indonesia based Asia Calling,[44] The Economist,[45] BBC,[46] The Guardian[47] and Reuters.[48] The event was also featured in YouTube 's Proud to Love' video which features of collection of videos supporting the LGBT community, equal rights and marriage equality.[49]

Before the event, band Fun made a shout out in a video support of Pink Dot 2013.[50]

Local actress Michelle Chia, theatre company W!LD RICE artistic director Ivan Heng and sportcaster Mark Richmond are the 2013 ambassadors of PinkDot.[51][52]

Pink Dot SG 2014[edit]

Pink Dot SG 2014 was held at Hong Lim Park on 28 June 2014 with a turnout 26,000 – a record breaking crowd 5,000 stronger than the previous year. The event is yet again the largest ever civil-society gathering in the country. The event revolves around the theme of "For Family, For Friends, For Love" highlighting LGBT community's contributions to society. It's theme song: "We Are Family".[53] Instead of the tradition formation of the usual pink dot with torches, this year's event highlighted a blue heart emerged when participants turned on their lights at about 8pm.

The event this year, along with the theme, featured a "Community Voices" segment, where invited speakers from Singapore's LGBT community, and straight allies, shared their stories.[54]

Ambassadors of this year's event included Broadway performer Sebastian Tan, Nominated Member of Parliament Janice Koh, and actor Brendon Fernandez.[55] Also in support for the event is Taiwan-based Pop Idol Stephanie Sun who did so in a 20-second video.[56] Local YouTube Stars Tree Potatoes also made a shout out in a video.

In addition to the growing list of Corporate Contributors is one of the world’s leading energy companies, BP, and multinational investment banking firm, Goldman Sachs.[57]

Pink Dot SG 2014 was the first year the event drew a strong opposition from Singapore's religious community. It was also the first year that security personnel were deployed at the event foreseeing possible unruly behaviour by the crowd.[58] As a result wide local media coverage was made prior to the event. The event itself was widely reported by both local and foreign media like previous years and made full page articles on many local newspapers the following day.[59][60][61][62][63][64][65]

International Events[edit]

After the success of Pink Dot SG 2011, it has inspired many people around the world to organise the pink dot event. Large scale Pink Dot events have been organised in Hong Kong, Montreal, New York, Okinawa and Utah. Smaller gatherings were also organised in locations like Anchorage, London, Malaysia and Taiwan. The highlight of all events was the formation of a pink dot.

Pink Dot Anchorage[edit]

As an Alaska PrideFest event, Pink Dot Anchorage organised a gathering on 18 June 2011 at the Anchorage Town Square where around 100 participants turned up. The participants formed a heart shaped formation. [66]

Pink Dot HK[edit]

2011[edit]

On 24 June 2011, Hong Kong's Pink Alliance organised a gathering at Psychic Jack Lounge located in Central Hong Kong.[67]

2014[edit]

Inspired by Pink Dot Singapore, Pink Dot HK 2014 was held on 15 June 2014 in Tamar Park, co-organized by LGBT groups BigLove Alliance and Pink Alliance running under the theme "We are Family: The Freedom to Love”. The event included an outdoor picnic and funfair, as well as a closing concert featuring performers like Denise Ho and Anthony Wong.[68] The event was widely covered by local media like the Oriental Daily News[69]

Before the event, the Bank of America Tower was decorated in pink to publicise the event.[70]

The turnout of the event was an estimated 1,200 people.

Pink Dot London[edit]

On 18 June 2011, Singaporeans in London organised a picnic at Hyde Park, London in conjunction with the Pink Dot event occur in Singapore that day.

Pink Dot MTL[edit]

Pink Dot MTL is a movement inspired by the Singapore event which believes that love is best built on a foundation of trust and honesty, not fear and shame. The group hopes to bring LGBT individuals in Montreal closer to their families and friends where change for the better happens through conversations, not cover-ups and covert lives.[71][72]

On 18 Aug 2012, a Pink Dot event was organised where nearly 300 attendees gathered at Place Émilie-Gamelin, Montreal, Quebec. A competition was organised where LGBT individuals were invited to submit their personal coming out stories. The top three writers were sent an invitiation to the event and their stories were read out in front of other participants.[73]

In 2013, a Pink Dot event was held at Place Émilie-Gamelin on 17 Aug The event had a one-page feature on local gay magazine Fugues.[74][75]

Pink Dot NY[edit]

A Pink Dot picnic was held on 7 June 2011, on 6 October 2012 and on 22 June 2013 in Central Park, New York. Around 30 participants turned up for each event.

Pink Dot OK[edit]

2013[edit]

Pink Dot Okinawa was inspired by Singapore's Pink Dot. The event is the island's first LGBT event and is held on 14 July 2013 with a turnout of 800 people. It was held in a park in Naha city, Okinawa which was specifically chosen for its large tourist crowd and mixed culture.[76] Unique from Singapore's Pink Dot, Pink Dot Okinawa features pre-night club events,[77] a pre-event beach party and a LGBT book fair[78] and an after-party.

The event was covered by local media like the Okinawa Times and Ryukyu Shimpo.

The mascot of the event is Pinkmaaru, a winking cartoon animal with the event's name, "Pink Dot OK".[79]

2014[edit]

Second year running, Pink Dot OK 2014 was held on 20 June 2014 in Naha city with an estimated turn out of a crowd of 12,000. Star Trek Actor George Takei made a shout out to this year's event.

Pink Dot Penang[edit]

A Pink Dot event was planned to be held in Penang, Malaysia on 29 March 2014 by SUARAM. Flying under the slogan "Sit in solidarity in the day, Dance together in the night", Pink Dot Penang was meant to be a two-part event including a workshop in the day and a party in the night at the 1926 heritage hotel.

The event was eventually cancelled on 16 March due to religious pressure by Perkasa and other Muslim activists making police reports on the event being a "sex festival"[80]

Pink Dot TW[edit]

A Pink Dot event was organised by the Taiwan Adolescent Association on Sexualities on 18 June 2011 in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Participants gathered at the Kaohsiung Cultural Central.

Pink Dot Utah[edit]

Pink Dot Utah is a campaign inspired by the Singapore event and flies under the theme "Support, Love, Courage" aiming to engender an appreciation of Utah's diversity – regardless of race, language, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. The campaign encourages individuals of the LGBT community to share their life stories which are then featured on the campaign website. It is organised by the Support Love Courage Council.[81]

On 20 December 2013, District Judge Robert J. Shelby struck down the same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional.[82]

2011[edit]

Pink Dot Utah 2011 was held on National Coming Out Day, 11 October 2011, at the Spring Mobile Ball Park in Salt Lake City, Utah. More than 3000 participants showed up for the inaugural pink dot event in Utah and gathered at the baseball field near Spring Mobile Ball Park.[83] Several community organisations and businesses were in attendance at the event, including representatives from First Baptist Church and Utah's Latino community. Denise Winslow came on behalf of Wells Fargo Bank with her family.

Pink Dot Utah organisers invited Emmy award winning composer, Kurt Bestor and Anchor of Fox's Live at Five andNews at Nine Newscaststo Co-host, Hope Woodside as celebrity ambassadors of the event.[84] The event was also covered by local media like The Salt Lake Tribune.[85]

The organisers of Pink Dot Utah also created their own campaign video, which bore an uncanny resemblance with Pink Dot SG's 2011 video, to promote the cause.

2012[edit]

A Pink Dot event was held on 22 September 2012 in Jordan Park, Salt Lake City, Utah, featuring an edited campaign video of the 2011 version. A "pinkdot Baby" contest was held for the first time where parents submit a photo of their child, that capturing their unique personality while highlighting the color pink and, to the extent possible, the theme of "Support, Love and Courage".[86] Pink Dot Utah 2012 also featured an entertainment programme with performances by invited celebrities as well as speeches by speakers. Pink Dot Utah 2012 was supported by Mormons Building Bridges which encourage hetereosexual Latter-day Saints to offer love and support to their LGBT brothers and sisters.[87] The event was mentioned by popular LGBT blogsite JoeMyGod.com.[88]

Another Pink Dot event, Pink Dot St. George, was held in Utah on 3 November 2012 in Vernon Worthen Park, Saint George, Utah,[89] featuring speeches by three speakers.[90] The programme received local media coverage by Dixie Sun News.[91]

Reaction and criticism[edit]

Red Dot Family Movement and Wear White Campaign 2014[edit]

Pink Dot SG 2014 was the first year the event drew opposition from religious groups in Singapore.

FamFest, or Red Dot Family Movement, was organised by the LoveSingapore network of churches in Singapore in response to Pink Dot SG. Initially planned to be held on the same day as Pink Dot 2014 at the Padang, the actual event was cancelled as the application was rejected by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) who deemed the location unsuitable for the event. FamFest continued as a virtual rally on social platform, Facebook.

In response to a Muslim woman appearing in the campaign video of Pink Dot SG 2014, Islamic religious teacher Ustaz Noor Deros called for a Wear White campaign in protest against the event to defend traditional family values. This is also in conjunction with the start of the Muslim month of Ramadan which starts the day after Pink Dot SG 2014. An evening prayer to mark the fasting month will coincide with Pink Dot SG 2014. Faith Community Baptist Church and the LoveSingapore network of churches have also called on their members to join local Muslims in the campaign.[92] Pink Dot 2014 organisers have removed her portrayal in the campaign as a results.

Foreseeing potential opposition, organisers of Pink Dot have deployed security personnel at the event for the first time for crowd management purposes. Organisers reported around 20 security personnel deployed.[93]

The event proceeded without any protesters dressed in white. Wear White campaign organisers had asked supporters to stay away from the Pink Dot gathering while FCBC separately said its members had no plans to go to the event.[94]

The Wear White campaign saw Muslim mosque goers and two churches wearing white in support of traditional family values in the days following the event. Faith Community Baptist Church (FCBC) reported 6,000 attendees wearing white at a sermon the day after the Pink Dot event.

Religious groups and Pink Dot 2014[edit]

Other religious groups in Singapore as a result of the series of reactions to Pink Dot SG 2014 have reinforced their stand on LGBT issues.

The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) has earlier advised Muslims not to be confrontational towards the LGBT community. It indicated that it does not approve of the "pervasiveness" of the LGBT lifestyle and cautioned against mosques being involved in the Pink Dot and Wear White initiatives.

As Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, Mr Yaacob Ibrahim, issued a statement saying those who want to express support for a cause or lifestyle choice should express it in a way that does not divide the community. He added that differences in society had always existed, but Singaporeans must not forget "to keep the social fabric as tight as possible".[95]

Also in response, The National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) has issued a statement:

The Council also wishes to state that while it does not condone homosexual or bi-sexual practices, it also does not condemn those who are struggling with their gender identity and sexual orientation.[96]

On behalf of the Catholic Church, Archbishop William Goh has also reiterated that:

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. Thus, whilst the Church urges compassion, acceptance, patient understanding and mutual respect for these individuals, she believes that there are ways to ensure justice and the protection of their dignity without the risk of endangering the future of the marriage institution, family and society[97]

Archbishop William Goh later release a second statement apologising for any insensitivity in his previous statement, he added on that while the Church does not disapprove of non-sexual same-sex relationships, it is by Catholic teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman and that sex before marriage is not allowed.[98]

NLB's removal of pro-LGBT books[edit]

Arising from the opposition to Pink Dot 2014, members from Facebook group "We are against Pink Dot" complained to Singapore's The National Library Board (NLB) via email about pro-LGBT content in two children's titles. The first book is And Tango Makes Three, featuring two Central Park Zoo male penguins who were given an egg to hatch and raise. The second book is titled, The White Swan Express, is a compilation of stories one of which had a story about female partners trying to adopt a baby from China.[99] Probing revealed a third book, Who's in my Family found to be removed by internal review before the complaint.

In response to the complaint, NLB announced that it had decided to pulp the two books and had denied requests from the public to purchase them. The decision was initially supported by Minister of Information, Communications and the Arts, Yaacob Ibrahim.[100] Authors of both books commented on the saga.[101][102]

This resulted in petitions (3,800 signatures) by LGBT and writers to reinstate the books or relocate the books to a different section and by socially conservative groups who supported NLB's decision.[103] Socially conservative groups have also appealed for signatures in support of NLB's decision in which a total of 26,000 signatures were obtained.[104] A group supporting the reinstating of the affected books organised "Let's Read Together", where members of the public could bring books of any content to read along with a Penguin stuffed toy. 250 people turned up at the National Library Building atrium on Sunday.[105]

Local writers expressed strong criticism to NLB's decision. In reaction to NLB's decision, three judges for Singapore Literature Prize resigned from the judging panel.[106] During a literary conference at The Arts House, novelist Suchen Christine Lim told an audience of 100 local and international writers that the Library Board's action disregarded the feelings of single parents and other alternative families like hers and her friends.[107] The recommendation of relocating the books to a different section rather than pulping them was also supported by Member of Parliament Hri Kumar[108] and Nominated Member of Parliament Janice Koh.[109]

Minister Yaacob Ibrahim later instructed NLB to reinstate all the affected titles (except Who's in my Family which has already been pulped) and categorise them in the adults section of libraries. In addition, NLB's CEO Elaine Ng added that NLB would review and improve its system of reacting to public feedback about the removal of books. The move was celebrated by factions of both socially conservative and LBGT groups as a fair compromise, while criticised by others as indecisive and being a "half-step".[110] A poll conducted by REACH showed that the controversy was unknown to 40% of Singaporeans while the remaining majority of Singaporeans agreed that the book titles should be removed from the children's section of the library.[111]

Impact[edit]

International human rights[edit]

Pink Dot SG was deemed significant enough to be included in the US Department of State's human rights reports for 2009, released on 11 March 2010:[112]

On May 16, a rally in support of "the freedom of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons in Singapore to love" took place at Speakers Corner. Participants held pink umbrellas aloft and arranged themselves to form a large pink dot when seen from nearby high‐rise buildings. The rally took place without disturbance.

Pink Dot SG was also featured in the 2011 documentary film Courage Unfolds, by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and the Lesbian Activism Project of the Philippines. The documentary film highlights the issues faced by LGBT people in Asia.[113]

Google's LGBT campaign[edit]

Google launched the "Legalize Love" campaign which seeks to fight against homophobia and lobby against legal oppression of homosexuals all over the globe, choosing to launch a new phase of the campaign in Singapore. The campaign wants to promote the culture for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) workers inside and outside the office. This is in parallel to the company previously sponsoring Pink Dot events since 2011 in Singapore.[114]

Google has also included a 360-degree street view of the Hong Lim Park's 2013 Pink Dot Event in Google Maps which features both a day and night shot.

Section 377A of the Penal Code of Singapore[edit]

In 2012, Tan Eng Hong challenged the constitutionality of section 377A of the Penal Code, which makes sex between men a crime in Singapore, before the courts.[115] The challenge garnered much public debate[116] and, in response, Pink Dot SG made the following statement:

WE RECOGNISE that the matter has been taken to the court, and we should let the law take its course. We understand the need to respect the sanctity of the Judiciary, and not undertake acts seen to pressure it, or prejudice a case that stands before it.

WE ACKNOWLEDGE that a society as pluralistic and diverse as ours will have a multitude of viewpoints, which all of us have to respect and cherish, as it is this spectrum of opinions, beliefs and ideas that make Singapore strong, not the differences that seek to divide us from being truly, one united people.[117]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]