Family Values Take Center Stage at Singapore’s Annual Pink Dot Rally

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Family Values Take Center Stage at Singapore’s Annual Pink Dot Rally

On Saturday, thousands of Singaporeans attended the LGBTQ organization’s annual gathering, the first since last year’s repeal of Section 377A.

Family Values Take Center Stage at Singapore’s Annual Pink Dot Rally

An aerial view of the annual Pink Dot rally at Hong Lim Park, Singapore, June 24, 2023.

Credit: Pink Dot SG

In the late afternoon of Saturday, June 24, Hong Lim Park in downtown Singapore was filled with crowds, chattering, and laughter. Thousands had gathered at the park’s Speakers’ Corner, the only venue where protest is authorized in the city-state, to celebrate the 15th iteration of Pink Dot, Singapore’s biggest annual LGBTQ rally hosted by the eponymous organization.

This year’s event, the first held since the repeal of the archaic Section 377A, marked the culmination of a month-long campaign calling on Singaporeans to celebrate all families, seeking to highlight those that don’t fit within the heteronormative unit. The inspiration behind the theme came as a response to a constitutional amendment that came along with the repeal which enshrined the definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman. The event therefore brought together families, both biological and chosen, as well as friend groups and individuals willing to express their support for LGBTQ rights and non-traditional families in the city-state that continue to exist in the city-state.

Mei, a 20-year-old undergraduate student who attended the event for the first time, cited the repeal of Section 377A as a watershed moment that made her want to get involved more. “I didn’t really know much about the struggles faced by [queer people in Singapore] before, and public discussion of the repeal made me want to learn more,” she said.

Like Mei, many young Singaporeans were attending the Pink Dot rally for the first time, a trend noted by long-time attendees and community organizers alike. Benjamin Xue, co-founder of LGBTQ youth support and engagement group Young OUT Here, observed a significantly higher attendance from younger crowds, some of whom only recently came out. “Many of them don’t really know what resources are out there, and they’re eager to find out and get informed,” Xue told The Diplomat.

Seth Tjia, director of transgender youth advocacy group TransBefrienders, echoed this sentiment, noting the enthusiasm and determination of the event’s first-time attendees, most of whom are students in junior college or undergraduate students. He said that “while many of them didn’t know what [this year’s edition] was about, they still wanted to come and show their support.”

Securing support from the broader population remains a significant gain for the movement, which has faced considerable pushback from conservative forces across Singapore, particularly from religious elites. Siblings Luqman and Amina, both attending the event for the first time, mentioned the public debates surrounding the repeal of Section 377A as the driving reason to want to get more involved.

“At the height of the conversation, a lot of religious individuals were pushing the narrative that queer people cannot be accepted in Islam, but that’s not what we believe in,” they said, instead pointing out that “Islam emphasizes community and caring for one another.” Luqman added that the post-repeal momentum felt like a crucial time to show up in support: “Pink Dot isn’t just about the repeal, it’s about the broader acceptance of the movement, and it doesn’t end until we’re all equal in the law.”

Echoing this year’s theme of celebrating all families, many parents showed up with their children, reflecting the growing inclusivity of the movement. “Since this year’s Pink Dot is the first since the repeal [of Section 377A], it’s important to take time to reflect on how far we’ve come, and what’s left to achieve,” said Christopher, who attended the event with his wife and 3-year-old daughter.

He recalled his first Pink Dot in 2019 with his then fiancee, citing a “need to support the cause, not just because we have many [LGBTQ] friends, but also because we felt it was the right thing to do.” He added that this year’s theme of celebrating families particularly resonated with him and his wife, who welcomed their daughter since first attending: “We started bringing her last year, and we want to see her grow up with values of love and acceptance,” speaking on the role the younger generation can play in future years to “make positive change happen for the [LGBTQ] community.”

Like Christopher, many long-time Pink Dot attendees spoke out on the importance of showing up for the event and the broader cause even after the repeal. The rally “is more relevant now than ever,” said Pauline, who has attended the event for almost a decade. She pointed to the growing presence of LGBTQ issues in mainstream media in Singapore, claiming that “queer issues have never had more visibility, and we should especially mobilize now that we’ve got the government’s full attention.”

Following the public speeches, which brought forward the struggles of growing up queer in a conservative household and the challenges of existing as queer parents in Singapore, the event ended with its signature light-up formation, departing from the usual call to “Repeal 377A” to spell out the word “Family” instead, blasting a colorful message of acceptance into the night.