I know a note like this isn't really necessary, but I feel like I have to say something about my experience at the Pink Dot 2012 today because I want you to read it. This note isn't fueled by narcissism, I promise! I have something important to say and I want - no, actually, I need - you to read it.
If you don't already know, I volunteered my time as a Pink Dot photographer and I was there at Hong Lim Park today scurrying around snapping photos of everyone and everything. It was a pretty bold move for me because I know nothing about proper photography (evident by my terrible night shots) and it's also my very first time attending the Pink Dot event. I wasn't sure if I made the right decision by filling up that form online weeks ago, but right now I believe it's one of the best things I've ever done in my life.
As a straight female, walking around and mingling with gay couples was a tiny bit strange for me at first. I wasn't used to the open affection they showed and I certainly wasn't used to taking photos of couples hugging and holding hands (I'm not a STOMPer, hur hur). I've always supported the LGBT community and being affectionate with your loved ones isn't at all a bad thing; it was just different because I had never seen my gay friends do that in front of me before.
It was only when I took a picture of a lovely, happy young male couple who were about 3 hours early that I saw - and captured - just how beautiful it was. One of them was Chinese and he held his Malay boyfriend in his arms while sitting on their picnic mat. Their faces glowed and their smiles were so wide and genuine. I don't know why, but I felt like I was about to cry any moment then. I thought about how blessed they were to have found each other and the struggles that they must have gone through when they told their loved ones, and how strong they were (and still are) to stay true to themselves and each other in this conservative and judgmental society. I looked at their smiles and I knew that they knew all of the endurance, confusion, hopelessness and fear was worth it.
I'm so glad to have started my photography journey for the evening with them. They also kindly gave me a pack of Pola Snack biscuits which I'm happily munching on now. Thank you, boys :)
From that moment on, I felt more at ease with the open gestures of affection the people around me were showing. The hugs, kisses and hand-holding were all beautiful, priceless moments that I strived to capture on my camera. The whole place was just oozing love and there was such a strong yet silent sense of community and belonging. Even I felt it despite not technically being a part of the LGBT community.
As the hours passed and the crowd started coming in, more inspirational shots were taken. There were some really adorable and hilarious ones too, like a series of shots I took of a cat dressed in an elaborate pink costume. I went around the entire perimeter of the park several times, tried the free food and drinks that people in the booths were dishing out and read some of the cards in the Young Out Here Tree of Hope. Some were funny, like "I want to go to Narnia" or "I want to get laid", but others reminded me of why I was there that evening. For example, one read: "For my parents to stop wishing I was normal".
That made me stop in my tracks for a while, because it's a hope that so many LGBT people have but don't necessarily see come true. Parents are a huge part of any person's life, and to know or feel that they would be against their sexual orientation is enough to make one feel like something's terribly wrong with themselves. I can't imagine what the brave people who have come out of their closets have faced with their family. Listening to Kumar's story about his parents' disappointment stung because he is such a brilliant person and at some point in his life he has probably felt worthless and like dirt. I don't think anyone should ever feel that way.
I decided to go to this year's Pink Dot mainly because I want the people around me to know that I will love them and support them no matter what sexual orientation to have. I believe I have some friends who are afraid to come out, and I know for sure that there are more out there in Singapore who feel the same fears as them. I'm just one person, but I hope that my telling of friends on Facebook that I support the Pink Dot movement and my presence there at Hong Lim today will give them hope, even if it's of the slightest sliver. I hope they know that I'm straight but I care. And that I'm not alone on this, because a record-breaking 15,000 people were there with me today, dressed in pink and cheering their hearts out.
I hope you know that I, and thousands of people like me will love you for who you are, no matter what sexual orientation you have. To us, it's perfectly normal. It's actually more than normal - it's beautiful. All forms of love are. I want you to know that there are people out there who won't judge you and there are more and more of us each day. I really hope you don't think you're doing anything wrong because feelings can't be controlled and neither can something as human and natural as sexual orientation. We love you, and someone special will love you too. You were made a perfect being, and you are in no way less extraordinary than the said "normal" people. You're brave, strong, full of dreams and I hope that you will be able to live your life to the fullest the way you want to live it. Don't be afraid, because we're here to support you.
OK I need to stop writing now because I am exhausted and I have a cold and I need to rest or I will legitimately explode.
Thank you, Pink Dot Organising Committee for standing up for what's right and organising yet another inspirational and spectacular event. Thank you, Volunteer Management Committee for all your help and informative emails. Thank you, aLong of the Photography Team for giving me the opportunity to be a part of the team even though I told you I lack proper photography skills because I only got my DSLR a while ago. Thank you, everyone else who was there earlier, for making the night such an unforgettable one.
Meeting new people, capturing those moments and even bumping into my own LGBT friends was amazing. I saw them in a different light (they looked so much happier and at ease) and I loved how surprised they looked when they saw me! Who says straight people don't support the LGBT community? ;)
The glittering Pink Dot formed by the sea of pink torchlights was spectacular... but I believe it would've looked more beautiful if I were taller. When everyone sang True Colours and waved their torches to the beat I was ready to cry again! I'm not even LGBT and I felt so many emotions gushing through me the entire day. The whole event was so inspirational and touching, and I honestly believe that if homophobes and people with doubts about the community were to attend the event, they'd change their minds about the beautiful people there today instantly. For those who didn't attend Pink Dot 2012, I hope my photos and those of my team members will have that same effect.
To end this off,
Some day, Hong Lim Park won't be able to contain the number of people who support the freedom to love.