Top Image: Stephanie Lee / RICE File Photo
Section 377A is finally a relic of the past. Singaporeans wondered where Pink Dot—the annual event supporting the freedom to love in Singapore—would turn its attention next after the repeal. Now, we have an answer: Celebrating and accepting all types of families.
The answer to that question could not have come sooner. Celebrations were short-lived when the government announced an intended amendment to the constitution, which has since passed. Article 156 of the Constitution gave Parliament the power to define marriage as one between a man and a woman.
Parliamentary debates raised the importance of “protecting family values” even before Section 377A was officially repealed in January 2023. PAP MP Chris De Souza, in a Parliamentary sitting on 28 November 2022, said that marriage, as defined as a union between a man and woman, must be protected. He asserted that it forms the basis of Singapore society.
The downsides of having national policies shine favourably on the current, fixed definition of a ‘family’ have taken root in mainstream conversations. The official rhetoric, whether intentional or not, paints a false picture of the LGBTQ+ community—that the community erodes family values and, essentially, attacks the basis of Singapore society.
The reality, however, could not be further from the truth. It’s surprising that it even needs to be said, but LGBTQ+ individuals have families too.
Celebrating All Families
It’s clear that as long as LGBTQ+ couples continue to be overlooked, Pink Dot will return to its annual haunt at Hong Lim Park—this time on June 24. Attendees, decked in bright pink, will continue to descend onto the area, and the famous dot will be formed. Calls for the freedom to love and equality will reverberate through the unfeeling skyscrapers year after year.
This year’s tagline, ‘A Singapore For All Families’, seeks to push back against the rhetoric about LGBTQ+ people—the narrative that LGBTQ+ people erode family values.
Speaking at the press event for this year’s edition of Pink Dot, Associate Professor Teo You Yenn, Provost’s Chair in Sociology at Nanyang Technological University, questioned what it means to be a family.
“To pay more than lip service to ‘family values,’ if we want to realise the potential of family as spaces of security, or love, commitment, care, support, we will do well to embrace families of all shapes and sizes and to work toward conditions that enable people who live in families to play these roles for each other in a sustained way,” Professor Teo remarks.
“Family values can be structural. They are shaped through laws, regulations, and policies which are more rigid and narrow than the realities of actual families,” she continues.
A Singapore For All Families
On top of leading the organisation, Yangfa also doubles up as a social worker and counsellor. He contributes to Oogachaga’s dedicated counselling services for the LGBTQ+ community.
Speaking at the press event, Yangfa opens with a puzzling conundrum: When an LGBTQ+ person comes out of the closet, a family member goes ‘back into the closet’. Families can be unsure about what to do when they find out that a family member is LGBTQ+. It’s an experience that can push them away from talking directly about it.
“Parents love, protect and care for their children. This becomes challenging when their child comes out as LGBTQ+ in an often unfriendly environment like Singapore’s.”
“I distinctly remember that one of the clients I’ve seen before was a man in his twenties,” Yangfa recalls, “He was in a relationship with another man. His mother, early 50s and not religious, looked me in the eye and asked why she should accept her son if the government says it’s illegal.”
Instances like these show how a seemingly innocent constitutional amendment translates into unjust consequences on the ground. Yangfa and Oogachaga exist to pick up the pieces and provide support where policies—or even society—have failed.
When asked whether Singapore will ever reach the point when it runs out of need for Pink Dot, Yangfa’s eyes light up.
“Absolutely. That’s the hope. That’s aspirational. Maybe one day there won’t be a need for us because all the counsellors, psychologists and social workers will be comfortable dealing with LGBTQ+ clients.”
“No need for Oogachaga. No need for Pink Dot to fight for injustice.”
Pink Dot’s Here To Stay
For now, Yangfa has set his sights on returning to Pink Dot this year to continue the good fight.
“It sounds like a paradox. Social workers want to work themselves out of a job. We are here to correct social injustice. It’s a good thing when we reach a day without discrimination or social injustice,” Yangfa remarks.
LGBTQ+ couples continue to be excluded under the guise of the progressive repeal of 377A. Realities like housing continue to affect the lives of LGBTQ+ couples. They are excluded from purchasing BTOs together as legally recognised married couples.
LGBTQ+ individuals, even when they’ve chosen to come out of the closet, often come out in an unfriendly and hostile environment. “Many have told Oogachaga about relationship difficulties with their family of origin. Some feel alone and are unable to talk about it with others. Others are worried, afraid, or ashamed.”
“But for now, clearly around us, there is still inequality, injustice, and unfairness. So as long as these things still exist, there will always be a place and reason for Pink Dot.”