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Pink Dot
Photograph: Pink Dot/Rachel Ng

The ultimate guide to Pride Month in Singapore

It's time to fly that rainbow flag high

Cheryl Sekkappan
Written by
Cheryl Sekkappan
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Break out the pink shirts and rainbow flags, because it's June and that means that Global Pride Month is here. This kicks off month-long celebrations by LGBTQ+ communities all over the world, including right here in Singapore. As we gear up to celebrate with (online) festivals and programming by the likes of Pink Dot, Pink Fest and later in August, IndigNation, we take a look at what Pride Month is all about and how it's celebrated in Singapore. 

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What is Pride Month?
Photograph: Unsplash/Teddy Österblom

What is Pride Month?

Pride Month is the time to celebrate, uplift and support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people from all over the world. Traditionally, the community gathers throughout the month of June at parades, protests and performances to mark the progress that has been achieved in LGBTQ rights, while at the same time keeping the momentum going for more change. As its name suggests, there's no place for shame and stigma during Pride Month – it's all about being out and proud.  

Why do we celebrate it in June?
Photograph: Unsplash/Levi Saunders

Why do we celebrate it in June?

June marks the anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, a series of demonstrations by members of the gay community in New York City that led to the Gay Liberation Movement. On June 28 1969, police raided gay bar Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village Neighbourhood of Manhattan, New York. While raids were not uncommon, patrons on that night fought back, leading to more widespread protests that continued for days. In the next few weeks and months, activist organisations sprung up in the city to establish safe and social spaces for gay men and lesbian women. A year later, the first pride parade was organised to mark the first anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. 

Veteran gay activists here call a similar incident 'Singapore's Stonewall'. In 1993, plainclothes police officers carried out a raid of Rascals at Pan Pacific Hotel on a regular Sunday gay disco night. According to gay lawyer Wilfred Ong, who was at the scene, his friends were detained without their identity cards and with no evidence of wrongdoing. Enraged by the events, he looked into Singapore's legislation and found that the police had no authority to do so, prompting him to write a letter to the police and gather 21 signatories. He eventually received an apology from the Central Police Division Headquarters – an unheard-of concession from the local authorities. 

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When was it first celebrated in SG?
Photograph: Pink Dot/Rachel Ng

When was it first celebrated in SG?

Singapore's LGBTQ+ scene has always been there, albeit underground and away from the eyes of the mainstream community. Case in point are the Nation private parties that ran from 2001 to 2004, after which it was banned. In its place came IndigNation, recognised as Singapore's first public LGBT festival. Unlike global Pride Month, it runs annually from August 1 to 31, and stands as a major milestone for queer visibility and awareness in Singapore. First celebrated in 2005, IndigNation runs a full programme of film screenings, open mics and conferences for the LGBTQ community (locals and foreigners alike) to gather and collaborate. 

How do we celebrate it in SG today?
Photograph: Shutterstock

How do we celebrate it in SG today?

Besides IndigNation, major Pride Month events in Singapore include the iconic Pink Dot, which first started in 2009 as a small soapbox at the historically significant Hong Lim Park (long a hub of gay activity). You can think of Pink Dot as a large and fabulous picnic, complete with performances by stars and members of the LGBT community as well as a final, dazzling light up. Pink Dot has drawn record numbers to Speakers Corner, working as both a safe space for the queer community and a platform to raise awareness about LGBTQ rights and issues in Singapore. 

Pink Fest is another LGBTQ-led community and platform for events and initiatives that promote a more inclusive Singapore. Under its umbrella is Pink Screen by The Projector, which screens queer and queer-friendly movies throughout the month of June. There are over 60 activities lined up across fitness, LGBTQ+ led panel discussion and career mentorship sessions this year, so prepare to be absolutely "gagged".

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So... what's with the colour pink?
Photograph: Unplash

So... what's with the colour pink?

The rainbow flag is the most recognisable and iconic Pride symbol for sure. The six colours stand for the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community, as is flown at queer events as a show of pride and solidarity. It's even found its way onto shirts, pins, bracelets and a host of other apparel and lifestyle items as the most obvious marker of LGBTQ+ support. 

We're not entirely sure how pink became the dominant colour of Pride Month in Singapore, but for Pink Dot, pink comes from the colour of Singapore's IC and is also a mix of the red and white of the Singapore flag. It symbolises openness and inclusiveness, and the hope for LGBTQ+ equality in Singapore. 

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