But being angry is not necessarily a bad thing, as anger is often the visible tip of an iceberg that includes other feelings too.
That’s precisely what motivated four spirited, prata-eating Singaporeans one fateful evening in 2005, an eventful year that marked the 40th anniversary of Singapore’s independence, the ban on Fridae’s Nation dance parties and the liberalisation of licensing rules for conducting indoor talks.
Thus a collection of events to celebrate Pride Month in August – called IndigNation – was born. Described as a gay community response, it seeks to demonstrate the creativity, initiative and grassroots spirit of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in Singapore.
As a regular participant and occasional organiser of various IndigNation events over the years, I too believe that IndigNation is about all this, and more.
Under our anger lies the LOVE that many of us have for ourselves and for each other, as individuals in the LGBT communities and as Singaporeans, even if mainstream society may sometimes portray us in a negative light.
It is also a love we share for this country we proudly call home.
The Unofficial Pink Picnic, a key event held every year on National Day and banned by the authorities since its inception in 2005, is a simple yet beautiful example of this. Simply through word of mouth the event attracts scores, and in some years even up to a hundred people, all dressed in pink and clutching matching picnic baskets, mats and plastic cutlery, descending upon the lush setting of the Botanic Gardens.
It is the kind of outing where girlfriends read a book together under a tree; gay men bring their dogs and sip pink lemonade while playing Uno cards or Twister; groups of friends outdo each other with pink-themed culinary creations (pink fried rice, anyone?); and gay uncles bring along their nieces (I’ve brought along 4 of my own over the years). The highlight of the afternoon is always the fly-pass of the National flag on its way to the Parade. A sight that never fails to stir all our pink patriotic hearts.
Under our anger also lies the DIVERSITY of interests blossoming within our community. Over the years, the eclectic range of events have included: book launches, film screenings, women-only sessions, poetry readings, youth talks, art exhibitions, game shows, panel discussions, outdoor activities, Mandarin forums… the list goes on for as long as there are ideas and the will to transform them into events.
This year’s programme continues to showcase the LGBT community’s multi-facetedness, with a focus on our shared heritage. The much-loved (and standing-room-only) ContraDiction, the annual queer literary evening and IndigNation finale, will feature some of Singapore’s oldest works of queer literature from the 1980s, as well as works by our youngest writers from the 2010s. It again promises to bring the month-long festival to a rousing close.
Participation is not exclusive to just the LGBT community of course. Previous events have been organised by Sam Ho and members of the Singapore Queer-Straight Alliance. Jennifer Teo, who along with her husband Woon Tien Wei co-founded the independent cultural and social enterprise Post-Museum, has been a regular supporter and hails IndigNation as a “celebration of diversity, a call to solidarity.”
Yet there is also something for everyone in the varied schedule of events. Masood, who describes himself as a rather shy person who is “not a gay stereotype”, attended his first gay event at the launch of the collection of coming out stories “SQ21: Singapore Queers in the 21st century”, which was held as part of IndigNation in 2006. Finding it an informative and interesting experience, he has since found the courage to venture forth to attend other gay-related community events.
Most importantly, under our anger also lies our collective sense of HOPE. Hope for a Singapore where the gay NS boy will not be bullied for being effeminate; where a same-sex kiss will not result in expulsion from school; where transgender women are sensitively and respectfully portrayed in the media. Hope for a day when Section 377A of the Penal Code will be repealed. As Nicholas Deroose, organiser of this year’s photography event, points out, “It is about spreading unity by empowering the community.”
Where Pink Dot is about the freedom to love, IndigNation is about the freedom to be ourselves: the lesbian poet, the transgender game contestant, the bisexual artist, the gay sports enthusiast, the volunqueer, the questioning youth, the straight-ally, and everything else that we are in our expression.
Come join us at IndigNation this year from 3 – 25 August!
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