Kirsten Han is a Singaporean blogger, journalist and filmmaker. She is also involved in the We Believe in Second Chances campaign for the abolishment of the death penalty. A social media junkie, she tweets at @kixes. The views expressed are her own.
“I want to pray that we will continue to wear white as long as there is pink, and we will wear white until the pink is gone, and even if the pink is gone we will continue to wear white.”
The above statement comes not from some sort of ill-conceived advertisement for laundry liquid, but from conservative magician-pastor Lawrence Khong of the Faith Community Baptist Church.
Khong and his fellow anti-LGBT followers have once again revived the Wear White campaign, positioned as a counter to the annual gay rights rally Pink Dot.
This vocal conservative group are incensed by what they see as a threat to the “Natural Family” posed by the LGBT equality movement. More than adultery, more than domestic violence and problem gambling, it is for some reason LGBT rights – or, as a commenter on a previous blog post put it, “Gayism” – that threatens heterosexual family units and the fabric of society. Presumably because once LGBT rights are recognised, a big glittery tidal wave of gay will wash over Singapore, leaving nothing but tight leather and Grindr in its wake. Because hey, who doesn’t want to be gay, if only they could?
The Wear White campaigners and folk over at We Are Against Pinkdot in Singapore (WAAPD) are deeply committed to their cause. Nothing, not compassion, not kindness, nor facts can stand in their way.
They are willing to yell until they are blue – or white – in the face about foreign interference in domestic debates, while conveniently ignoring the origins of their own brand of right-wing evangelical Christianity. In fact, the term “Natural Family”, featured so prominently in Khong’s letter, was itself borrowed from American anti-gay rhetoric. Their version of blessed “Asian Values” is as Singaporean as mee siam mai hum: IT’S NOT ACTUALLY A THING.
Wear White and WAAPD are up in arms over foreign interference because the US embassy congratulated Pink Dot on Facebook, and because some pink-clad white people were spotted in Hong Lim Park on Saturday. They say that these foreign elements (because, obviously, there is no such thing as a white Singaporean or Permanent Resident) should butt out of “domestic affairs” – what Singapore does within our borders is none of their concern.
They, unfortunately, appear unable to take their own advice: LGBT people have for years been trying to tell conservatives to butt out of their domestic affairs, because what two consenting adults do within the four walls of their bedroom is none of their concern. But I guess that would bring us back to the leathery Grindr glitter tsunami of gay.
According to mothership.sg, Khong ended his Dynamo sermon over the weekend with the promotion of his upcoming totally-not-gay magic show, which promises to transform “illusion to reality”. Perhaps he will bring a same-sex family onstage and try to make them disappear.
Jokes aside, the activities of Wear White and WAAPD cannot be dismissed. Both LGBT activists and conservatives might be vocal, but it would be a mistake to imagine that there is balance in the way the government is dealing with the issue.
The government is willing leave enshrined in law state-led discrimination and prejudice against LGBT people. This means that LGBT people are largely blocked from public health initiatives that might teach safe sex or provide counselling for mental health issues. Gay youth – particularly boys – are taught in schools that they are technically lawbreakers. By not allowing same-sex marriage, LGBT people are by default excluded from the many social benefits that the state ties to marriage: HDB grants, childcare subsidies, or even the power to act as next-of-kin for their partners in case of injury or illness.
According to Khong and his followers, the rights of the heterosexual family unit *include* these oppressions against others, even though the existence of these oppressions have zero impact on the lives of heterosexuals. The government, for all its insistence on compromise and balance, appears to agree. After all, it is more than willing to erase LGBT stories and experiences from the media, even while it professes neutrality in the debate.
But all is not lost, and we who believe in equality and acceptance should take heart. This bigotry has an expiry date: we’re seeing it around the world, from Ireland to Mozambique to Mexico.
Despite what Khong says, you cannot white out the pink; it merely creates more pink.