Barred from taking part in a pride event in Singapore, foreigners flocked to bars and private spaces instead.
Pink Dot — Singapore’s only pride event — occurred on Saturday in a designated “free speech” area in the city.
But as the park lit up with a rainbow in a sea of pink, foreigners were barred from the 0.94 hectare (2.32 acre) Hong Lim Park, because of new rules regulating demonstrations in the country.
Several local LGBTQ-friendly outlets and activist groups stepped up in response by hosting a livestream of the event.
“We have friends who are unable to be at Hong Lim Park on 1st July, and being one of the sponsors for Pink Dot, we decided to have a livestream for our friends,” said Mira Mekeh, founder of Ladies District, an LGBTQ-friendly bar near Rochor, in the heart of the city.
Mekeh said that she was initially “shocked” when she heard of the new rules barring foreigners in Singapore from the pride event. “We were already thinking how we could help Pink Dot to cater to our foreign friends and supporters who can’t be there,” she said.
There were about 50 people in attendance during the livestream, and the bar reached full capacity with up to 200 people after Pink Dot, according to Mekeh.
“We do have foreign friends and couples that came down, and despite them being happy [that] there is a place to celebrate Pink Dot, you are able to feel the frustration and the sadness that they can’t personally be [there],” Mekeh said.
For Dorothy’s Bar, a 15-year-old gay bar located in the city’s Chinatown, the number of people was even greater.
About 400 people were there during the day, according to Rob Collins, the bar’s owner.
“It was insane,” Collins said.
The 43-year-old said that after the rule change, he saw people like himself who “had nowhere” to go.
“My partner and I have been together nine years, yet we can’t go [to Pink Dot] together,” said Collins.
“I’m from overseas and love this country, [and] so will always stand by the government and their choices,” Collins added. “That said, I think in a changing world, this is a backward step and doesn’t promote Singapore [as a] global platform.”
“[Livestreaming Pink Dot] is for us to say that we love, appreciate, and value their support in our struggle to simply exist,” said Norah, a co-founder of She+Pride, a community support group for queer women.
The group held a live-streaming event at LePark, a pub near the city’s Chinatown, where about 50 people attended.
“I think people had a lot of [places] to go to,” she said, adding that the livestream was also for people who were more “cautious” in their association with the pride event, or for people who were afraid of crowds. “Livestreaming the event will ensure that they can still be with us, if not at the same location, then in spirit.”
Pubs along the city’s Club Street, also located near Chinatown, also saw a number of people in pink.
While Pink Dot welcomed locations that broadcast livestreams from its Facebook page, organisers have said that they are unaffiliated with Pink Dot itself. The rules on public demonstrations do not extend to private spaces.
When asked about the rule changes, Norah said that her group was “obviously disappointed.”
“We believe that it has always been the organiser’s prerogative to never breach any regulations imposed,” said Norah.
“The struggle is made even more clear and obvious that we need to let our voices be heard and rise above the few that hate.”