Thrown under the bus: Pink Dot 15’s treatment of trans and queer people
"You guys are indulging in the delusion that the community is united, when Pink Dot is the flagbearer for the most normative, asinine types of gay people."
TLDR; Several witnesses at Pink Dot spoke to Sitting about the treatment that participants in Protect Our Families experienced at Pink Dot. This included unreasonable policing and profiling of several trans and queer individuals, and looks at Pink Dot's public statement that resulted in many of said queer and trans people getting harassed online.
When Emma sat down at her friend’s tarp at Pink Dot on 24 June, she was looking forward to a night of joy, camaraderie, and fun.
“This was actually the first time I’ve attended Pink Dot since 2019,” said Emma, a trans woman. “I even brought my own torchlight for the light-up.”
Several friends of Sitting attended Pink Dot 15 in Singapore on 24 June, and intended to unfurl banners at the event to raise awareness on Mercury and Christian far-right violence on queer families.
Some examples of families being torn apart by such forces include me (ahem!), and more importantly, Mercury’s own younger stepsister who was a victim of sexual abuse by Mercury at the age of 8. These were intended to launch as part of a campaign called “Protect Our Families” (POF), in line with the Pink Dot 15 theme of “celebrating all families”.
Participants like Harvey and Odette, who entered the park together, were surveilled and harangued from the start. According to POF’s “Statement on Disproportionate Force, Surveillance and Profiling at Pink Dot 2023”, upon entering Hong Lim Park:
“Harvey was identified by a random, nearby Pink Dot personnel as “Mr Harvey Vickreman Chettiar”, and was told that Harvey’s cooperation was required for a thorough examination. Harvey pointed to her pronouns badge, which is usually visibly pinned on the right side of her chest, and cooperated with the inspection. Harvey observed that it was strange that this Pink Dot personnel had known Harvey’s full name (albeit getting the order and title wrong, as it should be “Ms Vickreman Harvey Chettiar”), as Harvey did not know them and had not shown them her SingPass.
During this time, Harvey was being searched from head to toe, made to open every single one of her zip pockets on her bag and outfit, and had the metal detector scan over even her genitalia. Odette had not been under the same amount of scrutiny, and was confused by the hold-up Harvey was being subjected to. People who had entered the other queue lanes after Harvey were being cleared before Harvey, in much quicker time and with much less rigour.
... It was noticed that Prashant Somosundram, who appeared to be part of the Pink Dot Organising Team, had physically followed Harvey and Odette from the security and bag check zone – all the way to the other end of Hong Lim Park, where the blue mat had been set up.
Almost instantly, Prashant asked why the blue mat was so big and requested that we fold it up.”
On the other hand, Emma entered the park with no issue, joking around with volunteers and staff, and cleared her bag check with no issue. “Also, they were handing out torchlights, and I was excitedly like, ‘Oh! I already have one!’,” she said. “As I’ve mentioned, I was really looking forward to the fun of Pink Dot.”
The joyous occasion would soon change for the worse; as Emma made her way to the tarp that Harvey and other queer folks were on, the volunteers, staff and security immediately began treating her with suspicion.
“I was going to the booths, and I didn't even make it to the booths. I didn't even make it that far really, I was accosted 10m away from the tarp.” Emma said that Pink Dot organiser Prashant and another unidentified organiser began to repeatedly ask her for a bag check without reason.
“I did not understand why. I had already cleared the bag check at the entry, but they were so insistent, insinuating that the bag, because it was placed on the tarp, was suspicious. When I questioned them why they wanted to check the bag again, they responded by saying that they were also doing this to other people when visibly they were not.”
Inside the bag that they wanted to search was snacks, water and other sweet drinks, personal belongings, and a torchlight. “And they insisted on confiscating the torchlight, without giving a reason, like they gave a vague reason like “for security”. It was not convincing at all.”
Emma said that her fight, flight and freeze response was activated, and she did not know if the two organisers were going to get physical, especially given the nearby presence of security; she returned to the tarp and did not go to the booths. Meanwhile, security prodded at the bags on the tarp with their batons, and Emma reflected that she “felt like a criminal”. She left the event during the concert, and did not participate in the light-up that she was so excited for.
Sitting understands that POF’s entire plan was to unfurl banners with their slogans, hand out leaflets publicising the issue, and generally chat with people around about how members of their own queer chosen families and their biological families have been both been endangered by targeted queerphobia happening (and being silenced) in Singapore.
Sitting also understands that close to none of the intended plans happened, as Pink Dot staff, volunteers, and security harangued these individuals and escalated the situation until Harvey lashed out at security officers. The PVC poles intended for holding up the banners were confiscated, and four male security officers were facing off and questioning Harvey, intruding into her personal space. Odette attempted to de-escalate the situation, bringing up the fact that Harvey has related trauma dating back to as early as 2013. Odette pointed out that there was really no need for so many security officers to surround Harvey and stand so close to her, and that such a physical and spatial setting would surely be stressful to anyone.
“I thought that Prashant understood where I was coming from, because he nodded and was the calmest out of all the Pink Dot organisers. We spoke while I was seated next to Harvey and I thought that the conversation went fine, and that everything was sorted – especially given that I had literally pinkie-promised some of the organisers and security officers that I would be ensuring the mat gets folded up and we participate in the light-up, and ultimately I was doing my best trying to calm everyone down and de-escalate the situation,” Odette said.
“So I was really shocked when Pink Dot released their official statement and portrayed me as hostile, even malicious. I thought that there was mutual respect and understanding, but they’ve scapegoated me instead. I’ve literally gotten harassed because of their statement.”
An observer who spoke to Sitting, found Harvey on the fringes of the park, surrounded by security guards and Pink Dot committee members. “They were saying that Harvey “refused to let security guards check the last item in her bag”, even though someone pointed out to them that Harvey had gone through a bag check when entering the park,” said the observer, who declined to be named due to fear of reprisal from Pink Dot.
“I actually asked Harvey privately if we could just unpack the entire bag and show it to the Pink Dot committee members. Her stance was that if they hadn’t been profiling and following her from the start, and if they had asked politely and transparently, she would’ve been much more amenable. But after the way all of us were treated from the get-go, she was now opposed,” Odette said.
Those related to POF’s ended up being traumatised by how Pink Dot responded to them during the event, and eventually felt gaslit by Pink Dot’s statement. Harvey, in particular, was triggered by her encounter with security; her experiences of being strip-searched by police have been well-documented on Justice4Harvey, as seen from these curated screenshots taken from an official document that’s been put on legal record:
Speaking to Sitting, Odette, who was interrogated by the police at Central Police Division on 20 June over their involvement in a protest in support and love for Harvey, expressed in disappointment and shock: “Pink Dot managed to outcop the literal, actual cops. I was more shaken and cried more after Pink Dot than I did after my actual police interrogation, which I attended on 20 June.” Odette’s police interrogation was over their involvement in the first Safety4Harvey protest:
One observer noted that since Pink Dot released their vague and confusing statement of their own version of events – which POF has since rebutted – people in the comments section have been referring to POF as homophobic terrorists. Some have threatened people they think are associated with POF or interpret to be POF proponents. Others have tagged the police on POF’s profile.
Pink Dot has been silent about this, has not regulated their comments section despite doxxing and threats, has not made any clarification that POF is not a homophobic terrorist organisation, and has basically thrown POF under the bus. This means that queers have been fed to the crocodiles. Pink Dot’s hands may not be stained officially, but they’ve certainly not bothered to hold their loyalists’ arms back. Is pride for queers or is pride for cops?
Another observer also added: “The security and committee members were also claiming that they could do additional checks to ensure that attendees do not bring any items that could cause a disruption to Pink Dot.”
Other bags that had been left on POF and friends’ blue mat were searched too, even though some people had literally just dropped their bags off at the mat and were elsewhere in Hong Lim Park to socialise and have fun. Security officers demanded they be located.
Based on Pink Dot’s own official statement, a few things don’t add up: If Pink Dot really had access to the 3-page document (on POF’s objectives and methods, which was leaked without consent) prior to the event, why would they have confiscated the plastic jerry cans? Why would they have accused the PVC poles of being used as weapons? Why would they not have been upfront from the beginning? Why would they have mentioned that Odette’s name was on a mysterious list passed to them, when Odette’s name is nowhere to be found on the 3-page document? Besides Odette’s name, Prashant had also named two other individuals who also did not have their names written down on the document and were not involved in the previous year’s Brown Dot. What is this list, then? Could it be that Pink Dot obtained the 3-page document after the event and then used it as a retrospective and revisionist tool to justify their handling of events? There are many discrepancies between Pink Dot’s official statement versus what happened during the event itself.
A separate source divulged that some in Pink Dot actually miscalculated the entire situation and had assumed that Harvey was at Hong Lim Park to start a riot. According to this source, the Pink Dot committee had thought that the banners were fire-retardant blankets and that the plastic jerry cans were for fuel. This might explain why security officers suggested that the PVC poles might be used as “weapons”. We would appreciate it if Pink Dot could clarify if this is true or not.
Emma found it mind-boggling; she was in attendance when she heard a speech-maker say that police presence at Pink Dot was to protect the queer community and keep the queer community safe.
“If I recall Pink Dot 2017, when they had to put up the barricades and check ID if the participant was local, Pink Dot’s organisers were not happy about having to do these extra security measures. And all of a sudden, the security is here to protect us?” said Emma.
(As a note, Pink Dot’s 2017 statement read: “In order to continue using Speakers’ Corner, Pink Dot 2017 organisers have no choice but to adhere to this regulation, as organisers and foreigners caught flouting this rule are liable to be prosecuted… Unfortunately, this was a decision that was taken out of our hands.”)
“I have been disgusted at their “Keeping Pink Dot Safe For All” rhetoric. How they treated me was extremely unreasonable; my own treatment changed when I touched the tarp. It’s up to you all to confirm what I have been through,” said Emma.
“I was not safe, your space as far as I can tell, was not a space for me, a trans woman, who showed up to Pink Dot after 4 years expecting to have a good time. It's a blatant lie from my perspective; you did not treat me with humanity, or decency, you did not conduct civil conversations with me, you were not truthful to me, and clearly you did not do so in good faith.
“Two men accosting me, making me feel threatened, and I'm a trans woman, I'm not a homophobe, I’ve been throwing myself into Singapore civil society and queer stuff since 2018. I was at the third edition of Indignation Queer Conference, and what remains with me: there was this one older trans woman, she was calling out the queer community.
“There was some tension between cis gay crowd and the trans crowd. She put it on the record. We should build a community. Queer elders were talking about intra-lgbt issues and conflicts. I want to say that reading Pink Dot’s stupid ass statement. You guys are indulging in the delusion that the community is united, when Pink Dot is the flagbearer for the most normative, asinine types of gay people.
“If there’s anything out of this, I want a formal apology, both Pink Dot officially, and Prashant, I want a personal apology from Prashant Somosundram. I don’t think I’m ever going to Pink Dot again. I will tell a lot of my queer and trans friends to never go to Pink Dot ever again.
“I was there in good faith, I took your stupid ass flashlight, I joked with the volunteers, I would have stayed for the light-up, but you drove people away from the light up. From my own perspective, you harassed queer people, including me.”
Sitting’s interpretation from observing online discourse is that Pink Dot is of the opinion that POF is conspiracy theorists. Sitting recommends they ask themselves: What conspiracy theorist would have 1,000 pages (and counting) of evidence privately submitted in hardcopy to institutions such as the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau and the Ministry of Home Affairs, that even police and lawyers have looked at in awe because of how thorough and meticulous? Why would Carissa be idiotic enough to release two letters – one to the Attorney-General’s Chambers and one to the Istana – under her own name to whistleblow, when she is precarious too? What does anyone have to gain from this? And why on earth would any fool publicly disseminate and disclose sensitive sources unless they want their sources endangered or dead, given that criminal activity and corruption claims are literally involved in the case? Readers, is it “cultish” or a “conspiracy” to have basic political awareness and security measures in place?
Sitting would like to highlight this quote from this Jom submission:
“Ultimately, queer politics in a post-repeal Singapore must consider anti-queer reaction, spearheaded by a noisy, but powerful minority of Christian far-right actors, as a serious threat to the continued existence of queer organising in Singapore.”
Has Pink Dot been so absorbed in symbols and bootlicking that they are detached from material realities happening across the globe? Yes, queer acceptance and inclusion is increasing – and this is exactly why the bigots are pissed and acting out. A post-377A queer politics needs a rude awakening that Pink Dot is not ready for.
Thanks for reading sitting on the train! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.