Pink Dot 2015 Ambassadors
This year, Pink Dot would like to invite the community to reflect on the progress that has been made towards dispelling the discrimination and prejudice that face lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, as well as the many challenges that still remain. In celebrating the capacity for love which lives within Singapore as well as all Singaporeans, Pink Dot aims to help build a kinder and more inclusive Singapore. Leading these year’s efforts are the Ambassadors for Pink Dot 2015: Patricia Mok, Daren Tan, as well as Munah and Hirzi.
Actress Patricia Mok is no stranger to Pink Dot, having supported the movement and seeing the ‘dot’ grow since its inaugural event in 2009.
“We (my friends and I) were excited to go to the first Pink Dot event in 2009. We actually didn’t really know what it was all about – all we knew was that we needed to support our LGBT friends, we were asked to wear pink tops!” she said.
Patricia’s introduction to the LGBT community began when she first got to know two men, both of whom would later become very good friends.
“Back then, I didn’t know what else ‘gay’ meant – to me it meant ‘happy’, which was what it said in the dictionary. But after I saw my two friends getting excited when they see other cute guys in the streets, I eventually realised that they like guys; they were gay.
“To me it was fine – more, it was fun!”
Patricia also related a transgender friend’s story: “I felt she was very courageous to have decided to go ahead with her gender reassignment surgery. Think about it – this was about thirty, forty years ago, and acceptance for transgender people is even less than it is now. It was a very difficult decision to make on her part, but in the end she realised, ‘This is what I am and I want to be happy with myself.’”
As a favourite among the older Chinese-speaking audiences – who recognise her from her roles in the popular Comedy Nite series on Channel 8 – Patricia acknowledges the challenges in reaching out to this quiet, relatively conservative group. Her message to them is one of love and acceptance, and an invitation to join their LGBT children at Pink Dot this year.
“I hope that the older generation aunties and uncles, mothers and fathers, will come to Pink Dot to understand what it means to be LGBT. And if their children happen to be LGBT, they can use the event day itself to express to their children that they don’t think it’s a problem that their children are gay or lesbian, and that they are still their children and they still love them very much.”
Many Singaporeans know Daren Tan as a multi-talented actor and singer who won the second season of Project Superstar. What they may not know is that Daren is no stranger to Singapore’s LGBT community, having worked as a bartender for two years at one of the most popular gay clubs in Singapore.
“It was a very interesting time – it happened 12 years ago when I was 20. I had interviewed for a job as a bartender without realising that it was a gay club,” Daren said with a laugh.
Admitting that he had had no prior knowledge of the LGBT community at the time, Daren did not know what to expect. “Of course, I was rather skeptical at the start. But as time went by, I got to know the clientele – who are a bunch of very nice people – and came to enjoy my two years there. I made a lot of friends. I was very thankful that I met them.”
Daren, whose body of work includes a worthy mention as one of Cleo’s 50 Eligible Bachelors in 2008, is also part of a six-man group of social media influencers called The Gentleman’s Pride, aimed at promoting the idea of a modern gentleman.
And like a gentleman, Daren decided to become Pink Dot Ambassador in order to take a stand for his LGBT friends.
“While I’ve heard about Pink Dot in the past, this is the first time that I’ve really got to know about the movement, and I am very honoured to have been invited to be an Ambassador.”
Daren continues: “There is a saying, that you fear what you don’t know. Just like how I started out not knowing much about LGBT people, my exposure to the community has helped to erase any misperceptions I may have had. Since then, I’ve made friends with many LGBT people, who have become a very important part of my life. I feel that coming on as a Pink Dot Ambassador is the right thing for me to do: to make a stand, and also encourage Singaporeans to get to know the LGBT community better.
“To me, regardless whether one is straight or LGBT, we are all human, we all deserve to have the freedom to love.”
Munah & Hirzi
Terming themselves the ‘Founding Prince and Princess of Singapore’s YouTube scene’, the hilariously wacky duo comprising Munah Bagharib and Hirzi Zulkiflie are an internet force to be reckoned with.
With a YouTube channel already boasting nearly 120,000 subscribers and exceeding 24 million views, Munah & Hirzi are outspoken in their opinions, and often use their unique brand of humour, wit and shameless chutzpah to address issues of the day. The effervescent pair feel that people can only begin to embrace their own sexual orientation or gender identity when they feel that they have support.
“The LGBT issue in Singapore is still not openly discussed; it’s still something many people choose not to discuss or share. And where there isn’t such communication going on, people just think it’s a taboo topic to talk about, and therefore a taboo topic to accept,” said Hirzi.
The duo, who have always supported Pink Dot since its early days, got motivated to step up after a meet-and-greet session with young fans late last year. What was meant to be a very casual and fun conversation turned into a heartfelt sharing of experiences. One fan shared her own personal struggles with coming to terms with her sexual orientation, and it was this particular encounter that inspired them to approach Pink Dot.
Munah said, “There we were, complete strangers to this group of people who so candidly opened their lives to us by sharing their stories, they’ve really changed our minds about why we do what we do. That was why we decided to work with Pink Dot this year: we wanted to step up to show people that we are here to support them, to make a stand and do what we can to help the community.”