Widely known as Singapore’s most outspoken, LGBT-affirming pastor, Rev Dr Yap Kim Hao is no stranger to the island’s LGBT community, having been an advocate for LGBT acceptance for the last 10 years.
Rev Yap, who has participated in Pink Dot from its inception, currently serves as Pastoral Advisor to the Free Community Church, which counts many LGBTs as members. The 85-year-old became the first Asian Bishop of The Methodist Church in Malaysia and Singapore from 1968 to 1973. He went on to serve as General Secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia, an ecumenical organisation of over a hundred churches and national council of churches in Asia, from 1973 to 1985.
In addition, Rev Yap is a Life Member and former Vice-President of the Council of the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) in Singapore and is committed to the promotion of inter-faith dialogue and understanding. In March this year, Singapore’s Yale-NUS College announced the Yap Kim Hao Professorship in Comparative Religious Studies aimed at enhancing the academic study of religions at the College.
Rev Yap shares his thoughts on Pink Dot’s progress, and how an increasingly visible LGBT community has helped change people’s attitudes.
“Pink Dot is very important to Singapore because LGBT people as group continue to face rejection from the majority of people.
When I see the response increasing so rapidly each year, it is a good sign of increasing acceptance of LGBT people within our pluralistic society. It is a good demonstration of our care for one another, how we support each other in spite of all the differences that exist, between gay and straight people, and people of different races and religion. People are accepting the idea of participating in Pink Dot, which is a demonstration of our affirmation of diversity in our society.
Pink Dot has given a lot of encouragement to LGBT people – many who feel safer by remaining in the closet. But as long as people remain in the closet, the wider public is not aware of the struggles they face. So, they become quiet victims of discrimination and marginalisation.
My hope is that people in Singapore – after seeing and experiencing what has been happening with the Pink Dot movement – will begin to accept that we will always have a diverse society; that they will be able to respect differences, and accept and affirm these differences. No one should be discriminated against, no one should be marginalised by having a different sexual orientation and gender identity.
The conservatives have not been forthright enough to get to know LGBT people, and that is why it’s so important that we recognise the LGBT community’s vulnerability. (LGBT Singaporeans) must come out if they are able to. When the conservatives are able to meet them, they’ll see that they are no different, except in their sexual orientation and gender identity.
I recall, at the very beginning, we were a very small group wondering what public reaction would be if LGBTs and a small group of straight allies appear in a public space. Over the years, it has been very encouraging that people’s attitudes can be changed if they have more contact with LGBT people. We see that the people who participate come with their families, with their pets. And we see corporate organisations lending their support and by that token affirming the LGBT community.” – Rev Dr Yap Kim Hao