SINGAPORE — A first-of-its-kind independent support network for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in major universities here will be officially launched at next month’s Pink Dot event, which has attracted a record number of sponsors, including new additions media giant Bloomberg, social media company Twitter, and Singapore-based movie exhibitor Cathay Organisation.
Called the Inter-University LGBT Network, it comprises representatives from five independent student groups: The G Spot from Yale-NUS College, tFreedom from Tembusu College at the National University of Singapore (NUS), Gender Collective from the University Scholars Programme at NUS, Kaleidoscope from the Nanyang Technological University, and Out To Care from the Singapore Management University (SMU).
Into its seventh year, Pink Dot — a gathering to support the LGBT community — will be held on June 13 at the Speakers’ Corner at Hong Lim Park. Last year’s event drew opposition from various groups, prompting security to be deployed at the event.
Speaking on the sidelines of a Pink Dot press conference yesterday, Ms Jessica Goh, 22, from Kaleidoscope, said she hopes the network will help the groups collaborate with one another to provide greater support for the LGBT community and “foster a better environment within the schools”.
“We are not pushing (any agenda),” she said. “We take a measured approach. We are trying to see how we can find areas of commonality so that we are not pushing too much but also at the same time see how we can support one another.”
Responding to TODAY’s queries, an NTU spokesperson reiterated that Kaleidoscope is “an independent group formed by some NTU students”.
An NUS spokesman said that while the university “does not advocate or push for a specific position or agenda on issues … students are free to debate and discuss them”. Adding that the undergraduates are free to form informal groups in different areas of interest, the spokesman said: “As an educational institution, open inquiry, debate and discussion are essential for the cultivation of critical thinking and intellectual development.”
Nevertheless, the university advocates “a culture of respect for individuals regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, nationality, political or sexual orientation”. Students discussing sensitive topics should do so without “being offensive or threatening to others who have a different perspective or viewpoint”, the NUS spokesman added.
SMU director (Office of Global Learning) Bernadette Toh said the students involved in Out To Care had informed the university that the new network is “an informal platform for university students to chat, network, and form friendships”.
“(The group) does not require formal approval or endorsement from SMU. We’ve shared with our students that SMU’s focus remains on SMU students, and so we will continue to work with them on providing safe and inclusive spaces for all students on campus,” Ms Toh said.
A record 26,000 people turned up for last year’s event, and the organisers said yesterday that they hope the number will be exceeded this year.
Last year, the organisers had to deploy security personnel at the event for the first time, after there was opposition from some groups. A religious teacher had started a Wear White campaign calling on Muslims to wear white on the same day of the Pink Dot event to protest against homosexuality. Pastor Lawrence Khong, who is known for his views against homosexuality, declared his support for the Wear White movement, and urged like-minded groups to come together to oppose Pink Dot.
Pink Dot spokesman Paerin Choa said that the organisers have no plans to deploy security again for now, as last year’s move was in response to the external developments. But contingency plans are in place and the organisers will monitor the situation, he said.
This year’s event will have a total of nine sponsors. Companies continuing their involvement are Google, BP, JP Morgan, Barclays, Goldman Sachs and Singapore-based audio branding agency The Gunnery.
However, PARKROYAL hotel on Pickering, which has sponsored Pink Dot for the past two years, has discontinued its involvement.
“As part of the regular review of the hotel’s sponsorship commitments, we are now looking at channelling resources to support other equally meaningful causes to broaden our impact on the community,” said director of marketing communications Lee Kin Seng. “We remain on great terms with the event organisers and wish them every success with this year’s event.”
Last month, IKEA Singapore was caught in a bind after its tie-up with a magic show staged by Mr Khong drew flak from the LGBT community. After conducting a review, it said it would continue promoting the show.
BP chief executive officer Andy Milnes declined to comment on IKEA’s decision. Nevertheless, he said his company, which has been a sponsor of Pink Dot for two years, takes diversity and inclusion very seriously. “One bit of diversity is not more important than another bit of diversity. All diversity is important,” Mr Milnes said.
Bloomberg chairman Peter Grauer said his company believes “good corporate citizenship means more than opposing discrimination”. “It also means celebrating the diversity that makes us who we are,” he said. “We want everyone on our team to be their authentic selves at work, and joining Pink Dot is one important way we show our pride and support for the LGBT community.”
Pink Dot’s ambassadors this year are artistes Patricia Mok and Daren Tan, as well as YouTube stars Maimunah Bagharib and Hirzi Zulkiflie. Organisers said they are working with the eateries along North Canal Road to “turn it into a pink street”.