Sunday, June 19, 2011

Pink Dot 2011 - my keynote speech

Two weeks before Pink Dot, Boo Junfeng wrote me via Facebook, asking me to deliver a keynote speech at the third of this LGBT event. Junfeng, whose directorial debut "Sandcastles" signaled the emergence of an incredible young film talent, also directed the Pink Dot 2011 video. It attracted more than 200,000 views in 2 months. 

Having been a volunteer the last two Pink Dots, I was prepared to spend a carefree day at the event ogling at celebrities like Dave Tan (of Electrico fame) and looking out for Vincent Wijeysingha (the Singapore Democratic Party candidate during the last General Election). But the invitation to deliver a keynote speech was a huge honor. Like the time when Raffles Institution, Singapore's top secondary school, offered me a teaching job, I didn't have to consider much before saying Yes.
I was very glad the organisers decided to invite a gay person to deliver the speech. In the last two Dots, straight celebrities like Neo Swee Li (famous stage and tv actress) gave us their blessings, urging compassion and acceptance on our behalf. It's vital that straight people gave us their support, but we must also step up when the opportunity to contribute to the LGBT community land on our lap.

I've known people from the community for a long time, and I know LGBT people are basically ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Perhaps thanks to discrimination, some of us behave like carbon under great pressure: some of us became diamonds. So, it is a great honor that some of these diamonds organising Pink Dot asked me.

The first issue to confront is Neo Swee Lin's speech in Pink Dot 2010. It was simple, it was moving, it was powerful: "we are born alone. We go to the graves alone. There is no reason why any of us should be alone in this life." How do I write a speech that live up to that?

Fortunately, I gave up trying to 'compete'. It's not about a better speech. It's talking about the personal that others can identify with. It's about finding a perspective that may help others move forward. 

When I was younger, I tried but failed to find love within the community. I got my heart broken several times. I broke others' hearts several times. After the nth time, I began to question if gay men are meant to be in lasting relationships. I now know that gay relationships - like straight relationships - simply needed the same nurturing from partners, friends and communities. But 20 years ago, most gay folks had zero support in our quest for love. This perspective formed the basis of my speech. Junfeng and a few organisers gave me valuable feedback, which resulted in the following speech:

"My friends, gay brothers gay sisters, straight brothers and straight sisters, welcome! My name is Otto Fong. Some of you may know me for publicly outing myself as a gay man while I was teaching in a secondary school. Thank you for being here! Because of you, we have made history again! This is the single largest gathering of people in support of the freedom to love in Singapore! Do you know that 30 or 40 years ago, the Hong Lim Park area used to be the main gathering place for some gay men? Isn’t it ironic? Isn’t it coincidental? Or is it fateful?

Many years ago, I was a frightened, lonely young man as I looked for love along the back alleys near here. It wasn't easy, and how could it be? We met in the dark, we used fake names, gave out fake numbers because we were so afraid! Worst of all, we broke each others’ hearts because noone taught us how to love. We had to learn about love the hard way.

But things have changed! And we are a part of that change! I am living with my partner, and this year, we just celebrated our 13th anniversary. Many of my friends are in committed, long-term relationships with the support of family and friends. As we stand here today, we are sending a strong message of love, acceptance and inclusivity. We declare that we are also a part of the Singapore family.

Over the years others have spoken out for us, many of them straight people - many continue to stand with us here, now. Were it not for their courage and determination, Pink Dot would not be possible. Please join me in a round of applause in thanking our straight friends for being here!

Today, we reaffirm our love for Singapore. Singapore, belongs not to any one segment, any one group. It belongs to us ALL - gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or straight. Together, we signal a hope of a more inclusive, open-minded Singapore. Together, we support each other’s freedom to love, so that every one of us can have someone to call his or her own in this life!"

1 comment:

alex said...

Dear Otto,
THanks a lot for your speech, I have to say that I had no idea who were you at the Pink Dot, I am new to Singapore. But I liked what you said. I have been in Singapore for over three months now, coming from Spain, where gay couple can actually get marry,with exactly same rights as any straight couple, is quite hard. Me and my BF have been together for over 5 years now, and after getting an offer to work in Singapore (him) we diceded to give it a try. But it gets harder and harder, as for me, is not easy to find a job (it seems that there are no needs for either ceramics or Spanish teacher in Singapore!!!). Oops, sorry,I talk a lot. What I wanted to say is: thanks for what you are doing,you are making things easier for people to come, and that is something that we should always be thankful for.
Take care and best wishes.