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  • Irie Aman

Not Your Footnote: A Pink Dot'11 Speech


Growing up as a brown person in Singapore means you realize you’re brown before you realize gender differences, or your sexuality. It’s the most visible marker. Growing up, it was hard to find a safe space even within a safe space, because queer brown people are minorities within a minority. Queer spaces are important, but we can always do better. Be better. Inclusivity isn’t just a fun word! It has real life implications.

Often, it’s so hard to feel a sense of belonging when so many places - even queer spaces - are Chinese-dominated. If we aren’t careful, these spaces can feel exclusive, and even racist. Not every Chinese-dominated space is, of course, but the nature of power and privilege means that we aren’t in the room when decisions get made - decisions that sometimes hit the people in my community the hardest. This is a continuing trend that needs to end.

But by creating spaces that actively welcome brown, queer voices you can also welcome so much more. It’s why I’m involved in many projects that makes space for our voices, those who were never acknowledged in the Singapore story. The Local Rebel was built entirely by brown femmes & non-binary folks who were mentally ill, and came from neighbourhood schools. The Healing Circle serves queer Muslims. destination: INK’s team is nearly all brown, and we understand that even brownness has different types: Malay, South Asian, Pinoy, mixed heritages, etc. Our stories are ALL important, and our stories deserve to be told, retold, and written in bold. We are not footnotes in your history. This is why as a people, both the larger queer community and the Singaporean community, we must strive for bigger. Not bigger, in the sense of scale, but bigger in the sense of heart. That’s what inclusivity does. It listens to people, acknowledges their experiences, makes space for them. Pink Dot does this by bringing together allies and the community, but we can always do more!

To be queer is to redefine everything around us, and even to redefine ourselves. We must embrace each other to make space for the fragile, to fight for these deviances because we understand that in the cold world out there we only have each other. Yes it’s a terrible struggle, because we do this for our survival, but we survive because we can do this!

We redefine family because we know that blood sometimes isn’t everything. We redefine friendships because in our isolation we find more pure expressions of affection and ways of relating to one another. We redefine love because we understand how romance can include more than the BTO trajectory, because we can’t get married. We can’t follow that kind of structure.

This act of redefining and demanding for change must be the way forward. We need to constantly adapt, to bring this into future projects and spaces. People have unknowable, evolving needs and the world itself has changing demands. Whether it’s pronouns, or invisible illnesses, or climate change, we need to make space for all. The world is big enough. The world just needs to be ready for change. We must demand more, because we are worthy of more. We deserve, as human beings, to not have outdated discriminatory policies and practices limit us.

Self-care is nothing without community care. This means embracing all people. Brown, queer people. Subhas sharing his platform is just one example. And sometimes all you need is that one example. It’s time to think about how we can make that example happen in our lives. Thank you, and have a great Pink Dot!

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