Monday, May 17, 2010


We might as well have camped out at Hong Lim Park over the weekend. On Saturday, we went to Pink Dot. It was a bigger turnout than last year, and it was really good to see that it wasn't just the usual LGBT crowd but a diverse gathering that included family groups, mums, dads and toddlers in strollers, and a wheelchair-bound little old lady dressed in pink. And quite a few dogs.

Our tshirts (L wore his from last year that says "Straight but not narrow", mine was "Jesus had two fathers") again got thumbs-up, compliments and several photo requests. And someone tied a pink balloon to Rupert, who was so very proud of it. And that made it easier for our friends to find us.

Some camera crew interviewed L and me. I don't even know where they were from. Bloody dumb questions like: did we have gay friends, and was it a problem when we found out they were gay. L's answer: "I was born straight. That should be a problem then, shouldn't it?"

And then the interviewer turned to me: "What sort of message are you sending out through your Tshirt?"
"That families are not necessarily papa bear, mama bear and baby bear. And that they're still happy, functional families."
I bet back at the farm, we're going to be edited out.

On Sunday, we were back again, this time for the annual candlelight Aids memorial. We were to have brought the dogs, Queeni is quite the veteran of several memorials but not the ones held in the last 2 to 3 years because they were in an indoors location where you couldn't take a dog. But since we're back to an outdoors location, well, her attendance was requested by a couple of the volunteers. Also, they haven't met Rupert, and I was quite keen to show him off. But since there were long drawn thunderstorms from the afternoon into the evening, we decided that the dogs should stay home.

Action for Aids president Roy Chan said in his opening address that we've come quite a long way since we started the annual memorial almost 20 years ago. Back in the 80s and 90s, he lost many friends to Aids. Just as I did. He then pointed out that since we're now into the third generation of anti-retroviral drugs, there really shouldn't be anyone dying from Aids in this day and age. Provided that there is access to medication, of course.

And then guest of honour MP Denise Phua promptly took us all back 20 years by saying in her address that she didn't know very much about Aids until she was invited to grace this event, and then proceeded to deliver a speech she termed as Aids 101, on what she learnt, and that -- glory be -- you couldn't get Aids from social contact, and hugging and kissing a person with Aids (PWA). And then went on to preach to the choir stalls.

I'll concede that at least this MP has the candour to admit that she didn't know anything, and went on to deliver a speech that reflected her ignorance. She was after all addressing a gathering of PWAs, friends and families of Aids patients who died, who are struggling still, and volunteers who work with PWAs everyday. If they weren't insulted, I was. L was livid, he was snorting "And this is our government!", much to the consternation of Ms Phua's group of grassroots leaders, who were seated on my left. Not once did Ms Phua say what she took away from what she learnt, and what she is going to do about it as an MP. No, it was all: keep up the good work, you volunteers. And not a peep on what the government is doing to help PWAs access affordable medication.

It has been 10 years since Paddy died, and the fight still goes on.


ECG said...

I was there too. Simple and sincere event. I feel that Ms Denise Phua is sincere in raising public awareness. Noting the presence of media, I think her speech was targeted at the general public who needs to be reminded or even informed of the basics. In that perspective, her speech was purposeful and supportive of the good cause. Best of all, all efforts are from volunteers. :)

Anonymous said...

It takes a very generous person to come forward to grace the event. Ms Phua is indeed a very generous person and she has kindly supported our cause by coming to this event, this is highly commendable.

I think you should not be angry at her Aids 101 - as we do have guests at the event, who really did not know much about HIV, the reason why they are there is to learn. We should all be generous enough not to feel angry, afterall it is a memorial service.

Could I also share that Ms Phua has a personal cause which is very close to her heart - Autism, as her son is autistic.

Can I also urge you to support her cause, pay-it-forward.