Placards to replace torchlights at Pink Dot 2016

Pink Dot 2016 ambassadors (from left) rapper ShiGGa Shay, TV host Anita Kapoor and actress Liu Ling Ling with their self-written placards. Although some participants may write pro-LGBT messages that could alienate mainstream society, Pink Dot spokesm
Pink Dot 2016 ambassadors (from left) rapper ShiGGa Shay, TV host Anita Kapoor and actress Liu Ling Ling with their self-written placards. Although some participants may write pro-LGBT messages that could alienate mainstream society, Pink Dot spokesman Paerin Choa said it would show diverse viewpoints.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

Participants will hold up placards with messages they have penned, in move by organisers to let people have a say at annual LGBT event

Participants at this year's Pink Dot will hold up placards instead of the customary pink torchlights.

Now in its eighth year, the annual gathering in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community is changing its format. Organisers will give out 5,000 round placards to Singaporeans and permanent residents in attendance, along with marker pens to write messages. Foreigners will be allowed to attend but not to hold placards.

"We want to let people have a say at the event," Pink Dot spokesman Paerin Choa said. "People are ready to take this step forward."

The Hong Lim Park event, which will be held on June 4, has seen attendances rise from 2,500 in its first year in 2009 to 28,000 last year. Organisers say it is a sign that society's attitudes are changing.

"As the movement matures, we think the way people participate can also mature," said Mr Choa.

Although the use of self-written placards could see some participants writing pro-LGBT messages that could alienate mainstream society, Mr Choa said the purpose of Pink Dot is to show diverse viewpoints: "It will allow conversation to mature even further."

In recent years, Pink Dot has attracted opposition from religious factions. In 2014, Muslim religious teacher Noor Deros started a Wear White campaign to signal the community's opposition to homosexuality, while Faith Community Baptist Church senior pastor Lawrence Khong urged followers to dress in white on Pink Dot weekend.

This year's event has attracted 18 sponsors - twice as many as last year. They include tech giants Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, banks like Barclays and law firms Clifford Chance and Cavenagh Law.

Investment analyst Andee Tay, 29, who will be one of around 500 volunteers at the event, said: "The cause is something I care about a lot and I wanted to be a part of that."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 22, 2016, with the headline 'Placards to replace torchlights at Pink Dot 2016'. Print Edition | Subscribe