Being fake woke is worse than being unwoke

The annual Pink Dot rally—a safe space and inclusive environment for all to celebrate diversity and the freedom to love. Yet, this year, at an event all about tolerance and acceptance, an appalling act of ignorance and bigotry happened.

Just mere hours after the end of Pink Dot 11 on the evening of Jun 29, which called for the repeal of Section 377A of the Penal Code of Singapore, screenshots and videos of Instagram user Malcom Chew's posts surfaced on Twitter. Originally posted on his public Instagram account @themalcolmchew via Stories, his videos made a mockery of the appearances and outfits worn by fellow Pink Dot attendees. Three individuals were identified, with the most prominent being Sherwin, who goes by @ahwin_ on Instagram.

Screenshots of videos taken from Malcolm Chew's Instagram Stories

Over the two days following the incident, Twitter and Instagram users took the opportunity to comment on the perpetrator’s behaviour, advising others to do better. Some also posted screenshots of their alleged personal conversations with Chew through Instagram, informing him of his insensitive behaviour.

Malcolm Chew's profile and public apology

It is unclear when Chew removed the videos from his Stories; he has since issued a public apology on Instagram, to those he offended, including Sherwin. Still, it is now a permanent display on his social media profile’s Highlights. However, disputes regarding his sincerity have arose, as unverified sources also published screenshots of group and personal Telegram chats with Chew, which revealed an attitude of indifference.

Pink Dot 11 Ambassador Preeti Nair (@preetipls) was among the many who weighed in on the issue. In an open letter to Chew (found on both her personal Instagram account and Twitter), she berated him for going to Pink Dot for the ‘Gram, and for poor morals.

She emphasized how individuals shouldn't attend the event masquerading as allies of the community. Neither is there a place in the discourse for disingenuous intentions, which threatens and compromises the sanctity of a movement as important as this.

Left: Statement by Preeti Nair; Right: Statement by Sherwin

When asked what she thinks about the situation, Cally Cheung, co-founder of Prout, LGBTQ+ activist and long-time attendee of Pink Dot, stated: “While I understand that the perpetrator has put up a public apology to the victim, more needs to be done to rid the root of ignorance. More education is necessary for allies and even our own LGBTQ+ community so as not to discriminate based on race, size, gender identity—and the list goes on."

Sherwin also took to Instagram to address matters. He publicly accepted Chew’s apology on Monday, Jul 1, and even issued an apology to him, on behalf of those who sent hate Chew’s way. In his Stories, he indicated his gratitude for the activists and allies of the LGBTQ+ community, who supported him as well.

A statement provided to SG Magazine by a representative of Pink Dot, on behalf of the organisation, reads: "Pink Dot 11 highlighted stories of discrimination experienced by the LGBTQ community on a daily basis. Speaking up in a clear and respectful manner about why such acts are condescending and disrespectful is the best way the community can respond to such hateful behaviour. Let us continue to make our collective voices heard to those who will listen, and work together towards a more inclusive and respectful Singapore."

Cheung also summarises the sentiment well, saying: "I hope this incident serves as a reminder that we are not for your amusement, and we do not come together in a park, every year, just for a gathering.”