The past weekend, I missed Pink Dot 13. I had been so focused on the work that I do that I missed the advertisements, the social media posts, the bright pink lights on my social media feed. Growing up in conservative Asia, in a time where homosexuality is not only viewed as taboo, but legislated as illegal, Pride Month has always been a harsh reminder of the discrimination I have faced personally as a part of the LGBTQ community. Pink Dot, the Singaporean celebration of Pride Month, has always been a means in which I morph into a sea of happy faces, celebrating the right to love, while remaining a nondescript face in the crowd.

I’ll admit, from the days of being in the closet to the days of not quite giving a damn about how people judge my sexuality, I’ve never been a raging bra-burning lesbian. I’ve always preferred to almost quietly prove that I was no different from anyone – that I could do what you could do, and I could succeed the way you could succeed. It’s almost poetic that I missed Pink Dot for the first time since its start while trying to prove my point about being no different.

But I am different. I have lived a different life because I am wired differently, and not by choice. Being Asian, female, and part of the LGBTQ community gives me the triple whammy of having to climb steeper mountains, walk longer roads, and to simply be more resilient, work harder, and just keep trying in the face of fear and discrimination.

People don’t quite say it – that they don’t believe you would be able to succeed. Most folks simply give a somewhat sardonic smile and wish you the best. Yet some go further and say that if I had chosen my “gay lifestyle”, I couldn’t possibly make it anywhere decent in life, given my choices. Of course, when presented that homosexuality is hardly a choice, I am often told to “pray the gay away”.

Pride Month brings to me a plethora of emotions and vulnerabilities. For one, I come from a country where the government not only outlaws your ability to exist normally as a “different” person but legislates means in which it can prevent you from being happy – from the right to housing to the right to even have a child borne of your own loins as a “single” parent. For another, I’ve been through the baptism of fire where I’ve had to beg for acceptance from my own family, and be rejected by my closest friends.

Million of LGBTQ youth today face discrimination from those who were sworn to protect us – our families, our friends, and even our countries. Between fighting discrimination that’s not only close to home but more so heart-breaking, some of us shine through and flourish. Many don’t.

Which brings me back to why Pride Month is important to me. You see, it’s not about celebrating “love wins”, or having a colorful in-your-face parade of our differences. It’s about celebrating the human spirit of being able to survive and thrive.  It’s about the human ability to grow from your battle scars and live to see another day. We’re not here to demand your pity, not at all. We’re here in the hopes that you can see us as your equals.

And aptly named, Pride Month is really for me to be proud of who I am, and where I’ve come from.