Just hours after homegrown pro-LGBTQ movement Pink Dot SG had announced its line-up of Ambassadors for its 11th edition this year on Thu (16 May), singer-actor Tosh Zhang came under fire for a string of homophobic tweets he had posted from 2010 to 2013.

Netizen Sarah Yip pointed out the matter in a Facebook post on Thu after recalling “seeing posts of his over the years that formed a really bad impression of him” in her mind, and had taken screenshots of several tweets on Mr Zhang’s account containing homophobic statements, primarily directed against butch – or typically “masculine”-presenting – lesbians:

Source (screenshots): Sarah Yip/Facebook

Mr Zhang has apologised via a Facebook comment on Ms Yip’s post, stating that he will bear “full responsibility” for his “extremely insensitive tweets”, which he said were made before he rose to fame as an actor, and back when he was “deeply ignorant to the discrimination, pain and struggles that LGBTQ people face every day”:

He has also taken to Instagram to address the matter, stating that he is supporting the Pink Dot movement as an Ambassador this year “because as a straight Chinese male in Singapore who is of the privileged majority, I wanna do my part & fight against discrimination & stand up for equality for ALL Singaporeans, no matter your race, religion, class, sexual orientation or gender identity”:

View this post on Instagram

I’m one of the #PinkDot11 ambassadors this year & I’m supporting the movement because as a straight Chinese male in Singapore who is of the privileged majority, I wanna do my part & fight against discrimination & stand up for equality for ALL Singaporeans, no matter your race, religion, class, sexual orientation or gender identity. Years ago I used to be ignorant to the pain, struggles & discrimination that our LGBTQ brothers & sisters face everyday. I recall when I was much younger, saying insensitive things about LGBTQ people without giving it much thought or considering how my words would hurt people. Looking back now I feel awful & disgusted that I spoke that way. It had never occured to me back then to try & understand what life was like for them as I had never experienced discrimination in SG as a straight Chinese male and I was oblivious to the unspoken privileges I enjoyed that our minorities don’t. Over the years as I matured, expanded my circle & connected with people from various walks of life all over the globe, my views evolved & changed. I learnt to treat & respect people as HUMAN before anything else and to measure a person by the content of their character and how they treat others, rather than their race, religion, class, sexual orientation or gender identity. There are people close to me who have inspired or made an impact on me both personally & professionally, who are from the LGBTQ community. They are people I hold dear and it’s saddening to know they face discrimination & stigma from society simply for being who they are. They are our fellow Singaporeans but they’re not accorded the same rights as everyone else. They’re hardly represented in mainstream media. They’re unable to get married to the love of their lives. We’ve an outdated law like 377A which criminalises gay men & though the law is not enforced, the fact that it still exists in a first-world nation like ours, is IMO utterly wrong. The only thing that’s truly constant is change and I believe positive change we can & will achieve, together as ONE people! #LiveAndLetLive #LoveAndLetLove #AgainstDiscrimination

A post shared by Tosh Zhang 张智扬 🦁🇸🇬 (@toshrock) on

Pink Dot SG, in its statement yesterday (16 May), said that while it has found the tweets to be “deeply distressing”, given that “the hurt and harm that such language can cause is all too familiar to us”, it acknowledged that Mr Zhang has apologised regarding the offending tweets, and that it will discuss “further actions” with Mr Zhang until further notice, as the incident may serve as “a possible opportunity for genuine dialogue” in tandem with the movement’s theme against discrimination this year:

It was also found that Mr Zhang’s apparent shift from homophobia to that of a straight ally for LGBTQ persons had taken place long before Pink Dot SG had chosen him as one of the Ambassadors for the movement this year, as seen in a Pink Dot SG Facebook post from 2017 below:

Netizens divided on the exposé regarding Mr Zhang’s past tweets

Many netizens came out in support of Mr Zhang, with many of them suggesting that the tweets reflect his learning curve, and that his experience with perpetuating homophobia in the past could be a starting point for discussions on the need to fight discrimination against LGBTQ persons in Singapore in the present:

However, several netizens were sceptical of Mr Zhang’s reformed image, suggesting that he might have acted disingenuously by not speaking about the tweets and apologising for them before he took up the role of Pink Dot’s Ambassador:

One commenter in particular highlighted, on a more general level, the fact that straight allies instead of prominent LGBTQ individuals were chosen to front the Pink Dot movement this year as Ambassadors, stating that the movement should focus on celebrating members of the community instead of placing the spotlight on allies such as Mr Zhang: