On Sept. 7, a special little wedding ceremony was held under the title of ‘The righteous wedding, One beautiful day.’ Why was this marriage so special? That is because there were two grooms on the stage. They are a film director Kim-Jho Gwang-soo and a film distributor Kim Seung-hwan. This was the first outdoor wedding ceremony with two samesex people in Korea. These two men got married with blessings from many people. However, not everyone approved of this marriage. The ceremony was disrupted by a Christian who rushed onto the stage and threw waste at them. However, he was soon dragged away by the police, and the ceremony eventually ended successfully.
In the past, homosexuals hid their sexual orientations because of the prejudice of other people. They refused to let the people know about their sexual orientations. Now, however, our society has become more open-minded to each person’s individuality and preference. Therefore, increasingly more and more people are gaining self-esteem about their sexual orientations. Let us take a look at how our world is changing, and how homosexuals are coming out of the closet.
Difficulties Homosexuals Suffer
There has always been discrimination and harassment against the homosexuals. According to the National Hate Crimes Statistics Act in the United States, 11.6 percent of the total 8,759 hate crimes reported in 1996 occurred because of the negative views on homosexuality. Also, in Korea, ‘Outing’ ? disclosure of a person’s sexual orientation against his or her will ? is often used as a way of harassment.
For example, some people ask the homosexuals for money after threatening that they will disclose their sexual orientations to their home or workplaces, after intentionally establishing intimacy with them in places like gay bars. Also, they are sometimes sexually approached at places like jjimjilbang. Moreover, a lot of rape victims in the military cannot report their suffering because of the hierarchy there.
One of the reasons why the homosexuals are despised by some people is that they believe the homosexuals are unnatural from the perspective that love is only a way of bearing descendants. Also, people think the homosexuals are at risk of getting diseases like AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Another reason is that the homosexuals are often against very conservative religious teachings. For these reasons, people look at them with a jaundiced eye, and the homosexuals had to hide their sexual orientations so far.
Public Perception is Changing
Nowadays, the world is changing fast. Acceptance of the homosexuals is gradually getting better. A poll about the samesex marriage conducted by CNN every year since 1988 shows the rate of opposition was overwhelmingly high in 1988. However, the gap between numbers of those who opposed to and in favor of homosexuality has become smaller year by year, and finally the ratio became almost fifty-fifty in 2011. Also, according to a research from the Pew Research Center about the people’s recognition of same-sex love, the percentage of people in Korea who claimed that ‘homosexuality should be accepted’ has increased to 39 percent in 2011 compared to just 25 percent in 2002.
The interesting thing is that younger generations are contributing greatly to the increased percentage of the pros. The percentage of the age of thirty to forty and over fifty were 48 percent and 16 percent, respectively. In comparison, 71 percent of people in their twenties answered homosexuality should be accepted. Our generation thinks favorably about homosexual love, which contrasts with conservative older generations. In addition, a new law that opposes to discrimination against the homosexuals has been recently proposed. All of these may refer to the increasing acceptance of the homosexuals.
What Makes the World Change
As we examined closely, the older and younger generations have different points of view about homosexuality. The younger generations generally have an amicable attitude towards homosexuality compared to older people. Experts say that pop culture has contributed to this open-minded acknowledgement. These days, a lot of mass media talk about homosexuality, and this opens the closed doors of prejudice.
The young who is sensitive to the pop culture is especially exposed to this environment, which helps them to become more accepting about homosexuality. Of course, coming-out is still a thing to do carefully. However, it is still true that the young has opened the closet about half way, which was closed completely by the older generations. Jumping on the bandwagon, more and more people are coming out of the closet. People like Kim-Jho Gwang-soo, who was mentioned earlier, or celebrities like Hong Seokcheon revealed themselves confidently and work for their rights.
▲ A Queer Parade using a rainbow flag
▲ Lesbian festival hosted by Byunnal
The 14th Korea Queer Festival was held near Hongik University in June, 2013. Not only LGBT ? an abbreviation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender ? groups but also people who support them participated in this festival. The festival consisted of celebration performances, various events and a parade. Among them, what we should take note of is the Queer Parade. In this parade, lots of homosexuals filled with the self-confidence about themselves celebrated the festival by walking around the city. This parade is held not only in Korea but in other countries, where people demand their freedoms and their voices to be heard by celebrating and cheering their pride as sexual minorities. Anyone who wants to support the homosexuals can join the parade.
There are also a lot of small student groups that support and cheer the homosexuals at universities in Korea. ‘Byunnal’ at Ewha Women’s University is one of them. ‘Byunnal’ is a short word for ‘Byuntaesonyeo hanuleul nalda (a pervert girl flies in the sky).’ ‘Byuntae’ is a Korean word which connotes a distorted perspective about the homosexuals. Byunnal shows their confidence and self-esteem despite the discrimination against them by the public. Any student who thinks the rights of the homosexual should be respected can join the club. However, members of Byunnal have had a hard time, especially since Ewha University is a Christian school; their rainbow flags that represent the Lesbian Festival were robbed, their exhibits were damaged, and Christians at the school stole their Lesbian festival source book. Even so, they have inside or outside meetings regularly and carry out various activities for lesbians’ rights such as holding seminars, exhibitions and IDAHO day events. Also, they co-host the ‘LGBT right forum’ with LGBTACT (rainbow movement group opposing discrimination against queers) at the beginning of every year. Similarly, ‘Rainbow Fish’ at Chungang University and ‘QUI’ at Seoul National University are actively engaged in doing activities for the homosexuals’ rights.
In the past, the homosexuals lived with a lot of difficulties. Nowadays, issues about homosexuality have become more commonly brought up in our daily life, and now the sexual minority is trying to speak their voices. Although, the public’s response is still uncertain, they will continuously fight for their freedom and rights.
* Rainbow is a symbol of gay pride. It reflects the diversity of the LGBT community.
* IDAHO day is an abbreviation for ‘International Day Against HOmophobia & transphobia.’ The date is every May 17, when ‘homosexual’ was deleted from the psychical disorder list by WHO in 1990.