Homosexuality in Homogeneity

Written by Connor Dearing

You’re Korean and you’re gay. Or at least you thought you were. But when you came out to your mother, she was neither horrified, happy nor surprised. Instead she simply responded, “Homosexuality does not exist in Korea.”

You’re Korean and you’re gay. Yet your extensive world travels and endlessly outgoing nature ensure that you never feel too attached to either label. So you openly hold hands, hug and kiss whomever you please on the streets of Seoul. Sometimes people stare, but most are too weighed down by their department store bags to care.

You’re Korean and you’re gay. You take daily self-camera shots, study French and have many foreign English teacher friends. They know you are gay, but no one else. Precisely the lifestyle you want. One night, three soju bottles deep, a few of these friends reveal your sexual preferences to your Korean buddies. Everything could change. Or nothing. But you shut down regardless, and have not talked to these friends since.

You’re Korean and you’re gay. When you were 8, your mother gave you the choice to grow up in the United States or in Korea. You chose Korea. You did not know you were gay. You wanted kimchi jiggae and rice, not hamburgers and French fries. Now, living in a country where symbols of dating, couples, romance and love (but only between a man and a woman) taunt you in the subway, through the underground mall, and into the cafes where you study, Korea doesn’t seem so comfortable. Thus you spend your days researching opportunities to live in America.

You’re Korean and you’re gay. You are the first celebrity to openly declare these two identities, and were hoping to usher in a wave of confidence and openness amongst your country’s queer youth. Instead you were ostracized and harassed; you contemplated suicide and incited more fear within your gay fans. But you fearlessly persisted. Now 10 years later, you are openly talking about sexual orientation on national television and there is always a wait at one of your five restaurants. Above all else, you introduced your country to the concept of “coming out.”

You’re Korean and you’re gay. You are dutifully performing your mandatory military service. And it is the most exciting time of your life.

You were Korean. You were gay. You were in the agonizing midst of your compulsory military service, facing daily harassment, hazing and alienation. You repeatedly reached out for mental health support, received none and chose another method to end the suffering.

You’re Korean and you’re gay. You are also a martial arts instructor, fitness fanatic and loyal friend to your heterosexual buddies. Maintaining this harmony and balance supersedes your sexual preferences, so you are content browsing gay dating apps. Always looking, never connecting.

You’re Korean and you’re gay. But you didn’t really know that you could be until you studied in the United States. With exposure, you grew into your gay self within the free, individualistic haven of New York City. However, when your family was in dire financial need, you abandoned your foreign endeavors to offer support.

After decades living as a confident gay man abroad, you wanted to remain proud in this identity construction in South Korea, but upon arrival back at the country of your birth, you reconsidered. Concluding that being out and proud would cause more trouble than it was worth, you learned to re-navigate Korea’s ins and outs. Your conservative and religious family, your liberal artist friends, your older Korean clients and your New York hipster connections: it’s a life filled with dualities, but it’s comfortable enough. And you own it at noraebang like you always have.