South Korea (along with a lot of other parts in East Asia) is conservative.
Its homogeneity in demographics has only recently started to break down with the influx of foreigners resulting from the growing economy in tourism and job opportunities for positions in schools and private academies. Ethnically, South Korea is far from diverse, with 96% of its population consisting of pure Koreans.
Similarly, and perhaps not surprisingly, the visible queer community not only takes up a very small segment of the population, but is also looked upon as an oddity. Teenagers struggling with identities have close to zero support or help. Just two years ago, the Seoul city mayor announced that the annual queer festival and gay pride parade be shut down. Heteronormativity is real here.
Southern California is quite the opposite. With diversity that spans ethnicities from all over the world and a general acceptance and support for all lives and identities, the situation in South Korea from a socal dweller may seem incomprehensible, if not insulting.
Insulting. Insulting because no one deserves to receive hatred for who they choose to love. Insulting because hatred against anything or anyone is simply not cool.
The sad truth is that even in the most liberal parts of the world today, there are remnants of hatred towards those who are gay or trans or queer or ___. Those who receive this hatred undergo a struggle that those who identify with bigender stereotypes would never understand, even if they tried. The cries of frustration and demand for the righteous respect they wholly deserve are heard daily, and with reason.
But sometimes, there is hatred upon hatred.
Sometimes, I hear those cries and cringe, not because I am against the good intentions of those words, but because those cries are so full of a hatred that is hard to listen to without an instinctual shudder.
This is the same cringe that I would hear when some ignorant individual would scream out “fuck gays.” Sometimes, it doesn’t matter what goes behind that word, because in the end, to some listener out there, it’s a “fuck you.”
I confess that, as a listener who once was unaware of the mere existence of the queer community, I would have been offended to hear those words simply because I adhered to the heteronormative environment I grew up in.
To bring about a change in a world that is clearly unfair, we need to act with kindness, not hatred. With understanding and willingness to help others understand. Great social justice leaders in our past acted not with violence but with a civil disobedience that sought to protest with a genuine pity for those who did not know but to jump on the bandwagon of social norms, righteous or not.
“The Wind and the Sun” is a fable written by Aesop some centuries ago. He writes,
“THE WIND and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger. Suddenly they saw a traveller coming down the road, and the Sun said: “I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveller to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger You begin.” So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveller. But the harder he blew the more closely did the traveller wrap his cloak round him, till at last the Wind had to give up in despair. Then the Sun came out and shone in all his glory upon the traveller, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on. KINDNESS EFFECTS MORE THAN SEVERITY.”
Let us work for a world without hatred, but kindness. Let us learn how to love others, and how to help others love.