Did you happen to see the poster hung by the gender politics club named SFA at the beginning of the term? The poster welcomes sexual minority first years to Sookmyung Women’s University. Many students would have seen the poster as they entered Myungshin building. Then, how did you feel seeing the poster? In addition to Sookmyung Women’s University, many universities have clubs for sexual minorities these days. Although there is an increasing effort to change gender identity awareness, are you really open to sexual minorities?
Colorful Rainbow Fish
These days, mass media discusses the subject of homosexuality and sexual minorities. In the past, it was unusual to view sexual minorities on mass media, but nowadays, they appear on various sources. For example, Naver webtoon’s To Everyone, from Wanja and Welcome to Room 305 deal with sexual minorities. Welcome to Room 305’s main character is a university student who shows a negative attitude towards sexual minorities. There is also the drama Life is Wonderful broadcasted in 2010 in which one of the characters is a homosexual. It is progressive to see these webtoons, dramas, and movies and that the subject matter is becoming wider among the general public.
Universities are also keeping pace with social tendencies. Many clubs now on university campuses work at breaking down stereotypes and university students work actively with these types of school clubs. The clubs are also for enrolled students who are sexual minorities. The most representative club is Ewha Womans University’s club Pervert Girl, Fly in the Sky. The club was started as a means to campaign for lesbian’s human rights. Unlike other general communities and clubs for sexual minorities, its main purpose is human rights. Similar to this club is the Person and Person club at Korea University, the Rainbow Fish club at Chung-ang University, the Prince club at Hanyang University and the Come Together club at Yonsei University. In total there are 42 university communities and each has at least one sexual minority club. At one university, there was uproar and confusion as one chairperson at the Union of University Student Liberty, twittered the Union would now open the group to homosexuals.
Captive Rainbow Fish in the Bowl
Although there are many clubs for sexual minorities, some clubs don’t operate properly. Because some clubs want to keep their activities unknown, even to club members, many of the clubs are not open to the public. Chung-ang University’s sexual minority club has encountered this problem. The university’s student council demands all clubs provide a list of club member names. Rainbow Fish, Chung-ang University’s sexual minority club, refuses to provide the information so it doesn’t get any school support. The club must collect fees from its club members. Although total membership is 370, it has only 10 members.1 It has difficulty holding events like film festivals and seminars and it is struggling to recruit new members. There are also many people who harbor ill feelings towards the clubs. These people even engage in hate crime against the clubs by writing damaging hand-written papers and posters. In one incident, a Korea University sexual minority club’s poster disappeared. The poster was recruiting new members during the opening of the university school semester. A member of Person and Person said, “This is just one kind of terrorist activity blocking justice; these people suffer homophobia.”2 Similar to this wrongdoing, Sogang University’s sexual minority club Dancing Q’s hand-written poster disappeared on March 6th. Despite students’ open-mindedness towards sexual minorities, there are people who hate them. These people don’t accept people that differ from themselves, and ruin posters by tearing up the written documents to express their hostility. Because of these people’s action, some sexual minorities fear joining a club and working on actively. Just as movements to acknowledge sexual minorities are growing, opposition to sexual minorities is also growing.
A more serious problem is the act of ‘outing. ‘ Outing is the opposite of ‘coming-out. ‘ People’s gender identity is exposed unwantedly or mistakenly. This usually happens when general people enroll in a minority community out of curiosity. Sexual minorities are often hurt by this problem the most. When “straight” people enroll in a community secretly, they release the personal information of others to the public. In the Naver webtoon To Everyone, from Wanja, the writer wrote about a specific sexual minority community and people joined the community out of curiosity. One anonymous member said, “People were curious about different sexual identities, but that curiosity destroyed our society because there were people in the club unprepared to tell others their gender identity and wanted to conceal their true selves.” Some sexual minorities do not wish their friends or family to know their sexual identity.
Swim in a Boundless Ocean
Sexual minorities need to regain their self-esteem. They need their rights protected and their sexual identity respected. Until now their hard work has led to certain achievements like the protection of certain sexual minority rights and interests. Representatives from Seoul National University, Sogang University, Ewha Womans University and other 15 universities gathered to establish Queer University (QUV). A member of QUV said, “There are several active clubs for sexual minorities, but gathering together, we have more power. We want to contribute to the narrowing of the gap between university societies and sexual minorities.”3 This movement at universities is very meaningful. Nowadays, there are many ways to express thoughts and injustice and many people are doing so by holding high hand-written papers and posters.
Universities have to acknowledge sexual minorities and protect them. Universities must stop demanding club member names. At Sookmyung Women University, the club SFA is an academic society that studies women issues, but the club also looks at sexual minority issues so members participate in Queer festivals and related seminars. At Ewha Womans University, when a Christian club demolished a sexual minority club’s promotional materials, the school decided to permanently expel the club from campus even though Ewha Womans University is a typical Christian-based school. Everyone needs to be concerned with all sexual identities and show compassion at their club seminars and festivals. One anonymous sexual minority representative said, “Although some people hold events to express hatred of us, by continuing to operate sexual minority clubs and seminars aimed at awareness, we believe someday everyone will feel comfortable enough to reveal his/ her gender identity rather than live in fear.”
1 Retrieved from http://rainbowfish.kr/
2 Han Jungsoo, “Korea University’s Sexual Minority Club’s Poster Vanishes, What’s the Punishment?” Money Todaynews, February 26, 2014
3 Kim Yeonsook, “Active Movements Among Sexual Minorities…,” Yonhapnews, March 10, 2014