Korea Queer Culture Festival

Korea Queer culture festival is the largest queer cultural festival in Korean and second largest in Asia. It first took place in the year 2000 and usually happens in late May to early June annually for about 15 days. Different year the event takes place at different locations throughout South Korea. Korea is a conservative country and many people see homosexuality as a foreign phenomenon. Homosexuality remains largely taboo in South Korean society and same-sex people are seldom seen in public. LGBT people in South Korea face discrimination that heterosexual people do not. However, unlike many similar events photography is limited in this event. This is done to minimize public exposure of LGBT people to avoid discrimination.

Even though there is no law against homosexuality in Korean history, homosexual couples and households are not entitled any legal protection from the government, unlike heterosexual people. Transgender people are allowed to have surgery to reassign their gender after age 20. People in dominantly religious country are more likely to reject the idea of homosexuality according to the Pew Research Center survey published in Washington Post. According to the survey 18% people in South Korea support homosexuality only. Homosexual people are often stigmatized and sometimes not classified as humans, as the country remains largely conservative on matters of sexuality. Political parties and most elected politicians of South Korea tend to avoid addressing LGBT rights issues except the Democratic Labor Party. The Democratic Party is the third largest political party and has a political panel known as ‘Sexual Minorities Committee.’ Their agenda includes discrimination against homosexual people and discrimination based on sexual preferences and equal rights for sexual minorities. I chose this event for my post because it shows even though Korea is a developed country but still the way people thinks is greatly influenced by religion and political influence. It relates to our class discussion of how politics and religion shapes a person’s view and on a much border scale a nation’s view. Military service is mandatory for all men Koreans. Active homosexual military members are categorized as ‘personality disorder’ or ‘behavior disability’ and honorably discharged. Korean Queer Culture festival receives no support from the government except the Democratic Labor Party.

The festival normally begins with opening events followed by a parade and after-party at club Pulse in Seoul’s Itaewon neighborhood, although celebrations continue in all LGBTQ clubs across the city People attending the event wear mask to avoid recognition on a website or newspaper for fear of reprisal by family, friends or co-workers. Demonstrators continue to disrupt the annual gay pride of South Korea where all gay and transgender Koreans meet together for a series of events and parades, recognized internationally as a gay pride month. The number of participants attending the event increased over time-but the increased visibility of LGBT supporters has also meant that the number of protestors also increased. Christian groups ran a campaign for weeks to try to block the parade. In May 2015, they camped out for weeks in front of the police station where parade organizers had to apply for permit and filed a counter request to hold the parade. Police initially ruled in favor of the anti-LGBT response committee, however a court ruled on June 2015 that the parade had to be allowed. The parade was banned in 2015 and this has attracted international attention to the event. This progressed LGBT rights in South Korea. Photography was banned in this event until 2010. The organizers issued no photography stickers, ribbons and bands. People who will allow photography will have to register or else faces will be blurred before publishing online.

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Largest counter-protests was organized by merging some of Korea’s largest Christian Church associations together as anti-LGBT response committee. The committee held a worship service across the street from the gay pride event and the committee was blasting sermons, hymns and prayers loudly enough to overwhelm the sound system of the event. Protestors held sign on their laps which says, “We pray for Korea not to be diseased/sick with homosexuality.” Girls performed ballet which resembles God’s angel and purity and to show what real beauty looks like. Some protestors laid down on the street to block the parade. But they were immediately removed and the parade went off without any major incidents.

korea-queerPictured, a demonstrator protested the 2014 Korea Queer Festival by holding a sign to obscure the view of the performance behind him

General awareness of homosexuality remains low among people in Korea because people are afraid if they come out, they will be face difficulty both in work place and among families. However there is increased awareness of homosexuality and gay-themed entertainment in the media can be seen now. According to a number of advocates for sexual minorities, two major issues are holding LGBT human rights- lack of awareness in society and strong opposition from the Christian Church.

Boy Wonder- James Robert Baker

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James Robert Baker was a transgressional gay themed fiction writer and filmmaker. He was raised in a conservative family in southern California and explored his sexuality when in high school and realized he was gay. However, he was afraid to come out as his dad was abusive and conservative. He committed suicide at the age of 50. His interactions with his family and society can be seen in most of his novel and film, but most extensively in Boy Wonder, written in 1988. Baker is best known for his novel, “Tim and Pete”, “Adrenaline”- about two gay fugitives’ lovers. Baker has a very strong voice in gay literature both in the mainstream literary culture as well as the gay community itself.

Boy Wonder was set in Orange County, California about a boy, Gale Shark Trager and how he led his life due to his different way of viewing life and feeling confined by the norms and expectations of the society and how he broke free of the confined. Shark’s father Mac Trager, was a racist bully and his mother, Winnie Trager was a hypochondriac. In both cases, Paul and Shark’s father’s had a conservative mindset. He always had a hard time fitting into the society and adjusting to his school peers similar to the writer Baker. He became friends with his gay neighbor, Kenny Roberts and fell in love with a blonde teen, Kathy Petro. Obsessed with Kathy he filmed her masturbating and while he went to develop the film, Kathy’s father pressed charges against him and Mac learns how perverted Shark was. Mac took Shark for a VD “drip check” and Shark accused Mac of being a homosexual. This can be related to “Paul’s Case” by Cather, where Paul had a hard time adjusting to his school where everyone bullied him. Later Shark moved out of his house and moved with his friend. Throughout his life he randomly hooked up with all kinds of people in his life to make movies and moved from place to place and never settled with anyone. Shark threw out Kathy (who was his girlfriend at that time) out of the car after a fight, the cops shot him afterwards. Even though there are queer people throughout the century, very few people have the strength to come out of the closet and most people either commit suicide or do something stupid that end up destroying their career or sometimes their life. Eventually Shark moved to a bigger city in Los Angeles where he attended UCLA, this can be related to Paul’s moving to New York. This represents that bigger cities have more opportunities and are more open towards LGBT people. He never got any support from his family or peers as he never fit in the traditional norms of society. Both the writer and the character, Shark suffered mental disturbance through their life.

Baker’s suicide can be related to Paul’s suicide for being gay. Even though Paul killed himself for being gay and afraid of the society, Baker’s suicide can be related somewhat for the same reason. Baker killed himself because several critics called his novel “Tim and Pete”-“The Last Angry Man”. He faced difficulty maintaining his financial position and publishing his last novel “Right Wing” primarily for its advocacy of political assassination in combating AIDS discrimination after the AIDS pandemic began to take a huge turn in the gay community.

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A Marine Story- Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

A Marine Story, is a 2010 drama film about a female marine officer, Major Alexander Everett, who was honorably discharged from the military. She unexpectedly returns home (a southwestern desert town) from the Iraq War due to the charged filed against her for “Conduct Unbecoming of an Officer”. She accosted a young woman, Saffron Snow, and her boyfriend for illegal drug and theft at a convenience store. Saffron, a disturbed woman turned out to be her neighbor’s granddaughter, who requested her to prepare Saffron for boot camp as the Judge gave her one week to prepare or else she was going to jail. The film is set in 2008 and was filmed in Los Angeles in 2009. A Marine Story is directed by Ned Farr and was premiered at the Frameline Film Festival on 2010. It also won the “Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Feature in 2010.

I chose this film because the film is a good example of the United States “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy and the damage it does to the troops. The film focuses on Lesbian feminism and Native Concept of Gender and it targets audience of all gender and sexual orientation.

Lesbian Feminism: Everett reconnected with her old friends from past, Leo and Holly after returning. She could easily come out to Holly and explain why she was discharged and her sexuality and was accepted immediately with open arms. However, she couldn’t explain it to Leo until later and was surely not pleased to hear that. This shows she is not accepted anymore, because according to the society a “woman” has to be heterosexual. Also she is not a one dimensional soldier, even though she is tough she has a softer, maternal humorous side as well which is often seen when she is around Saffron or her close friends. This concept is also demonstrated by Monique Wittig’s “One is Not Born a Woman” where she says if someone if not heterosexual they refuse to be either a man or a woman and lesbians have to be something else, not-woman or not-man.

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Native Concept of Gender: J. Jack Halberstam said “In other words, female masculinity are framed as the rejected scraps of dominant masculinity in order that male masculinity may appear to be the real thing” in “An introduction to Female Masculinity: Masculinity without Men”. This concept focuses most part of the movie. There was a scene where Everett and Leo went to a bar with Leo’s friends. The egoistic males were criticizing women marines as ‘WM’ (waste of money). According to them they are only good for secretarial work. Someone then said, “Males are better at most jobs due to muscle mass and that females are only as strong as the weakest males”. Leo then suggested the weakest of them should arm wrestle with Everett, where she easily defeated him breaking the traditional norm of men being stronger and masculine.  Even Saffron, who was first shown as a disturbed, brooding woman proved herself to be a capable woman and endure all the pain and hardships to achieve her goal.

The movie goes back and forth between Everett’s present and future leaving the audience in suspense. The flashbacks were about her deployments, her drills and her pride for being an American Soldier. The present was mostly about how she trained Saffron to be tough and pushed her off of her limits to make Saffron like her and the about the conflict she had to face for not being enough feminine. When her Commanding Officer interrogated her, Everett lied the whole time by referring to her marriage (which was basically a sham marriage) to hide her identity. This shows how dedicated she is towards her country. Throughout her life Everett tried to hide her sexual preference in order to be a marine. Her commanding officer advised her to resign before they can find something solid against her, in order to be honorably discharged. This whole situation was horrible to me because for any soldier, regardless of their gender, goes through inhuman training at boot camp to serve the country are advised to leave their passion based on their sexual preference. She was an officer, a drill instructor and Amphibious Warfare School graduate, yet she was looked down as someone weak who could be a potential threat to the military family when it came down to her sexual orientation. The Commanding officer also asked whether she had an affair with any ‘male’ soldier. She replied adultery is also forbidden in military, however, her commanding officer replied it was lesser of the two evils. One of Leo’s friend Dyke was so angry at her that he secretly took pictures of her being intimate with other girls and posted flyers all over the town which jeopardize Saffron’s future of getting into the boot camp. As people assumed she was having an affair with Everett.

The script writer’s main point was we should support troops regardless whether they are homosexual or heterosexual. Everett was punished under the United States Military’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy for who she was. She lived a closeted life with secrecy throughout her life. The movie portrays what other queer soldiers have to endure unfortunately. The following statement was posted at the end of the movie which represents discrimination to a whole new different level. Discrimination against queer soldiers and further more discrimination against ‘women’.

“Women are far more likely than men to be kicked out of the military under the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” Policy against gay personnel, according to government figures of 2010. Gender aside, more than 13,500 service members have been fired under the law since 1994”.