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.

Censorship Issues With Queer Art

In class, we discussed David Wojnarowicz’s silent film, “ A Fire In My Belly.”  David was an artist of New York around the 1980s whose work represents the under privileged people of society which was seen in “A Fire in My Belly.”   The silent film showed images of poverty, little kids outside playing with fire, people begging for money, a mouth being sown up, and the crucifix laying on the ground with ants crawling all over it.  He was homosexual and died of AIDS at a young age with some of the images seen in this film possibly hinting at the AIDS crisis.   This silent film received negative attention by the Catholic League and Congress members specifically because of the crucifix ant image.  It was removed a few years ago from the National Portrait Gallery because of the uproar it stirred with conservative religious groups who thought the film was sinful.  This goes to show that the debate over queer art is still evident and religious or conservative groups have power over censorship rather than the actual art institute in dealing with this category of art.

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Chris Ofili’s piece shown above called “Holy Virgin Mary” is just another piece up for debate.  This shows a painting of a colored women wearing a blue robe that would be seen on the Virgin Mary. The background is a yellowish orange color mocking that light one would see behind a painting of Mary. The painting uses elephant poop and pornographic photos as a medium. The elephant dung is spread across the left breast and the pornographic photos surround the “Virgin Mary” making it almost look like they are insects such as butterflies floating in the air at first glance, but looking closer one can see they are nude female body parts. This piece offended the Mayor of New York and the Catholic Church causing the Brooklyn Museum of Art to temporarily lose it’s funding showing that the control was out of the art Museum’s hands.

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Displayed above,“Miss Kitty” was another piece that tied art and homosexuality together. It was created by Paolo Schmidlin, and showed a statue of Pope Benedict XVI dressed as a drag queen. The Pope is wearing a blond wig in the shape of a woman’s bob, very high patterned or lacy looking stockings, a women’s shawl sliding down both shoulders, underwear with girly bows on the sides, stud earrings, and a pink barrette pinning the one side of hair back. It also appears that he may be wearing makeup on his upper eyelids, and he is not wearing a shirt exposing his entire chest. His actual body appears to be a male even though his hair and what he is wearing looks female. He is also smiling and tilting his head in a flirty kind of manner.  The sculpture was forced to be removed from Milan because of protest from multiple catholic groups. One of these groups included the Catholic Anti-Defamation League which found the piece very offensive for turning a religious figure into queer. Unfortunately, attempts at keeping queer art in museums is a lot harder than one would think thanks to more control being in the hands of conservative catholic groups. Hopefully, censorship of artwork by the catholic religion will not always remain an issue for the future.

http://www.popcrunch.com/15-of-the-most-controversial-pieces-of-art/?img=116141

http://www.popcrunch.com/15-of-the-most-controversial-pieces-of-art/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2010/12/09/AR2010120905885.html

Bumblefuck, USA

The movie opens with the suicide of Matt, a character that we do not know anything about at first. Alexa, a young Dutch woman from Amsterdam who was a close friend of Matt travels to the US in search of answers regarding Matt’s life. Alexa rents a room in a man’s home in Iowa where Matt grew up. Throughout the movie, Alexa makes a documentary which is comprised of interviews from people in the queer community who have come out. Alexa believes that Matt killed himself because of his sexuality because shortly before committing suicide Matt came out as being gay. The interviews we see throughout the movie discuss things that range from first kisses and dealing with their sexual identities to suicide attempts.

Throughout her interviews and exploration of Matt’s death, Alexa meets Jennifer. Actually, Alexa wakes up in what appears to be Jennifer’s living room after a night at the bar. When Alexa first opens her eyes she sees Jennifer who is working on a piece of art she is putting together from recycled materials. Jennifer offers Alexa a cup of coffee and in her rush to get out of the house, Alexa leaves with her coffee in hand. Then a few days later Alexa returns to Jenifer’s window with a fresh hot cup of coffee in hand and apologizes for running off so quickly. She then invites herself in through the window and insists that she go along with Jennifer to help her look for materials in the junkyard. From there, their friendship grows and soon Alexa realizes that she might be finding out more about herself from this trip than she had intended. Through rough questioning of herself and her sexuality Alexa finally comes to the conclusion that she likes Jennifer. This is commonly experienced by members in the LGBT+ community and it relates very strongly to the overall content of our class.

Though the questioning of her sexuality that Alexa, as well as many of the people she has interviewed are shown to have experienced fall in line with many of the readings as well as discussions we have had in class, this is not what stood out to me the most in the movie. There was one particular line during one of Alexa’s interviews with a lesbian woman that really caught my attention and made me think back to our very first readings. The woman being interviewed said something along the lines of how she thought it was ridiculous that women are only conceived as an idea so long as a man is involved. She then went on to talk about how society sees women only as compared to men and she asks why women can’t just be seen as women, and as stated it made me think all the way back to when we read “One Is Not Born a Woman” by Monique Wittig. Throughout which Wittig talks about how women only exist as a concept of the society which they live in. Wittig also talks about how if we could somehow no longer have the classification of man then we would no longer have to have the classification of woman and maybe things could be equal rather that men being superior simply because of their classification as a man.

Queer Culture In A Home At The End Of The World

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A Home At The End Of The World is a movie that was released in 2004 and directed by Michael Mayer. Pulitzer Prize-winning Michael Cunningham wrote the screenplay as well as the novel that the film was based off of in 1990. The film was shot in New York City, Toronto, Phoenix and Schomberg and its premiere was at the New York Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.

Cunningham is a gay novelist and lecturer who wrote about what it was like to be a child in the 60’s and 70’s as well as an adult in the 80’s. The movie spans about 12 years and follows the lives of two best friends­— Bobby Morrow and Jonathon Glover. Bobby has been through many hardships in his life. He loses both his parents and his older brother and turns to Jonathon and Jonathon’s family for comfort and friendship.

Jonathon and Bobby develop a sexual and emotional relationship in their youth. They’re reunited in young adulthood when Bobby needs a place to stay. Jonathon lives with a colorful bohemian named Clare whom he is very in love with. However, Jonathon ends up falling for Bobby, his first and eternal love, all over again. The three roommates end up developing a three-way relationship and having a child together. Clare eventually moves away with baby Rebecca and leaves Bobby and Jonathon to themselves. Bobby cares for Jonathon in his last days while he dies prematurely of AIDS.

I chose to include this film in our digital archive because it shows what it was like to be homosexual as a child and having parents that aren’t necessarily accepting. I feel that this is relevant to our class because most of us are still young enough that our parents have some sort of dictation over our lives, and coming out might cause significant problems in our relationships.

This film represents a different type of queer culture. The beginning took place in the 60’s and 70’s when people were a lot less accepting over homosexuality than they are today. While Jonathon’s mother wasn’t necessarily unaccepting when she caught Jonathon and Bobby together, she was definitely less than happy. This speaks volumes coming from a mother who does drugs with her son; she’s clearly very open but still was uneasy about her child’s homosexuality.

To quote The Straight Mind by Monique Wittig, “These discourses of heterosexuality oppress us in the sense that they prevent us from speaking unless we speak in their terms. Everything which puts them into question is at once disregarded as elementary.” This really sums up how I think Jonathon’s mother acted. She sees heterosexuality as the norm and is confused that her son is straying from it.

Gender was represented in this film through Carlton. His part in the film was brief, but he broke away from gender norms. He wore feminine clothing, had long hair and talked about how beautiful the world was. Sex is represented in this film through Bobby and Jonathon exploring their sexuality together when they were young. Jonathon is beginning to come out as homosexual, but it seems as though Bobby is just open to everything. Even when they’re adults and Clare says in regards to Bobby, “The good ones are always gay,” Jonathon insists that Bobby isn’t gay.

This film clearly represents history well since the time period is set between 35 and 55 years ago. As I previously mentioned, it demonstrates how much harder it could be to be a homosexual person during a time period where things weren’t so acceptable. As far as the contemporary goes, some things really never change. Parents are still often upset about finding out that their child is gay. People still struggle to define their sexuality like Bobby. And people still go through tragedies and hardships, lean on their friends and come out better for it.

The New Black: Homophobia in the African American Community

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The New Black is a documentary that was filmed in Maryland and produced in 2013 by film director, screenwriter and producer, Yoruba Richen. Richen was born in 1972, graduated from Brown University, lived in San Francisco and currently resides in New York City. The New Black won the audience award for AFI Docs, Frameline Film Festival and Philly Q Fest, and was also nominated for the NAACP Image Award and GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Documentary. Yoruba Richen has also produced and directed other films such as Promised Land, which received an award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Her documentary gives the perspective of the African American community struggling with, the then idea of gay rights—it gave insight on gay rights and how it intersects with religious politics and civil politics. The documentary highlights the legalization of same sex marriage and focuses on the different families and religious leaders on both sides of the campaign. The documentary critically analyzes homophobia within the African American community and attempts to determine whether same sex marriage is a religious issue or civil.

“The way I look at civil rights in that order is discrimination is based on something that I had no control over. I had no control over the fact that God made me Black, and I had no control over the fact that God made me a female. So if you discriminate against me on those basis, but being gay and lesbian, to my way of thinking, is something you chose to do.”~ Member of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland.

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Hope Christian Church is a church in Maryland that is led by Derek McCoy. The documentary follows him and a few other people, Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the National Black Justice Coalition; American minister and Senior Pastor of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church, Reverend Delman Coates; Karess Taylor-Hughes, field organizer for Equality Maryland and The Human Rights Campaign; Samantha Master,Youth and Campus Outreach Intern for the Human Rights Campaign; and gospel singer Tonéx.

Religion versus politics is an obvious theme throughout the documentary, but another theme was “Is this a religion issue or civil rights issue?” From the religious political perspective there was Pastor Derek McCoy who was campaigning to stop the redefinition of marriage. He believes that marriage is meant for man and woman and that’s it. During his campaigning he involved children, who appeared to be around 7 and 8 years old, because he thought they were educated enough on the subject. Children only know what they are taught so it is hard for children to form an opinion of their own. From young ages boys are taught they cannot play with dolls because it is feminine and the parents “fear” that their son will become gay. This is especially true within the Black community. Growing up in that setting, on top of growing up in a Black conservative church, homosexuality was something that you didn’t speak about. It is “wrong, damned and ultimately a choice”. Most Black churches believe that being a homosexual is a decision that you made because God did not make man gay and woman lesbian. Pastor Derek McCoy believed that this was a religious issue and nothing more.

“The Black church to this day remains fundamentally conservative.”~ Rev. Delman Coates

On the other hand you have Reverend Delman Coates who was also a religious leader at his church but he believed that same sex marriage was a civil rights issues. He recognized that giving homosexuals, Blacks specifically, this right was another form of freedom.

Oppression on Blacks has existed since slavery and still exists to this day. Homosexuality is not something “new” or “generational” as some religious leaders like to put it. Bayard Rustin was an openly gay Black man who marched beside Martin Luther King, Jr., and was one of the main driving forces of the Civil Rights Movement, but he couldn’t be the “face” of the marches because he was a gay man and that was frowned upon. Reverend Delman Coates critically examined homophobia within African American community because he believed that Blacks are oppressed enough. He didn’t think that African Americans should oppress their own people even more, when the rest of the world is already doing that.

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“They use the pulpit as a space of hate, to undermine people’s rights…”

There is a sense of power that exists when one is in a position to persuade people. There is especially a greater sense of power when religion is involved because when people feel as though they have nothing, they fall back on their faith. Pastors, priests, deacons, etc. use their position to preach what they believe to be true. They use religion and scream what is right and wrong, but forget that denying a human their right to make a decision is wrong. They also turn people away from the church and religion as a whole. One of the gay rights activists in the documentary, Samantha Master, turned away from her faith and fell into a deep depression because the church shunned her sexual orientation.

Saying no to same sex marriage is taking away that freedom—for Blacks it is another form of oppression and is something else that needs the fight.

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“I believe that there is a lot in the African American experience, that same-gendered families can draw from. How to have a family when you are marginalized.”

Sam Smith: Musician on the Rise

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“I want to thank the man who this record is about, who I fell in love with last year. Thank you so much for breaking my heart, because you got me four Grammys.”

– Sam Smith (via The Daily Beast)

Sam Smith is a 22-year-old British musician who earned his first number one single with the song “La La La” in May 2013. Since then, the musician has released an album, toured the world, and won four Grammy’s. Smith came out as gay in May 2014, following the release of his debut album In the Lonely Hour, which was the third best selling album of 2014 and won the 2015 Grammy for best pop vocal album. He was the first openly gay male to win the award.

In the Lonely Hour, which has achieved much critical and commercial success, was inspired by Smith’s past relationship with model and actor Jonathan Zeizel. While many view Smith’s music as a positive representation of queer relationships, many question the decisive exclusion of gendered pronouns within his songs. Pronouns like “he” and “his” are nearly entirely absent from is his work, leading some popular queer culture blogs and publications to criticize his work. In an interview, Smith stated that he if first and foremost a singer and that his sexuality should not define his identity as an artist.

“Sometimes people forget to even ask me about my songs, and the things I’m actually doing because they ask me about my sexuality – it shouldn’t be a talking point,” Smith said to Access Hollywood.

Many artists, who some deem as “icons” within queer culture such as Lady Gaga, are singing praises for Smith. Some point to the fact that many of his songs help eradicate stereotypes surrounding queer hook up culture, that have been perpetuated by the mass media. Films such as William Friedkin’s Cruising, which depicts gay underground sex culture in the 1970’s and 80’s, brought queer culture to the mainstream in a negative light. For many, films such like Cruising – which was directed by a straight man created a negative, amplified, and unrealistic image of queer culture. Simply by writing and performing hit songs that happen to be about Smith’s past relationship, he brings realistic gay relationships onto a mainstream scale.

“It was only until I started to be myself that the music started to flow and people started to listen.”

– Sam Smith (via The Daily Beast)

Though Smith’s songs don’t always depict positive relationships, in fact, one of his biggest hits, “I’m Not the Only One,” is about getting cheated on by his boyfriend. Yet these songs depict love, loss, and heartbreak — bringing realism to relationships that have been, and still are, stigmatized due to stereotypes.

Sam Smith is still a new artist, and nobody knows how his music will affect, if at all, mainstream ideas about queer culture. But having an astoundingly popular singer-songwriter, who also happens to be a gay man, is certainly a positive step forward.