Internet broadcasts that are broadcasted by sexual minorities are gaining popularity nowadays. In addition, there are more and more “queer- friendly” companies emerging like LUSH, Adidas, and Absolute. Although people are becoming more aware of sexual minorities, these marginalized groups are still being discriminated against in many aspects in the Korean society. Even universities for instance, still have a passive attitude when it comes to dealing with the human rights of sexual minorities. On this movement, it is time to look back on the current situation and think about the equal rights of this underrepresented segment of the population.
Definition of LGBT
LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. Llesbian is ‘a female who experiences romantic love or sexual attraction to other females.’ Gay is a term that primarily refers to a homosexual person, especially a man. Bisexuality is mainly used in the context of human attraction to denote romantic or sexual feelings toward both men and women. The American Psychological Association states that, “sexual orientation falls along a continuum. In other words, someone does not have to be exclusively homosexual or heterosexual, but can feel varying degrees of both. Sexual orientation develops across a person’s lifetime and different people realize at different points in their lives that they are heterosexual, bisexual, or homosexual.” Transgender people are those who experience a mismatch between their gender identity or gender expression, and their assigned sex. Transgender people are sometimes called transsexual if they desire medical assistance to transition from one sex to another. Besides LGBT, there are other kinds of sexual minorities, like an intersexual person or hermaphrodite who has both male and female genital organs.
Clubs for Sexual Minorities at Universities
“In 2011, when sexual minorities decided to found the Hanyang LGBT Committee, there were few committees for the rights of sexual minorities at universities so there were no models to benchmark. Also, this was not a club but an independent student organization, so we had to prepare a lot of things and compare with other human rights groups. The rights of the LGBT are controversial at Hanyang University(HYU) so it is hard to ignore the negative opinions towards us,” said Song Ki-chan, the President of the Hanyang LGBT Committee. Originally, the Hanyang LGBT Committee was to be assigned with a place when they were first founded, but that only happened recently, in February of this year. HYU delayed the assignment of a room for the Hanyang LGBT Committee, saying they needed to collect public opinion or there were no rooms available. After looking around every building to find a vacant room, they could finally get one for the committee which took eight months. The public relations situation is not favorable as well. A typical way to promote awareness of an issue or event is to post banners or stickers, or to wear the T-shirts. Banners are easy to display by themselves, but the stickers are often damaged by those who are against the committee. Moreover, it is hard to think of other creative ways to promote as a supporter might be mistaken as being lesbian or gay. Thus, the most effective and safest one is through banners and on Facebook.
The Hanyang LGBT Committee takes part in various activities for sexual minorities. For example, they revealed the names of politicians who publicly made disrespectful comments towards the LGBT community. They also reply to questions uploaded on online community websites for sexual minorities. The reason that they work so hard is because they want people to acknowledge sexual minorities. “The purpose of these activities is to help the groups for the rights of sexual minorities like ours can work in the better environment in the future. We want to live in a world where everyone acknowledges our presence and no one discriminates against us,” Song said.
How People Generally Perceive Sexual Minorities
“The fact that some girls can fall in love with other girls is not a big issue for me. I just personally do not find myself playing an active role supporting them,” said Jeong Hee-yeong, a Business Administration major at Chonbuk National University. It seems that the perception has slightly changed in that neutral opinions are coming more and more. Those who passively support LGBT claimed that if their friends or family members came out to them, they would not hesitate to accept the truth but they would be concerned about their future because Korean society does not openly support sexual minorities yet.
On the other hand, the opposing part is still big. An anonymous student of the Business Administration Department at HYU said, “If my old friends or my family members came out to me, I think I would feel angry and betrayed because I would feel like the time that I had spend with them was under a pretense and it would have been all for nothing.” It seems that the older he or she, the more likely the one is strongly against LGBT. A male worker at City Hall said, “Sexual minorities cause sexually transmitted diseases(STD) and bring social confusion to the concept of gender. They bring unnecessary chaos especially for teenagers who do not have a firm gender identity.” Furthermore those who are against tend to believe that if discrimination against LGBT members were to become illegal, it would violate one’s freedom of expression For example, many Christians would not be able to express their opposition towards the sexual minority life.
In recent years, the LGBT has attempted to host the Queer Parade in Seoul and it always becomes an issue. Even though law makers have attempted to introduce a legislation prohibiting discrimination against LGBT members three times since 2007, these efforts were all rejected. Illegalizing the discrimination is about the human rights of not only the sexual minority but also all citizens in a nation. Such legal protect again discrimination in general, protects not only sexual minorities but also the disadvantaged like disabled people, ethnic minorities, and so on. Under the Korean constitution, citizens are supposed to be treated equally in society. Supporters argue that sexual orientation is natural and thus sexual minorities should not be blamed for their orientation. On the other hand, the opposing part fears the possibility of reverse discrimination. Pope Benedict ⅩⅥ who served the Roman Catholic Church from 2005 to 2013, criticized the Equality Act in 2010 because it eventually forces religious organizations that regard homosexuality as a sin to take on gay members as part of their staff.
Necessary Further Step
More and more sexual minorities are coming out as LGBT and therefore, Korea needs to acknowledge their rights and accept them as members of society. There must also be legal protection against such discrimination. At the same time, the positive and negative effects regarding reverse discrimination should be considered. Work to resolve the problems experienced by sexual minorities should be made lawfully along with the gradual improvement of the public’s perception.