10 November 2007

coming out... once a week

i told sleepy seonsaengnim i'm gay... but will she remember in the morning?

last night i hosted a farewell party for one of my former classmates. our korean language level 1 posse formed strong bonds despite our poorly spoken common tongue, and maintained them even after advancing to level 2 and different classrooms. we hold great affection for our former (and my current) seonsaengnim (teacher), who's an extraordinarily charismatic woman.

this morning seonsaengnim woke up on my couch after having passed out on the floor. a few hours earlier i had told her that i was gay, at which point she admitted to having set me up on a date with her female colleague under the guise of discussing me editing sogang's next set of books. retrospectively re-classifying that "meeting" as a date is weird, and now i wonder if i still have that job. sure this kind of thing also happens in the states, but it's still odd for teachers to actively hook up their students with other teachers.

multiple "i am gay" proclamations are necessary here. back in the usa my coming out narrative was uniform: when i told family and friends that i am homo it was received as a profound, unambiguous disclosure that was affirmed, comprehended and... remembered.

but last night, by casually making reference to being homo, it became the fourth time i came out to my classmates. as is always the case, at least one of them looked confused, requested clarification, and then dramatically twisted their face in disgust while shouting incredulous "진짜?! 진짜?!"'s (really?!). although the japanese have been better at comprehending, their determination to suppress any reaction is more palpably awkward than others' screams. the one guest that had not been privvy to my homosexuality was the male teacher sitting next to me, who distinguished himself last quarter by overcompensating for his effeminacy by routinely making homophobic comments. i sympathize with the tempest in his head (and loins).

what's interesting to me is that in this group of 10 students, 2 of them have, at different times, disclosed to me that they, too, are queer. not in an american/western way, but while one woman months back discretely gave me the thumbs up after hearing i was gay and told me later about her own lesbionic leanings, just last night another comrade told me about her same-sex relationships in high school. so, 3 in 10 of us (at least) are gay-ish if not bonafide homos, and yet we still go through these dramatic coming out episodes that reinforce the farce that same-sex attraction is exceptional.

a big part of my frustration with korean gays is that they're "all" closeted. whenever i hear the invariable refrain, "you know, korea is a conservative country," i want to roll my eyes. although practically no one is out to their families, many think they already know. perhaps what's been lost in translation on the way from their mouths into my western ears is that this "conservatism" is shorthand for differentiating between the public disclosure and formal definition of being homo with same-sex orientation and inferred gay sex.

however, the lines are blurring. in the past, no doubt dudes screwed dudes on the side, but they also got married, continued the family line and spared their family the embarrassment. but now, as eastern and western ways of thinking and living cross, i wonder the impact of keeping homosexuality largely undefined and under wraps. when asian folks see flamboyant examples of gay lifestyle in the west but not here it's no wonder they might conclude that "Gay" is something only white people do in europe and america. as i've been told, there are no gays in korea... (or in iran, as ahmadinejad was famously misquoted as saying). a better interpretation is that there are no capital G, western-style homos here. of course that's also wrong, but no wonder some folks assume that gay in a capital G sense is a choice, not a genetic premeditation.

anyhow, next week there will be more opportunities to come out again to the same people and watch them react. you know, korea is a very conservative country...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A person there could sell the SHIT out of pepcid AC. Glowww is in the house.