Tens of thousands of people descended on Seoul Plaza on Saturday to celebrate this year’s Seoul Queer Culture Festival.
In honor of the annual event, we asked a group of LGBT people what the Pride event means to them.
(Video shot and edited by Lim Jeong-yeo/The Korea Herald)
YouTuber Lee Yeol said Pride means so much to sexual minorities.
“We often hide ourselves in everyday life as we live in a society where it is difficult to be truly ourselves. That’s why to be able to express ourselves and send a message of unity on days like this is very important,” Lee said.
He said his family and friends were worried about possible criticism at first when he began his YouTube channel openly as a gay man, but now they are proud of him and support him.
Lee ran a booth this year featuring a shrine of hateful messages gay people have received, which were later burned in a show of defiance.
YouTuber Lee Yeol (Yim Hyun-su/The Korea Herald)
Events like the Seoul Queer Culture Festival are to serve human needs, said Heezy Yang, also known by his drag alter ego Hurricane Kimchi.
“As a queer person, as a person who cannot have a ‘normal life’ in such a conservative country that is South Korea, having a day where we can celebrate who we really are, and having a safe space where we can be who really are, I think, is very important,” Yang said.
Asked about criticism that Pride promotes drinking and promiscuity, he said that although having fun and revealing clothes are not exclusive to gay people, they are often used against sexual minorities.
Heezy Yang (Lim Jeong-yeo/The Korea Herald)
Pride has a special meaning for not only LGBT people but also their family members and allies.
“LGBT events give an opportunity to raise awareness of the existence of LGBT people and their parents. As fellow members of society we can also call for understanding and equality,” one mother with an LGBT child at the event said.
The mother, who is a member of Parents and Families of LGBTAIQ People in Korea, joined the group after her son, who identifies as genderqueer and rejects conventional gender identities, asked for support.
She hopes more parents with LGBT children show love and understanding and recognize their children’s equal rights to coexist and be happy.
A handheld sign at this year’s queer parade in Seoul reads, ”I am a proud queer.“ (Lim Jeong-yeo/The Korea Herald)
To Michelle, who identifies as pansexual, the Pride event is “an opportunity for all people to live their lives well and be respected.”
Michelle said, “In society, we don’t always get the opportunity to celebrate minority lives. Instead, people that come from minority backgrounds are asked to conform to the majority.”
“We need Pride to continue to fight against this pressure to hate ourselves,” Michelle said. “And we need Pride because it makes a safe space for us to know that we are part of a big community and loved by all.”
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