The public has a better understanding of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) now than in the past. However, the discrimination and aversion toward sexual minorities are ongoing—sometimes inside, other times even outside. Homophobes continuously express hatred under the freedom of speech simply because they cherish different values from those of LGBT. Nonetheless, People to People (P2P) persistently makes efforts to promote equal rights for LGBT.
▲ The banner that congratulated LGBT’s entrance and graduation in 2015. Provided by P2P.
People to People (P2P) is the only sexual minority club present at Korea University (KU). It is a society under the Central Association of University Clubs that started off as a small group of people in September 1995. By March 2016, the number of club members had mounted to 300 people, and 100 of them are currently active. Anyone who belongs to the KU community, whether a college student or graduate, permanent or exchange, and even faculty or staff, is welcome to join the club at any time. Non-sexual minorities such as cisgender heterosexuals, on the other hand, are not allowed.
The club members meet for the general assembly to come up with plans for their future activities. For example, P2P holds an annual Queer Film Festival for everyone in May, when it shows three to four movies with Queer themes to the audience and provides brief explanations for each movie. Prior to the event, members discuss how the festival will be held. Although the general assembly is held only once a month, members can get fully acquainted with each other at regular meetings.
The members also interact with other members of sexual minority clubs from other universities as a part of the Korean LGBT University Student Alliance (QUV). Together, they unite to campaign for the rights of sexual minorities. P2P members have persistently claimed their rights at KU as well. Many times, however, the process was heartbreaking. Surprising as it may sound, hatred and discrimination toward the members are present at KU to a considerable degree. At such times, members have to rely on each other to endure the hardships.
For instance, P2P members had put up a banner that congratulated LGBT’s graduation and entrance in 2014. A few days later, however, members were notified that the banner had disappeared. Furthermore, when P2P asked to borrow the 4.18 Memorial Hall auditorium for the Queer Film Festival in 2015, its request was denied by the Office of Student Affairs. The office of Student Affairs explained that the space could not be lent as another KU organization had already made a reservation. However, it turned out that no organization was using the place on that day.
The banner terror and Queer Film Festival incidents indicate that abhorrence toward LGBT is “real.” Unconditional hatred and irrational behavior that people have heard about on the news are actually being practiced at KU, one of the nation’s most prestigious universities. “We felt a letdown for having to fight constantly with people who do not respect our differences at all,” recalled a member of P2P. Although the disappointment that P2P members felt from the harsh environment is unfathomable, they could not let all their past efforts come to nothing. Therefore, members have been continuously asserting their rights through meaningful activities such as publishing an annual Queer Guide and carrying out Queer Monitoring.
▲ A cover of the most recent Queer Guide, the 15th Queer Guide. Provided by P2P.
▲ A poster of Queer Film Festival in 2015. Provided by P2P.
P2P publishes Queer Guide at the end of the year to encapsulate P2P’s annual achievements. For example, the guide informs readers about the topics that were discussed in Queer Seminars and the movies that were shown in Queer Film Festival. It goes as far as to describe how many people participated in the events and what the overall atmosphere was like. Moreover, the guide captures the life of LGBT. In the 14th Queer Guide, there are personal stories of P2P members. Stories include recounts of a member who had a crush on a high school friend; a moment when a member found out about their sexuality; and a member’s experience in P2P.
P2P also carries out Queer Monitoring in order to identify any discrimination and hatred towards sexual minorities in KU. Last year, P2P received a report that a professor had been repetitively referring to homosexuals as “homos”. The professor went as far as to claim that homosexuality imposes a negative influence on teenagers. When P2P demanded an apology, however, the professor showed no signs of regret. To redress the misbehavior, P2P enhanced publicity on the issue by putting up a hand-written poster near the West Gate. “We are planning to make a report to the Gender Equality Center and notify the KU press if similar cases occur ever again,” said P2P.
Some may try to console these LGBT people by pointing out that the world has gotten better. Indeed, people’s perspectives on sexual minorities are slowly changing, and KU is not an exception. In October 2014, Korea University Student Association (KUSA) included an additional clause to KU bylaws to protect the rights of sexual minorities. Under this law, LGBT are prohibited from receiving any kinds of discrimination.
Nonetheless, a discourse on discrimination and hatred towards LGBT should always be used in the “present tense.” “People should not overlook the problems we face today just because they think that circumstances have gotten better. We have come far, but we still have a long way to go,” explained a member of P2P. P2P members are not asking for much. They just hope that they can live in an environment where their values are respected by others so that they can are treated as equal members of society. In reality, though, members need to face ceaseless obstacles as part of a minority in this society.
However, just like a roly-poly, they refuse to stay down. “We will gladly take on all challenges until everyone learns to accept and understand each other’s differences,” promised P2P. So until then, look out for the remarkable changes these future revolutionists will make.
Period of Recruitment: Anytime. Requirements to Join P2P: Only LGBT people in KU are welcomed. Contact Information: If you want to join P2P, you can find the membership application at queerkorea.org
For any questions about the club, e-mail P2P at firstname.lastname@example.org