The Granite Tower
FEATURECOVER STORY
That Thing They Call Love
Bae Jiyoung  |  jennyjiyoung@korea.ac.kr
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승인 2014.04.06  22:05:00
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▲ Photographed by by Park Jiwon
The brave celebrity Ellen Page made her first formal speech announcing that she is alesbian. On Valentine’s Day of this year, she stood in front of the crowd and told about the life of homosexuals and how hard it is to have courage and accept themselves for who they are. Her words helped the sexual minorities to have more hope than before. However, there seems to be two distinct perspectives among the public.
 
“A democracy is nothing more thanmob rule, where fifty-one percent ofthe people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.” — Thomas Jefferson
 
Democracy is defined in Webster’s Encyclopedic Dictionary as “a government by the people.”However, what is left out of the definition is whatconstitutes “the people.” Throughout history,democracy has been governed by the wellunderstoodprinciple, majority rule. Thus, whenwe talk about the people’s claim, it is usuallyexpressed through its majority. Since this principlehas been going on for a long time, unconsciouslythere are some incidents where the minorities’rights have not been well respected or sometimesunprotected. In the past, discriminations such asracism and sexism were the big issues. However,nowadays, there is a controversial issue regardingwhom people should and should not love.
 
For a long time, it has been stereotyped thatonly two different sexes can love each otherand marriage is only allowed between these different sexes. These stereotypes had been aninexorable truth. However, nowadays, there arepeople who are willing to express that they arenot heterosexual. Compared to the past, the socialacknowledgements toward these homosexuals aremore accepting.
 
Unfortunately, however, these people only takeup a small proportion of the population, leadingto sufferings from indifference and ignoranceamong the majority. On February 24 of thisyear, the banner held by the People to People—Korea University (KU) club for sexual minorities—welcoming the first year homosexual students in KU vanished. This shows even though we are ina somewhat open society, we are still lacking inunderstanding the minorities. By fully perceivingwho they are and the situation they are in, we cantake one step closer to equality.
 
 
   
▲ Geneticist Dean Hamer wrote theories referring to genetic links and sexualorientation.Provided by bucknell.edu
 
   
▲ The picture of Sigmund Frued who explained homosexuals from the past relationshipwith the parents. Provided by museemagazine.com
 
 
 
The Never-Ending Dispute
The ongoing argument whether sexual preference is influenced 100 percent genetically, environmentally or from partial contribution of both factors is still a controversy. This is important for some people because it gives them a chance to reconsider accepting the difference, despite their old beliefs.
 
The debate that sexual orientation is derived from genetic predetermination began in 1991, when Dean Hamer published “A Linkage Between DNA Markers On The X Chromosome And Male Sexual Orientation” in Science. He studied DNA from homosexual siblings and their lineages. He reported that a gene for homosexuality seemed to be inherited and found on the Xq28 stretch of the X chromosome.
 
However, in his paper he mentioned it using words such as “seem to indicate” and “probably”, only suggesting that genes influencing homosexuality reside in the Xq28 region. The media, on the other hand, did not mind his hesitation and exaggerated the findings, saying that the scientific area has bright prospects finding gay genes.
 
Since the original research could not define the mechanism of how the genes in the Xq28 area are involved in sexual orientation clearly, it has been up for debate until now. On February 13, 2014, Michael Bailey, a psychologist at Northwestern University in Illinois, mentioned studies from Chicago University that there are genes involved in male sexual orientation, during a discussion held in the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
 
The work is not yet published and still in the process of confirmation from other specialists. Professor Bailey said, “Sexual orientation has nothing to do with choice. We found evidence for two sets of genes that affect whether a man is gay or straight. But it is not completely determinative; there are certainly other environmental factors involved.” The research claims that, while genes do interfere with sexual orientation, other factors, such as the levels of hormones a baby is exposed  to in the womb, contribute as well.
 
Despite the recent discovery, there are some counter examples as well. The coming out of Jason Collins—the American professional basketball center for the Brooklyn Nets—was a significant case in that his identical twin Jaron Collins was not homosexual. Even when they both share identical DNA, they had different sexual orientations. The psychoanalysts, as well, find reasons from a different perspective. Sigmund Freud first erected the correlation between homosexual and psychoanalysis by explaining the relationship with the child and parents. Freud sought explanation
from the Oedipus complex—a child’s desire to sexually possess the parent of the opposite sex—where the child had the fear of castration. Later, Melanie Klein and Irving Bieber explained that having the experience of being afraid of their mother or the opposite sex while growing up, later contributed to being homosexual.
 
A lot of theories have been studied for a long time; however, there is not a perfect consensus on why homosexuals are who they are. Some believe loving the same sex should be prohibited because it is not in intrinsic nature, but simply the wrong choice they have made. Regardless, the sexual minorities ask for pure respect instead of finding out the reasons to their existence. The representative of People to People said, “It is a pity that we are experimented on and researched on as to why we have such an identity. This is just who we are with no explanations necessary.”
 
 
The Hues of the Rainbow, Whirling the Globe
The color of diversity scatters to the atmosphere and people are opening their eyes to originality and possibility. Undoubtedly, the new era of diversity shifted the view of the global citizens to difference.
 
Tangled to a number of sensitive fields, most essentially religious, homosexuality has long been considered a taboo under the mouth of people. With the passage of time, diversity in sexual orientation came to be approved by several groups of people.
 
Still, the international society has yet to reach a consummate accomplishment in truly understanding homosexuality. The general spectrum of this new tendency fluctuates according to nation, which leads to the uneven changes over the globe. Such a hasty pace out of congruity leaves several countries behind, limping over the age-long barriers to make changes. There are a number of levels to the global perception on the issue, and they are in fact impossible to classify thoroughly.
 
 Nevertheless, to sort things out in a map and catch the global trend in a glimpse, countries can be simplified into three distinct categories. So to speak, they are namely utter patency, medium patency, and shut patency, with Spain, the United States (U.S.), and Egypt following these three respectively. These analysis objectively explain the worldwide progression on the issue of homosexuality.
 
 
The “Emerald City” for Homosexuals—Spain
 
“I really find no reason to reject them… They love because they love each other, and they feel it with their own heart. Then what matters?” stated Pablo Llanos Alonso (22, Madrid) when asked about his opinion on homosexuals. His assertion definitely cannot be generalized alone to that of the entire population of Spain; but the following survey proves that this form of reaction is not only embraced by Alonso.
 
According to the recent survey of PEW Research Center in June, 2013, as much as 88 percent of the citizens in Spain replied that homosexuality should be accepted by the society. Hence, the country took the glorious first place in displaying open welcome to homosexuals, followed by Germany and the Czech Republic. Undoubtedly, nowadays, Spain stands firmly with the name of the nation that provides the highest degree of liberty to homosexuals. By legitimizing samesex marriage in 1979 and adoption by homosexual couples in 2005, the country became one of the very few countries that passed both bills.
 
Nonetheless, breaking through the stereotypes and the remains of the past had not been too easy for Spain, equally under the oppression of religion. The reputation as the kingdom for homosexuals wasacquired after the rugged voyage through hell and high tide. Under the stern influence of Christianity, which defines procreation as the one and only reason for sexuality, homosexual intercourse or sodomy was considered a sin that runs contrary to God. Starting with the Christian Emperors Constantius the second and the Constans, the first law against same-sex marriage had been announced. In the worst days around the year 390, people caught sharing homosexual affairs were sentenced to death by fire in front of the public. 
 
After such an agonizing past with much blood and tears, Spain now paves the road to the new age for homosexuals. With a myriad of annual Gay Pride Festivals in the biggest cities of Spain, Madrid and Barcelona, the country strikes the root of liberty in its homeland. The people do not cease here, but plan to permeate into the global society through homosexual/ movies and events such as Europride. In this regard, Spain sticks its name out as the Emerald City for homosexuals.
 
 
 
 
The Mosaic of Contrasting Colors—U.S.
 
With a total of 50 states overall, the U.S. is portraying the utmost intermittency in approving homosexuality. The discrepancy among the degree of acceptance varies largely according to the state history, government, and population. Concerning the changes that the U.S. had gone through over time, the country is definitely on the road of embracing homosexuals. Nevertheless, due to a number of states that are almost governed independently and pursue a law-based notion, the country is rather being prudent in understanding this difference in sexual orientation.
 
Though it is true that other policies are promulgated in a state-bystate basis, a policy about sexual activity between same sexes has been legalized by the U.S. Supreme Court under the Lawrence vs. Texas case in 2003, which makes it legal nationwide. Based on this law, the age of consent for homosexual intercourse, samesex marriage, and adoption by homosexual couples vary. Most notably, while states such as Illinois, New York, and Washington passed the bill for same-sex  marriage, a portion of the states including Minnesota and Michigan had been persistent in illegalizing
official marriage of homosexuals.
 
“I live in New York, and as many people know, same-sex marriage is legal by law. I personally agree with same-sex marriage, and I can see opinions split whenever I discuss homosexuality with my friends,” said Caroline Stevenson (24, New York). Unlike Spain, which was mentioned before, people display various responses to the issue of homosexuality in the country. With raging voices that often clash without accordance, the U.S. might seem stagnant and steady in making progress to the changes. However, under that superficial immobility, the basement is undergoing construction. Slowly yet with much solidity, the transition to diversity is also occurring to the country.
 
 
   
▲ People are beginning to recognize homosexuals as time changes. A man giving an applause to them in the LGBT festival. Provided by the Huffington Post.
 
 
The Frog in a Well—Egypt
 
Unlike the former two countries that show some degree of patency, Egypt, and most likely other Muslim countries, is maintaining a high level of consistency in forbidding homosexuality. Almost all countries that believe in the Islam religion covering Southwestern Asia display extreme abomination towards the love affair that is not agreed in the Koran. To homosexuals exposed to such a public, the society mostly sentences them to death with some minorities that are sentenced to life in prison.
 
“Yes, I’m against homosexuality. I understand people who do support them and gave a thought to their logic, but it failed to convince me. It is still against religion and God,” explained Hafez Moud (22, Cairo) when asked about the issue of same-sex affairs. This is in fact the response of the majority of citizens in Egypt. Considering the survey of PEW Research Center, mentioned above, over 95 percent of the people outwardly displayed abomination  towards homosexuality and claimed that the homosexuals should not be accepted by the society.
 
 
The reason for such behavior results from religion, of course, and also the political power that once shackled homosexuals under the words of God. From the year 2000, Hosni Mubarak took over the reign of Egypt and opened the curtain to the age of dismal in homosexual aspects. For every homosexual affairs, Mubarak charged the affair for the violation of honor by threat and practice of immoral, indecent attitude. As a well known example, a 17-year-old boy was sentenced to 17 years in prison, including two years of hard labor just by the fact that he posted a personal profile on a gay dating site in the year 2004.
 
It has been years after abdication of Mubarak, but the past was stimulating enough for the Egypt citizens to imprint the culture into their minds. Nowadays, Egypt is standing still like the frog in a well. Within the walls of history and religion they have amassed over time, the country is putting its God in front of any practical foreign affairs. Though there still is snippety possibility for changes in such attitude, Egypt seems to cling to its culture more than anything for many years to come.
 
 
Only Placid on the Surface—South Korea
 
Homosexuals have been among the social minorities from long ago. This is especially true in South Korea, where it has its cultural roots within Confucianism. In fact, the country had been taking unfriendly attitudes toward sexual minorities historically. Not far away from the present, only 18 percent of Koreans agreed to take homosexuals for granted within 2007’s poll conducted in the Pew Research Center Attitudes Survey.
 
Conversely, more and more Koreans are being open enough to acknowledge the existence of homosexual relationships. In a survey in June 2013—again, surveyed by the Pew—about 40 percent answered they could
accept homosexuals. Compared to European Union countries of which some scored above 80 percent, Korea’s acceptance d e g r e e m i g h t seem insignificant. However, Korea showed the biggest rise between the poll of 2007 and that of 2013 among 27 countries.
 
Indeed, in the close past, Korean parents, aftertheir kids’ come-outs, brought their kids to mental hospitals. This is still done in extreme cases. Comparatively in the present, however, it could be said that the social perception regarding lesbians and gays has been changing within Korea for the last few years. The younger generation, for instance, is relatively more acceptable to their gay or lesbian friends. “When I came-out, most of my friends eventually accepted me as the way I am,” said the representative of the People to People. Similar conclusions can be drawn from contemporary media as well. Over the last years, celebrities such as Hong Seok-chun have brought the topic of homosexuality to be discussed within the society. Increased portrayal of gay and lesbian characters in television shows prove, to some extent, that the public has formed a bit of familiarity toward sexual minorities.
 
Nevertheless, these are not to be mistaken for the generable view of the public. The issue may have surfaced for people to talk about, but it is hard to say that the Korean society is coming to a true understanding towards homosexuals.
 
 

Gays and lesbians characters on TV are mostly confined to comical roles, often having a foolish image. The drama series Princess Aurora, in particular, was criticized by their inaccurate and misleading depiction of homosexuals. Also, not all viewers feel comfortable watching these characters at home. Some conservatives and members of the older generations regard the televised gay figures to be problematic. The Coalition for Moral Sexuality, one of the nongovernmental organizations which has been expressing this discomfort, put an advertisement out in 2010 opposing the display of homosexual characters in the drama series, Beautiful Life.

 

 
“Many Koreans tend to not accept individuals who are different from themselves,” said Professor Yi Zoon-il (College of Law). Besides the social recognition, homosexuals’ Rights could be discussed more deeply in relation to legislation.
Kor e a n s a r e r a t h e r indifferent toward these social minorities’ Rights and are even more disinterested toward the legal acts concerning lesbians and gays. “While Korea holds an elusive attitude, many European countries, such as the Netherlands and some American states, have legalized laws for homosexual’s Human Rights,” said Professor Yi. These laws include the legal recognition of
 
their identities, and the legal approval of same sex marriages. In the aforementioned countries with legislations, same-sex marriage accounts for approximately four percent of all marriages.
 
“Lesbians and gays are currently socially disadvantaged. They have long wanted to confirm their Humanistic Rights,” said Yi. “In this sense, Korean sexual minorities have been demanding the law named the Prohibition on Discrimination. It is a broad legislation which will cover various Human Rights Acts, including that of lesbians and gays.” Advocates of the policy in Korea have tried to legalize the Prohibition on Discrimination several times since 2007, but the legislation failed four times consecutively.
 
An article does exist within the National Human Rights Commission of the Republic of Korea, regarding Human Rights for “every people regardless of their sexual orientations.” To be exact, the existing provision implies that people should be treated fair regardless of being homosexuals. Not as enforcive as a legislated law, the article applies to employment, transaction, and education. However, there is much room for improvement as the enacted provision only works as a guideline. “We need more integrated and practical laws to really alleviate the inequalities,” said Yi. “Korea is in its initial step of taking interest in the issues of the sexual minorities.”

 

   
 
 
A Step Closer To Social Integration
There are extreme cases where some do not  even bother to take time trying to understand homosexuals, but to only disgust and marginalize them. Even in the future, the controversy regarding the understanding and the justification of homosexuals will continue. However, under the lead of organizations such as the United Nations (UN), there are many movements to enhance the rights of these sexual minorities and for them to live a happier life as a human being; even when it is against some people’s beliefs and religions.
 
People cannot choose their feelings but they can choose their behaviors. How homosexuals feel about their same sexes is somewhat unpredictable. On the other hand, people can choose to hate or not to hate and, for well we know, any amount of hatred is inevitably unhealthy. To integrate the unconsciously existing categorizations such as heterosexual against homosexual, we should constantly try to think outside the so-called norms that the majorities traditionally have made. When we embrace and tolerate the difference rather than facing it with ignorance and detest, our society will be a much more harmonious place.

 

   
▲ Symbol of Sexual Minorities. Provided by uuse.org
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