My experience growing up as a Korean American LGBTQ+ ally

Xinyu Li/Senior Staff

“I’m okay with those who are gay, as long as they’re not related to me.”

“I’m okay with those who are gay, as long as they just do their own things.”

“Leave us alone, and we leave them alone.”

These are the statements I heard growing up as a Korean American in Southern California. For a while, I thought that these sentiments were normal. They seemed harmless. Being gay was fine, but it was definitely not something my peers considered appropriate for expressing to the world. I often heard that if you were gay, you should be able to date whomever you want, but you should keep it under the radar.

Little did I know that all these words and feelings were a particularly toxic form of homophobia.

Nobody in my family or my friend group ever talked about the LGBTQ+ community openly. If I ever brought it up, the topic was quickly shut down. It never even occurred to me that this was a problem until I reached high school, when I became more aware of the news and when I started making friends outside of my primarily Asian group. It scared me how powerful conformity was and how the way of life of an entire group of people with a slight difference was considered wrong.

Why? Why was I scared to have conversations about the LGBTQ+ community with some of my closest friends? Why was I scared to correct wrongful comments regarding queerness when spending time with my Korean community? I was scared to even be an ally because I cared so much about how my community would look down upon me. What was actually brewing inside of me was the worst kind of homophobia — a passive type of homophobia in which I knew the comments made were wrong but did not consider them a big deal.

I was scared that I would be disappointed by my family’s negative reactions. I kept my mouth shut when they spoke of queerness derogatorily and resorted to giving excuses when my friends made similar remarks. “Oh, they think that way because they don’t know anyone queer.” “They’re just repeating negative comments made by their parents.” Even when I knew that my friends were making ignorant and rude comments, I stayed quiet and respectfully “agreed” with their opinions. Today, I regret not voicing my discontent with my friends to their faces.

Now, I understand why statements like “I’m okay with those who are gay, as long as my children aren’t” are severely homophobic. I understand the implications of those statements: If I truly believe that there is nothing wrong with being gay, why wouldn’t I support my children’s queerness? The hypocrisy, I now realize, is embarrassing. I understand that this sort of passive homophobia is what is most harmful toward the LGBTQ+ community nowadays because people who believe this don’t feel the need to change.

I’m more than OK with individuals who identify with the LGBTQ+ community. Period. No “as long as” and no “if only” — I am an ally, celebrating all aspects of queer culture. Some of the loveliest people I know are queer. I love shows like “Orange Is the New Black” and “Queer Eye” that put the LGBTQ+ community at the forefront. Most importantly, I’m always there to support my queer-identifying friends. Instead of hiding my opinions and my experiences, I confidently stand by what I truly believe in: Everyone deserves to be loved equally.

Contact Christina Kim at [email protected].