Queer Corner: Walking while Queer, "homonationalism" and "pinkwashing"

Someone unknown to me commented on my Facebook profile photo (below) sarcastically referencing "homonationalism" and "pinkwashing" because my photo and text (written in Korean) reads "Let's not stigmatize against LGBTQ people."

I took this photo in December at the launch of Hollaback! Korea. At the time, a group of volunteers made a series of photos to respond to their experiences of street harassment. Our project is (meant to be) inclusive of a wide group of people living in South Korea and a safe space to share experience of street harassment, which may include sexual, racial, homophobic and other verbal, non-verbal and physically harassing behavior in public places. So, we wrote our messages in Korean or English and then edited the photos by adding English or Korean text to overlay the photos or by captioning them so that they could be read and shared in both languages to include our whole community of leaders and supporters.

I took a long time to come out as Bisexual and it is an ongoing process of personal reflection and dialog with trusted friends. When I lived in my home country (US) I only let very few people know and I was very intimidated and lacked the confidence to participate in a supportive community. I have lived in Korea for most of the last 8 years and finally became a part of a community that felt safe among my friends to begin to come out. Since I lived in Korea, several times I have heard in Korean, and a few times in English (the English-speaking population is just smaller) Korean nationals and non-nationals alike target lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual or gender-role non-conforming people (including me) in public places for street harassment. As a bystander or as the person targeted in those situations, I didn't always speak up. Over time and in the few cases when the comment was directed at me or someone I know, I was more likely to say something or take action.

I made this photo and message because in the classroom, on the street, in a restaurant, in media and in other settings I overhear(d) homophobic comments made in Korean and sometimes in English, but since I live in Korea, I overhear them more often in Korean. Coworkers made homophobic comments in front of and at me, and in a few cases even friends who know that I am Bisexual make homophobic "jokes" directed at me. So, I took the opportunity to respond in ways that I always wish I could/did/would when I hear these statements.

The comment gave me a lot to think about, particularly questioning my position as a person speaking out about homophobia. For example, I consider and critique the U.S. State Department for not evaluating its' own human rights record for far too long while leveraging its critique of other states against them in international affairs. Yet, speaking up for myself and supporting friends is not the same thing as "pinkwashing" and "homonationalism" and as a person anywhere I can add my voice to the discussion and I can respond to the harassment I experience. It does not mean that I am an expert, it does not mean that I am condemning anyone, etc. As I put it before, it simply means "Let's not stigmatize against LGBTQ people."

I am glad to belong to communities of people that share experiences with me and support me, and I am glad to have the opportunity for discussion. I am not going to silently endure homophobia and I will continue to use resources available to me to cope with homophobia, so I am very thankful to have a supportive community that is willing to discuss and hear about experiences of street harassment.