On August 26th, 2016, I did something I had not felt any need to do during nearly 20 years. I told some of colleagues at my workplace that I am gay, and that was the beginning of what I have been doing during last several weeks. I told this to my mother, younger brother, uncle, and several relatives. I also confided this to a few of my Internet friends/acquaintances, one former laboratory colleague, and my current psychiatrist.
And I also told this to a girl introduced to me through my mother, who always wants me to get married as soon as possible. She was the 9th or 10th girl I met through my mother’s matchmaking service (I lost my count, but, paraphrasing Osgood Fielding III in “Some Like It Hot” (1959), Mama is keeping the score), and we had a nice time together when we met each other for the first time during the afternoon of August 15th. Time flied as we kept talking, and I came to like her as someone to talk with, if not someone to marry.
I was glad to hear later that she did have a good time with me even though I told her many problematic things about myself including my long history of depression as well as autistic spectrum, but then I came to feel guilty about meeting her again as we agreed on the next meeting in Seoul on August 27th. Maybe I could just marry her without saying anything, but, in one way or another, my homosexuality will be exposed to her once I begin to live with her under the same roof, so I decided that I had to come out to her for preventing a bigger emotional disaster.
I also became determined to go further from that because I did not want to step back from my decision like a coward. I planned the procedure to ensure the irreversibility of my actions step by step. First, after some momentary hesitation, I revealed myself to three colleagues during that Friday afternoon, and, to my relief, they were all right with me although the mood became a bit more solemn than usual. Second, I came out to two of my online peers right after that, and the result was both positive and encouraging. I became more sure about what I was going to do, though I was too nervous to sleep well during the night as worrying about what might happen during my meeting with her on the next day.
I am still wondering about whether the second meeting really went well for me as well as her. At least, it looked all right on the surface as far as I can remember. We had a lunch together, and I came out to her in the middle of our lunch. She coolly responded to that with the signs of genial understanding, and we even watched a movie together after the lunch. We corresponded with each other a few times during the next week, but then she did not answer my messages. She said she was busy, so I stepped back a little, but then she seemed reluctant to contact me again although she did not express anything to notice. After several failures to get any response from her, I sent a text suggesting the end of our brief relationship a few days ago, and the reply came from her sooner than I expected. I still have no clear idea on what she thought or how she felt, but I understand and respect her decision. I hope she did not feel hurt as much as I feared – and I really wish that she will soon find someone to make her happy and satisfied.
Before leaving Seoul on that day, I came out to my brother and uncle. On the next day, my mother came to learn of what her son had kept to himself for more than 20 years. She was understandably shocked and devastated. She even needed my help as we walked out of a local downtown cafe. She drank heavily during the next evening. In her drunken state, she kept reminding me that I am a good man capable of doing the right thing. In the other words, she wanted me to be changed; she even said to me that I should have a therapy while not telling anyone else about my homosexuality.
However, I know who I am. I know I cannot be changed, considering what I have observed from myself since the first sexual experience during early 1997. Even before that, I often found myself being stimulated by images of male bodies, and the photograph of a bodybuilder in some elementary science book on human body is still vividly remembered in the corner of my mind. I was baffled by those cheap adult magazines featuring semi-naked women because I did not see why they were necessary, but, as entering the adolescent years, I often took a sneak look at fitness books and magazines at the corners of local bookstores whenever nobody was around me. Although I did not discover the pleasure of masturbation yet around that point, I was quite excited while not so sure about whether this excitement was originated from the aspiration or attraction toward masculinity: Do I just want to be big and strong like those brawny dudes? Or…
I had one funny episode to tell you. On one day in 1996, I had my usual private fun time with those books filled with bodybuilder photographs at a local bookstore, and then I went to a nearby hall where arts exhibitions were frequently held, for doing a routine homework for the arts class in my middle school. One exhibition site was full of photographs of sexy female nude models, and I calmly observed their naked bodies because my heart had already been excited and then exhausted. In my report, I dutifully wrote a forthright description of what I experienced: “Probably because I had just seen those muscular guys and been fortified by them, I did not embarrass myself in front of those naked women photos.” Strangely, the teacher did not reprimand me for that, and I remained quite clueless as a consequence.
Because of various books I absorbed, I was well aware of homosexuality even before adolescence, but I seldom thought about my sexuality until I had the first (and only so far) sexual relationship in my life. At first, it was merely touching each other’s genitalia, but he and I soon moved onto the next base within a few minutes. When I watched one dramatic scene in Andrew Ahn’s “Spa Night” (2016), I observed its passive hero’s more active behavior with some personal understanding. When he asked me to do something more than touching, I instantly went for that as if some button had been pushed inside me, and I recognized that familar headlong feeling from the aforementioned scene in the movie.
Our clandestine relationship, hidden from our families and schoolmates who had no idea about that mainly because we were two of heavier boys in the neighborhood, was continued for several months. When it was over, we had no hard feeling between us, for our relationship was mainly driven by mutual urge rather than romantic feeling. Although we often talked about moving onto girls, I must admit that I enjoyed having sex with him, and the only thing I regret is that we did not use condoms (Fortunately, we did not suffer from any kind of sexually transmitted disease).
During my high school and college years, I concentrated my attention more and more on study, books, and movies, with no particular interest in dating girls or boys. But, yes, I had to take care of my certain private matter sometimes. I discovered some ways which are definitely familiar to many of you, and I often used them to relieve myself with necessary caution (My paranoid advice: once you are going to do it, you should always be ready to cover up and then flush away your trace to avoid any suspicion or embarrassment).
My graduate years in the campus of Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology were frustrating and demanding, but that long period was also a good excuse for me whenever my parents or others asked me when I would marry. I often wondered whether I could marry a girl while repressing my homosexuality, but I have never felt attracted to any particular girl during last 20 years, and I am willing to lead an asexual lifestyle for the rest of my life due to practical reasons. After all, it is difficult to have any reliable homosexual relationship in South Korea due to social prejudice and discrimination, and I am not so eager to date a guy or a girl even at this point, while usually occupying myself with science, literature, and movie.
I preferred to reveal myself as little as possible for avoiding potential troubles in my social/academic life, but then my parents kept talking about my marriage especially after I graduated with my Ph.D degree. Even after I came out to her, my mother remains persistent, and she is ready to introduce me to another girl in the next month. I was once disappointed with her when she said that depression and autistic spectrum could be cured by willpower and then recommended me to stop my medication. I was more disappointed with her when she suggested that I could be cured of “sexual immaturity”. She also said that schoolmate of mine corrupted me, but I am reminded now that she and other family members did not mind how the naughty husband of one of her nieces used to be on the verge of sexual molestation whenever he was with me alone in the room (I can assure you that nothing traumatic happened to me, though I have personally despised him as remembering more about what an indecent guy he was).
She does not want any more people to know about my homosexuality, but, because of something which feels like a belated adolescent rebellion, her previously obedient, dutiful, and faithful son is now coming out of his good old closet further. I was relieved to see that many people around me did not have any problem with what I told them. My brother and uncle accepted it without much fuss, and so did a number of people in my daily life. In addition, I had my first gay bar experience in that famous Itaewon-dong area in Seoul, and I had a pretty good night there although I only drank and talked for hours. And now you know that I am gay.
While I did not tell him because my mother pleaded to me, my own father is bound to know this someday, and I worry about that from time to time. He will definitely have a long, difficult time just like my mother, and I know I must tell him soon, considering how long my mother has been in futile denial since I shook her up with the truth about me. Regardless of how they are going to regard me, I am fine with who I am, and that is all I can say to them.
So far, the sky does not fall onto me yet. Thank you very much for reading my inconsequential babbling to the end, folks.
Besos! And a hug.
Not “inconsequential babbling”! Certainly not. This is quite affecting. Also, the English, though not perfect, is movingly articulate. Thank you for posting.
SC: You’re welcome.
What a touching testimony and coming out story. It is of an unprecedented bravery to come to terms with your own sexuality in a conservative society, and I admire you for that. Hopefully the Korean culture will move to a more liberal agenda in the next few years. LGBTQ movies are becoming more prominent as well and this is a paramount step for our communities’ visibility. We are only obliged to face what others see as an sexual opprobrium due to society’s constant effort to erase our identities and existence from cultural byproducts and public sphere. We then become a taboo and a deviation of the norm, which accounts for your mom’s aghast reaction to your true self. Do know that you are not alone in this, and I will be advocating for you rights from afar.
SC: Despite my doubt, I hope things will get better for me. Thanks for your kind words.
Your determined self-actualisation, against a tide of antagonistic beliefs, is an inspiration.
Thank you for writing this, and I hope things will get better for you too. But if and when things are worse, you at least have an online community to call on for support.
SC: We’ll see.
All the best for you, my friend. Though it’s the first time I’m posting at your site, I’ve been an avid reader of this blog for a long time. Always my #1 spot to go when I want to know about a Korean movie, thanks to your friend and movie critic fellow Pablo Villaça.
Anyway, just be what you really are. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, and I know you can make it. Good luck!
SC: I must send a thank-you know to him someday. Please keep dropping by my blog page.