So, Korea has gotten under my skin, not in the good way, but in the sneak-attack-make-you-apathetic way.
Today, almost everyone I know is celebrating because America is finally catching up to reality. I am proud again to be a member of a profession which helps to propel and compel social change (or at least tries to eliminate some of the roadblocks). US v. Windsor enforces what most of MY PEOPLE already knew: EQUALITY means EQUAL. And, furthermore, is for every citizen of the United States EQUALLY.
But I must confess: In Korea, I don’t proclaim and shame as much as I do in the United States. I am humiliated and heartbroken and ashamed of this fact. At home, my sister calls me one of the most gay-sessible people she knows and I remember being angry at friends for calling me an “ally” instead of just a person with basic reasoning skills who understands fundamental fairness. And I’m not sure why I lost my sense of logic and reason in Korea. I’m not sure why I let Koreans steamroll me on equality issues.
It’s not only Marriage Equality. It’s race equality, nationality, religion, sex, gender, class. As a sociologist, social worker, feminist, equalist, and attorney, Korea basically ignores, disdains, or shames the topics I have dedicated not only career, but my very existence to overcome. I chose my battle holistically (granted, not always strategically), but I have always known my reputation for GRRRR on certain social equality issues precedes me, often to my delight and simultaneous horror. I’ve been lucky (or fucking stubborn), but I’ve been able to push through my agenda more than once. I’ve not been afraid to create enemies or burn bridges when I know I’m right. And fairness and equality and equity are always right.
So, why have I lost myself here?
A few weeks ago, a student asked me what I thought about an article regarding gay marriage in America. I asked him what he thought, and his reply was “It is disgusting.” I could’ve shamed him, I probably should’ve, I had the hierarchical advantage and he appeared open to listening. But I didn’t. Instead, with much exhaustion, I told him to think for himself about what fairness and equality meant and I went to my office and cried. It is tiresome to be constantly surrounded by such a large and vast blanket of ignorance over issues which have simply not made their way across the sea yet. I cannot even imagine what it must be like for someone in Korea who cannot even fight for their right to be equal (or open or free) because the topic has not even been identified as an issue for discussion. Koreans are convinced no one in Korea is born gay.
I find myself fighting mundane and stupid issues constantly and I realize now it’s because I am helpless and oppressed to make positive change for the issues that truly matter to me. I was in Gumi last month, and for the first time in a long while, I was overwhelmed with helplessness about the orphan situation in Korea. Even with my fiercest, most difficult, most damaged CPS kid, I never gave up hope that that child could have a better future. But in Korea, I’m often skeptical that a better future awaits many of the children raised in group home care. My fight feels futile, and I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so wholly incapable of fighting. My GGRRRR has become a whispered gasp.
So, here I am without answers or a bow to put on this post. Except to say, I’d like to spend the rest of my time in Korea focused on the battles that matter. I’m tired of fighting for copier paper when Koreans still tell little girls that they can’t get a good job unless they are pretty. I find it a waste of my intellect to keep asking for adequate housing, hot water, fair billing, or a venue for concerns when the TRUE thing I desire is to be treated like a person of value – something I cannot compel by force of action, screaming, or writing long emails filled with loathing. I can’t make Korea stop being hierarchical and collective and demand it move forward with progress, analytic thinking, and equality.
But, I can command it in my classroom, in my office, in my home, and in my presence. And I can remember to battle, to proclaim and, if necessary, to shame. I can be a Twinkie on a Soapbox again… I guess I just have to find a box…
TO BE CONTINUED…