It’s 2018 and we fucking finally have a gay idol. Praise Korean Jesus! Now, for those of you who know about gay culture in Korea, it won’t be that much of a shock that it’s taken this long for something like this to happen. In fact, it might even be surprising that it’s finally happened. Hell, back in America, it’s still rare for someone to come out at the height of their career and not face backlash from it. I can’t speak so much for other countries, including those in Europe, South America, Africa, and Australia, so I’m not going to pretend I know a lot about those cultures (except I’m pretty sure the penguins in Antartica are more progressive than we are as humans.) If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out!
It becomes an issue, however, when people feel personally victimized by the fact that the LGBTQ+ community and allies are, for the most part, rallying around HOLLAND to support his debut whether or not they feel that the music is to their tastes. I’ve seen the argument “It’s not fair. There are many talented artists that don’t have the backing of a community, so they never become popular.” And this is where the concept of privilege comes in. So buckle your seatbelts, hang on to your carseat, check your bigotry at the door, and get ready for a wild ride.
Today we are mostly going to be focusing on the LGBTQ+ minority because that is who HOLLAND is representing. Still, some of ya’ll might come in up-in-arms ready to fight me, and I don’t have anyone to hold my earrings today, so I think before we begin, we need to take a good, long, hard, sexy look at what privilege is. If your knee-jerk reaction is to start defending yourself saying: “I’m not privileged! I grew up poor!” then you have been sorely misinformed by overzealous social justice warriors and whiny tumblr brats. Having privilege is does not make you a bad person. It does not make you a rich person. On the other hand, it does not give people the right to shit on you just for having it. And I’m not here to do that. There are ways in which I am privileged and ways in which I am not. Lumping everyone into one category is called a generalization, and you know as much as I do that you’d be offended if someone assumed something about you based on a stereotype. Girl, bye.
Privilege is given to us by societal institutions and stereotypes which favor us for being born a certain race, gender, sexuality, socio-economic class, and anything other identity that society perceives as important. There is a concept called passing which you may have heard. Such as a light-skinned person being “white-passing” or a masculine gay man being “straight-passing” or even a transexual person “passing” as the gender they wish to be perceived as. It gives them easy access to the benefits of not carrying a label which society deems as undesirable. It fucking sucks, but there is an element of feeling safe. Of course, if you do happen to pass, you run the risk of the people you genuinely identify with and struggle with ostracizing you because you may gain privileges. Thus you won’t be categorized into one of the minority groups unless you choose to disclose it.
So when we are talking about “straight privileges” which tie in to “straight-passing” privileges. What do we mean? What privileges do you have as being seen as a straight person? Surely we are more accepting now? Well…
- Not fearing being bullied / beat up / murdered because of who you love.
- Being able to be legitimized by society (i.e. marriage/law, strangers, friends, families).
- Not worried about being denied medical treatment/a job/etc. due to loving someone of the same sex.
- Sometimes “straight privileges” fit into being able to act masculine/feminine depending, but not facing discrimination because people perceive it as a hobby/joke/etc.
None of these privileges make the person who has them a bad person inherently. As you can see, these privileges should be universal human rights. It’s not like a cake. It’s not like there are limited rights to go around- you can have the same rights as other groups of human beings. The goal is equality and safety.
And despite the progressions we’ve made in the world as a whole, there is a whole lot of shit going on trying to take us back to the Dark Ages. That is why when someone or a group of people in a minority succeed, there seems to be so much emphasis placed on the fact they belong to that minority group. Again, it’s 2018 and he is the first openly homosexual KPop idol. There are two other well-known representatives of the LGBTQ+ community in popular culture in South Korea, but neither are considered “idols.”
This begs the question for a lot of people of “how many KPop idols are actually gay?” I am not here to guess about someone’s sexuality. With my close friends, of course I’ll ki-ki and theorize for fun, but that’s not out on the internet to for everyone to read (ha ha ha. Like people are reading this blog. Hi mom.) My own rule of thumb is “if I think they’re gay, it’s probably true” and I do NOT count fan-service as any “hints.” But that’s not really my business and not everyone agrees with it. Cool. Even so, it can’t be denied the possibility that there are those who have been living in the closet out of the public eye for fear of destroying their careers, family’s expectations, friendships, and fan support. And beyond those in the public eye are those who are young. The future of the LGBTQ+ community coming up in the world- in this case, South Korea- where they don’t see themselves represented in media at all. I know in the States, there were at least some representations in the media with Will & Grace and… well, that’s what I grew up with in the 90’s, and I wasn’t allowed to watch it because I might catch the gay. Plottwist: too late.
Even so, it was some representation, even if there were stereotypes and such. It was tolerable. And for lesbians, there is what? The fact it is for the male gaze? How much lesbian porn is targeted for men? Girls making out with each other for free drinks/because their boyfriends want them to? Katy Perry’s I Kissed a Girl (which as we all know now has a COMPLETELY different meaning that the lips on your face.)
What about I kissed a boy and– Oh… wait.
Holland made his debut with the song Neverland, and spoke on it saying: “Neverland is a place I had dreamed of since I was a kid. Where you can love without being accused. I made a parable song to a place like Peter Pan’s Neverland. It was my first debut album, so I started with what I wanted to say.” (Source)
And you know that? That’s sad. Instead of a sexy, upbeat song for the clubs about shakin’ that booty and gettin’ all the boys’ numbers, he’s singing about wanting to find a place where he can love who he loves and be accepted for it. HOW ARE WE IN 2018 AND STILL HOLDING ONTO THE PREJUDICES?!
It should be noted that HOLLAND does not currently have a company. In fact, he’s addressed this in one of his Instagram Lives where he says he is looking for one. What this means is that he’s doing this shit through pure drive, determination, and maybe his parents’ money (same, tho.) It’s no secret he was a model before all of this, and that was my main concern about him suddenly deciding music was his jam.
Sometimes pretty face =/= good singing. I mean, look at me. I have neither. But I do have crippling anxiety and a love for cats. So at least I have that going for me which is nice. Still, it surprised me just how many people were focusing on the fact that people were making a big deal out of his debut because of the fact he’s using being gay as a marketing tactic.
Fucking. Hell. And this isn’t just coming from the ignorant masses, the homophobic folks, the super repressed… no. This is coming from within the LGBTQ+ community itself. People are actually upset that his sexuality is being promoted along with his music. Something about artistic integrity I don’t fucking know. One thing I will never understand are the pretentious assholes who don’t get that entertainment is not always about artistic integrity. Being an artist commands respect in its own right, but it takes a special kind of person to captivate an audience and put on a good show. Yet, from both sides of the equation, you have people attacking him for being open about his sexuality because suddenly that’s a bad thing to do. You have to be subtle about it. People can’t choose whether or not they are proud of the fact they belong to a minority (remember: Why don’t we have white history month but we have a Black history month?! Cry me a fucking river and get baptized while you’re at it. Learn to love again.)
It’s even more disgusting, to me, that it’s coming from within the community as if him being using it to get well-known is a sin. He’s getting publicity for himself, and he’s sharing that publicity with the LGBTQ+ community by being fucking proud of who he is. Someone give this man a rainbow unicorn trophy. Seriously.
And speaking of being proud of who he is, those who do support him are being accused of only supporting him because he’s gay. I mean, I support Byun Baekhyun because I think he has a good voice, insanely pretty, and charming on stage. These are traits he possesses that make me like him regardless whether or not I like all of the tracks on EXO’s albums. Celebrities garner support because they’re from a certain country, because they were a good student in school, because they are attractive or funny. It’s subjective. And supporting him for his sexuality is no different than if he capitalized on another trait he possessed. It’s only a point of contention because of this whole idea that sexuality should be secret. And it should be if the person wants it to be, but if they want to shout it from the rooftops, then more power to them? Who is that hurting? Unless it’s 8 in the morning and I’m trying to sleep.
Is it unfair, then, that he has support from people because he’s gay? No. In fact, with the current political climate in South Korea, it could even be detrimental to him in the long run. If anything, this might give young people more courage that they can succeed and people will love them. It may give older people the idea that the climate is changing and to be more comfortable within themselves. Of course, I would never tell someone to support him if they really don’t want to, but it’s not wrong to support him in order to further the change you want to see. Don’t let anyone guilt you into thinking that you supporting him in order to support change is wrong. You know why?
Because if he succeeds, people will still be talking about his sexuality. If he fails, it’ll be blamed on his sexuality. If he fails, then regardless of if it was because of his PR, his music, his dances, whatever– it’ll go back to the fact that “people didn’t support him because he was homosexual.” And that is terrifying. People have been saying “hopefully they’ll see his artistic merit and not his sexuality in the future.” And that is about as infuriating as hearing “I don’t see color.” Say it how you want, but it’s there. It’s not going away.
I am lucky. I actually liked the song. I thought the video was sweet. Was it a bomb-ass debut song? No. But it felt like he was actually trying. And yes, maybe if he was some random person, I wouldn’t have paid it a second glance. But I feel that him being open so early on in his career about being gay means he won’t shy away from talking about these issues and hopefully providing a positive image in the media, a representation of a marginalized group in society, and start a much needed discussion.
Stop trying to control what other people do. People in the LGBTQ+ community need to sit down and stop accusing people of pretending to be gay for attention (whether it’s true or not, at least it’s positive attention. Do we want to be more visible or not?) People not in the community need to stop and realize that those of us who are want to rally around someone who we see as potentially creating a positive change. Everyone’s going to have an opinion about this, but if you think what you’re about to say sounds dickish, then maybe you’re being a dick. Only time will tell if he actually succeeds in the pirana tank that is the music business. I wish him the best of luck with finding a company to represent him because that’s not going to be easy. With the backlash that’s facing him from both those who oppose homosexuality as well as the stigma within the LGBTQ+ community itself, he’s going to have it rough. And that’s why it’s so important to me, and many others, to show our support for his endeavor.