“At gatherings, I didn’t want to be the gay person, the biggest conversation topic. I just didn’t want them to be right, to be right about me. I wanted to figure it out for myself first.”
What sort of example did the social setting in South Africa give you?
South Africa can be very open, but very conservative as well, it’s mostly up to your family background and I think mine was a bit more conservative. Growing up I didn’t really have any gay or queer role models to speak to, to look up to. Even if I had, I think it would be hard to open up about, I felt very alone in my situation. At gatherings, I didn’t want to be the gay person, the biggest conversation topic. I just didn’t want them to be right, to be right about me. I wanted to figure it out for myself first.
Everyone made this assumption without me having explored sexuality. Only after I came to Korea and explored sexuality could I accept that I’m gay and that’s who I am. Here it was a lot easier since the foreigner community is so open minded. Everyone was more accepting. They told me to just be myself, that you’re fine. Even though Korea itself is pretty conservative, I think I managed to meet the right people at the right time to guide me through this process.
How did you perception of queer people changed after you moved to Seoul?
I think the biggest revelation for me was realizing that most people don’t really care. The people I was surrounded with, being gay didn’t change anything with them. It never changed the dynamics and I always thought that it would. I always thought I’d have to be someone else.
Most of the time growing up, I entered social situations knowing that people had this predetermined idea of me, very soft, very feminine, too pretty, too stylish. So if I met you for the first time, I didn’t want you to think that way. I was constantly observing my own gestures, the way I spoke, the way I sat, the way I composed myself.
But once I came out to myself, it was such a relief. I felt like I could actually be myself, I could open up to people, I could be honest about my feelings or things that I actually liked, start creative projects that I wanted to work on without having any sort of prejudice.
I think none of us understands when in that situation that you put yourself in a box and you have to lie constantly because you try to convey something that you are not. Once you get rid of all that and you are actually able to love your true self, that’s the most amazing thing.
Also, I’m 33. I think for the next generations it’s a little bit easier to explore and embrace queerness. I see more and more young people being comfortable with their queerness at a very early age, making decisive decisions about their sexuality and gender. Telling them my story, they’d probably wonder why I simply didn’t tell people that I’m gay, why was it even a problem, why did I put myself through all that.