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Oh, to Be Queer as a Kingo!

With the successful airing and ending of Merry Queer, the first Korean reality show on queer relationships, in early September, the foothold of queer individuals in our society is growing. However, as the presence of those considered sexual minorities increases, hate speech is also becoming a common social phenomenon. Such is also true for Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU). Thus, the Sungkyun Times (SKT) will examine the discrimination and hardships that queer Kingos face and present suggestions for a better community.

The Hardships of Being Queer

Where We Stand in Terms of Queer Rights

Queer, or Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual (LGBTQIA) are words that indicate individuals with sexual orientation or gender belonging to a social minority. Though awareness of the LGBTQIA community has been improving, our society still lacks protection against discrimination. According to a 2021 report by the Korea Institute of Public Administration (KIPA), over half of the respondents in their 20s answered that LGBTQIA individuals are “unacceptable in society.” Such a result shows that sexual minorities may be subject to discrimination even in college, where most students are in their 20s. Meanwhile, in a report by queer rights group “Dawoom,” in which 3,911 LGBTQIA individuals between the ages of 19 and 35 were surveyed, 33.6% answered that they had experienced severe discrimination in their everyday life, with 19.7% responding that it had happened in college. Similarly, 49.8% of respondents said that such discrimination had affected their mental health and had suffered from depression.

Seoul Queer Culture Festival

The Current Place of LGBTQIA at SKKU

Unlike other universities, there is no official school club for LGBTQIA students at SKKU, mainly due to outing concerns and a lack of student support. To be “outed” means to have one’s sexual identity revealed without consent. However, forming an official school club requires club members’ identification to be provided to the school. Such information may be leaked and be used as a disadvantage to the members; all LGBTQIA students have a right to keep their sexual identity a secret. Consequently, queer students at SKKU were only able to form an unofficial club known as “Queerholic.” Queerholic has participated in various LGBTQIA rights movements, such as the Solidarity of University & Youth Queer Societies in Korea. However, their bid to become an official school club has yet to be realized. In 2018, the club failed to meet the requirement of 200 signatures necessary to become an official club; this was mainly due to outing concerns. Therefore, Queerholic cannot receive the benefits an official school club would, including a club room and support from the school. In an interview with the SKT, Queerholic mentioned that “We wish to provide a safe space for LGBTQIA Kingos and come together in dealing with LGBTQIA rights.”

A Brighter Future for Everyone

The Policy at SKKU, or the Lack Thereof

The attention toward LGBTQIA Kingos is minimal, and there are no official policies to support queer students at SKKU. SKKU’s Human Rights Center does not include discrimination against one’s sexual orientation when defining the term “discrimination.” In an interview, the Human Rights Center stated that the regulation on “discrimination against sex” could be extended to include discrimination against sexual minorities; however, such an interpretation would be too much of an extension. Additionally, the Human Rights Center does not provide education to prevent discrimination against sexual minorities. Meanwhile, SKKU also lacks policies to enforce LGBTQIA rights, such as implementing gender-neutral toilets. In other words, some fundamental rights are not adequately maintained for LGBTQIA students. Moreover, the student council has no policies regarding LGBTQIA rights against hate speech. For instance, in a handbook designed by Spring, the 54th student council, there were only rudimentary mentions of LGBTQIA rights, such as “Do not discriminate against sexual minorities.” Such inaction from the school and student council will lead to even more discrimination against queer Kingos.

Put Your Priorities in Place, SKKU!

Only through the combined efforts of the school, student council, and students can the hardships of LGBTQIA students be resolved. “The implementation of an anti-discrimination code at the school is most desired,” announced Queerholic in a public statement and called for the solidarity of the student council and students. Suppose an anti-discrimination code like that of the United States is implemented – in that case, discrimination against sex, race, origin, disability, and sexual orientation will diminish, providing the foundation for the protection of minority rights. Also, implementing such a code will show SKKU’s desire to create a fair and equal educational space. Meanwhile, subjecting discriminatory offenders to a harsher penalty will help secure and promote LGBTQIA rights. Furthermore, the student council could show support by instituting LGBTQIA rights policies. For example, future student councils at SKKU could benchmark the student council at Sungkonghoe University, which pledged to install a gender-free toilet as part of their official policy. By installing gender-free toilets, the rights of genderqueer students will be further ensured. On the other hand, students can help by joining the queer club’s bid to become an official school club. This will make it harder to distinguish the LGBTQIA students from supporters, preventing any outing issues. By promoting queer rights and preventing discrimination and hate speech, SKKU will truly become a place of free and equal learning.

Anti-discrimination Law Discussed at the National Assembly (koreaherald.com)

It is a great shame that LGBTQIA students must experience discrimination, even at a place of higher education, including SKKU. However, LGBTQIA discrimination can diminish with students’ support and the school and student council’s policymaking. Why not participate, and lend a hand in queer Kingos’ journies toward happiness?

노규원  tdcby@g.skku.edu

<저작권자 © THE SUNGKYUN TIMES, 무단 전재 및 재배포 금지>

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