Lesbian Festival Promotes Awareness Of Diversity On Campus
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Lesbian Festival Promotes Awareness Of Diversity On Campus
  • 강서미
  • 승인 2003.06.04 00:00
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Would you find it absurd to be asked, "What made you become a heterosexual?" The imprudence remains even when the last word is replaced by ?omosexual, states a poster displayed next to the Student Union Building. Students startled by this question and others claiming to test people? degree of homophobia stop to take a look.
?erverted Girl Flies to the Sky (PGFS), a lesbian organization at Ewha, (in fact, Korea"s first lesbian rights movement organization), set stage for the first Lesbian Festival in Korea, held from May 13 to 15 on campus.
PGFS debuted in May 2001, making its first public appearance during the Daedong Festival. It then became recognized as a self-governing body by the school in 2002. Currently, it consists of about 50 on-line members and only seven off-line activists.
Before the sun went up, PGFS members had put up posters for the festival that explained the basic concepts of homosexuality and the controversial issues involved. None of its members made a public appearance, except in lectures. Some people criticized them for being self-contradictory by first showing an eagerness to make themselves known to the society, but then refusing to appear in person. However, Shi-ro, the founder of PGFS, explained their position over the phone: "It"s not that we don"t want to come out, but that we can"t. The social environment is still too hostile for us to come out. We risk too much."
Even the live performance that signaled the unofficial opening of the Lesbian Festival was staged by the Ewha Women"s Committee instead, one of PGFS"s supporters.
In the performance, a pair of friends who gathered together in apparent fellowship later reveal that they are lesbians. Other girls spot them hugging each other. Surprise and disgust is seen on their faces. They circle around the couple, leaving them crouched on the floor, as if they are animals on display. The isolated girls lie on the floor, curling up their bodies from the pain inflicted by the overwhelming discrimination shown by the society. They are stripped of all their feelings and close friends. Around them are torn pieces of fabric, representations of the prejudice held against homosexuals.
Only a few people stood and watched the performance. The same apparent disinterest was seen around the posters put up by the PGFS. A student that wished to remain anonymous expressed her feeling of uneasiness confronting such controversial subjects with a few vague words: "It"s just uncomfortable."
However, other students were more open to discussing such issues. In Jeong (Social Science, 3) pointed out the fact that there is no organization in school that speaks up for the heterosexuals right to relationships, or even existence. "The mere fact that there is a homosexual group fighting to gain acknowledgement by the society shows that they are being oppressed, forced to withstand the discriminations of the society," commented In as she read over the exhibited posters.
Lectures by diverse speakers were held on every afternoon of the festival. On the first day, a representative from the Korean Lesbian Rights Organization, Park Soo-jin gave a lecture titled "Knowing Homosexuality Correctly." Park, a lesbian herself, has had a challenging past, attempting three suicides. "Before I came out, I was a lovely daughter, a trust-worthy sister, and a courageous friend. But once my true sexual orientation was revealed, I suddenly lost my name. I was no longer Soo-jin. To everyone I was just a lesbian," said Park with a straight face that concealed the obvious pain inflicted upon her in the past.
The second lecture was held by the Editor-in-Chief of the cyber feminist journal Ilda, Joi Yeo-ul, under the title "Media and homosexuality." "The mass media is not afraid of the voice of the sexual minorities, for they know that these ?inorities are vulnerable to publicity and thus cannot express themselves freely out in the open," said Joi. Hong Seok-chon, the television star now known as a homosexual to people, was exemplified as a victim of the media. Hong was forced "out" by the media.
The finale of the festival was marked by the last lecture/debate session on the theme "Is a happy union between lesbians and lesbian feminists possible?" To clarify the concept, lesbians are homosexuals but lesbian feminists are heterosexuals that view themselves to be open-minded and innovative enough to call themselves lesbians. Lesbian feminists are "political lesbians" that use the word lesbianism solely to represent their political ideologies and not their sexual inclinations. The debate ended as an open question, allowing room for future discussions.
The festival was not free of antagonism. On the second day, the rainbow cloth that hung from the fourth floor down to the first floor of the Student Union Building was ripped down during the evening. Calling themselves the Anti-Lesbian Festival group, some students put up posters that mocked the ideas put forward by the PGFS through a cartoon that said "I am heterosexual because that is normal." The very next day, bills that questioned the validity of the concept "normal" countered the attack. "What we call normal today are only the tendecies fo the mainstream group," wrote Uwee Hyun-ju (Philosophy, 4).
Whether the PGFS will plan its second lesbian festival is still undecided. For now, the words of thanks left by the PGFS in their festival booklets is all that shows their intent to reach out from their oppressive isolation.

neyessioui@ewha.ac.kr

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