Pride and Shame

From Seoul Metropolitan Library, here's an overview of the festival, with the Christian protesters to the right.

That cluster of colourful signs and umbrellas in the lower middle, that would be the good ol' Raelians.

And there are the Christians.

Not sure what this is, but it's incredibly disrespectful to let a flag touch the ground.

Still trying to choose the best one.

This one is good except for how the Plaza Hotel looks crooked.

Well, I guess if the Christians have flags laid out on the ground, maybe it's not so disrespectful after all?

Fun fact, the newly appointed US Ambassador Harry Harris was across the street mingling at the US Embassy booth for Seoul Queer Festival.

A quick look at the rooftop entourage, mostly reporters and festival organisers.

I've started to see this message gaining traction. It's clever but still idiotic.

I parked my scooter behind all these bikes, and decided I better leave before they start moving. I wanted to get ahead of them to set up for taking photos. It was probably good I had the bright yellow Besbi rather than the previous silver Beaver for this, so I could fit in a little better.

The streets are cleared and the police are ready.

Police are deployed along the parade route.

I got up onto a subway vent, and this old guy got up next to me.

The police came over and confronted him, clearly worrying he would do something when the parade came through.

While that was happening, about 50-100 younger people ran into the street and fell down in the middle of the road in a big pile, possibly the gayest thing I saw happen all day.

Everybody back to the pile!

I returned to the vent just as they were marching off my future husband.

I took it pretty serious being up here, making sure the vent didn't flood with too many people and encouraging people to stand or sit on the edge, cautious not to repeat history when a similar grate collapsed during a K-pop concert in Pangyo and 17 people died (the article says 16 but later an organiser committed suicide).

Behind the camera man is a crowd in the street as cops try to extract the pile.

I've seen this nutbag before, carrying around some very bizarre signs that are hard not so much to translate, but to interpret.

Just my luck, he would take position near me. This sign seems to indicate all of Korea's past dictators and most recent two conservative leaders as Japanese collaborators or benefitting from the occupation.

This sign indicates the figures pictured as pro-Japanese collaborators tracing back to the 1905 Eulsa Treaty which turned Korea into a Japanese protectorate. For some reason when I put this text into Kakao Translate, one part of it gets incorrectly translated to "Religious Religious Religious Religious."

I'm inclined to by sympathetic, except adding Syngman Rhee is a bit blind. Sure his authoritarian presidency ended in shame, but the guy was an important leader of the Provisional Government of the ROK in Shanghai during the war, far from a collaborator. Curse you David Fields, look what you've turned me into!

Then a few protesters, basically fully clothed streakers, ran into the road and the police chased them down.

One buckaroo ran in wearing a cowboy hat.

The most inappropriate images I saw were on protesters' signs. The upper images I believe are at least four years old.

Interesting shirt choice.

The cops are ready. The one day of the year when I can say ACAB (All Cops Are Best).

More people are up on the vent and I'm telling them to avoid standing on the grate.

The police link arms. The parade is about to start.

Some of the people up here with me.

And yes, that protester is back.

Here come the Rainbow Riders.

Every older Korean man up here, I've got my eye on you.

I won't lie, I was always curious if I could have landed a jump over their heads. Obviously they would've mistaken me for a Christian and tackled me, however.

And the floats start arriving.

The guy next to me seemed to be enjoying himself. You can see how his sign works here, two poles with a banner in between them. He would get into the music, wave, and get attention, and then open the banner with a big "whump." And I was right next to him for pretty well the whole parade.

Later, I confirmed the white-haired marcher was indeed the inimitable Heezy.

I like how this picture turned out.

It seemed like there was more wedding imagery this year than there was three years ago.

One flag you never thought you'd see at a gay pride parade.

And two jailbird ex-presidents you never thought you'd see at one.

"My body is a battleground."

This needs to have fire coming out of it.

Whump. He nearly clouted me a few times, though I was always moving closer to him, trying to take away the space he had and add more diverse people on the ledge.

So yeah, that one weird guy also had North Korean flags. Ever thought you'd see not only the Japanese Imperial flag, as well as North Korean flags, at a gay pride parade?

His flags are North on one side, South on the other, a provocative statement I can't figure out.

There's some question whether his intent was to add these symbols to the bricolage of the parade to try to discredit it, but I have my doubts that he designed all his weird contraptions for that single reason.

Coincidentally, there was an anti-refugee rally sometime later this weekend, either later that night or the next day. There is a lot of overlap between LGBTQ rights, women's rights, and refugee rights.

Still at it.

Here comes my favourite religious cult by far.

"To believe one is heterosexual is an illusion."

Parade ends.

Except here comes Jesus. Look busy, everybody!

Our great country our great bloodline until the end, for peaceful reunification there need to be no foreign interference. Something about water polo? I'm not fluent in Korean.

I had been standing between these two guys.

Love and restraint were key themes throughout the week leading up to Korea Queer Festival (KQF) 2018. They, and their absence, arose repeatedly.

Seoul National University (SNU), the nation's top comprehensive university, on Monday hosted a talk by an American claiming to be an ex-homosexual.

SNU students, enraged, showed up, but they used restraint, remaining civil. They handed out flyers and sat in the front row during the talk. One student reportedly interrupted the talk and stormed out, but students report she returned and apologized.

And then the students had a lot to say during the Q&A period after. Darrion Skinner, the speaker, said he still had homosexual urges and struggled to fit into a heterosexual union. Is he an ex-homosexual, or a tortured homosexual who refuses to live up to his full potential?

Both sides showed restraint, as opposed to tolerance, as each side's best wishes would be for the other to disappear. And neither side wanted to give the other the fuel to accuse them of hate.

A student reported he called the building managers about why they agreed to host the event, and they said it was basically to give equal time to both sides. However, the scientific consensus is that any form of sexual conversion therapy is bunk and mentally harmful.

Science won't sway homophobes, the overwhelming majority of whom are Christians. So rather than throw statistical or medical facts at them, members of Korea's LGBTQ community are left with questions of religion, faith and love.

I haven't been to the parade since 2015, mainly because of how painful it was to see the hate and ignorance in the very active protesters. They usually set up a big rally in front of Deoksu Gate and try to drown out the noise of the pride festival. In 2016, the parade coincided with the RASKB Garden Party, and attendees heading for the British Embassy had to wade through a large, loud anti-gay protest.

This time again there was the usual rally, and it was loud but small this year. Just as pro-Park Geun-hye protesters have been making use of flags, this one also had giant Korean and U.S. flags, likely unaware the newly arrived U.S. ambassador, Admiral Harry Harris, a Trump appointee no less, was across the street from them at the U.S. Embassy booth in Seoul Square.

I stayed away from them, and the first Christian banner I saw, in front of Wongudan, had a fresh message: "We are against homosexuaity [sic] because We love you!" Words of restraint, compared to the usual messages we see. Of course opposing homosexuality leads to stigma, family separation, blocked access to medical care, mental health issues and suicide. The protesters would say it's homosexuality which causes these things, but they don't see they've bound their own hands.

I decided I would look for love at KQF. Not literally love because it was everywhere around me, but for where it appeared on signs.

One protester walking around with big colorful anti-gay signs wore a shirt that said "Father And Mother I Love You," with the first letters in blue to spell out "FAMILY." His intent was probably to promote family values, but it better implied reconciliation and love growing stronger than hate. Should a disowned queer kid go back to their family and try to suppress their feelings? They may find themselves no longer capable of love. It is the job of the parents to decide whether they can still love a child whose sexuality wouldn't be their first pick.

As the parade prepared to leave Seoul Square, protesters showing neither love nor restraint tried to get in their way. Elderly men waved sandwich boards and banners with anti-gay messages. A couple hundred or so smirking young men ran into the middle of the street and fell into a huge pile. One buckaroo in a cowboy hat ran past the police line and led a half dozen police in an amusing rodeo-style chase.

I got onto an elevated place and found myself standing next to an elderly man holding a banner showing two men kissing. The police tried to remove him earlier but I guess he convinced them he wouldn't physically disrupt the parade. Throughout, his body moved along with the music. His thing seemed to be to wave and smile, and once people were looking, he'd whip out his banner. I invited more people up so they could see the parade, giving him less room to occupy. Probably a lot of paraders will have pictures of this one guy with the banner, and a bunch of normal people standing on either side of him.

Finally the parade arrived, and they brought love. "I love who I am," one handheld sign read. "Love is for everyone," another.

"Power to women," said one. And a large banner, "My body is a battleground."

"LGBTQ welcomes refugees," said another. Sexual minorities often find themselves refugees, not just in war-torn countries but anywhere, including advanced nations. A high number of sexual minorities have experienced homelessness, or feared they might become homeless. Refugee rights, women's rights, and LGBTQ rights have a great deal of overlap, even if there are social barriers between them.

"E.T. Love LGBT," read a heart-shaped sign carried by someone in the Raelian section. Their biggest banner had a stronger message: "To believe one is heterosexual is an illusion," which has a scientific basis.

One guy near the back of the parade saw the elderly man next to me, and held up his middle finger and shouted profanities. In a fit of mischief, I smiled and said in a friendly way, "Hey, don't talk like that to my husband!" The parade, not getting or maybe not hearing my exact words, turned his attention on me, shouting "I hate you!"

I honestly can't fault him for his reaction, as the level of hatred he probably endured that day from Christian protesters was high. I recall how messed up I felt after attending the 2015 opening event and photographing the Christians and their signs, and for that matter how I felt exactly the same after the 2012 Shinchonji Olympiad. I imagine this guy yelling at us probably went through the same thing after.

Because of who I was standing next to, I appeared in probably a lot of pictures taken of one particular anti-gay protester, standing very close to him. I deplore his message but have to respect him for not being one of the violent ones. And I'm glad only one marcher hurled hate in our direction.

Please remember that these photos are all copyrighted to me. If you want to use them in any way, there's a 90 per cent chance I'll give you my permission, and be able to give you a copy with a higher DPI.
Copyright Daehanmindecline 2018