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The Chuseok we know

Here are a few Chuseok stories that LGBT-identified Koreans shared with Time Out Seoul.

A mother’s wishes

“I was born in a warm seaside city and I worked hard—I graduated from a better university than any of my siblings and got a job right away. My elderly parents, who are in their 70s, often come to visit. As I am in my mid-30s, my mother almost threatens me, so as to force me to get married. She yells at me, cries, loses her temper and throws things at me making the chasm between us larger and larger. Recently, she even said I would no longer be her son if I don’t get married. I am her youngest child who loves her, but I can’t tell her why I cannot make her wish come true. It breaks my heart.” — A good, sensible and mature son.

Full acceptance

“I got married in my late 30s and only after that was I certain I was gay. I confessed to my wife and she tried to convince me that I could ‘fix’ it with the power of religion. I tried to tell her that being gay is natural and that it’s not something that needs to be fixed. We got divorced and I came out to my family. They wanted to take me to the hospital and to prayer houses and that marked the beginning of a long, difficult process of persuasion. Slowly my parents came to understand it and my partner’s parents took me in as their son. His brother and nephews also get along with me. There’s nothing special about the holidays. We go visit my partner’s parents and usually stay for a day without spending the night. Even though they accept us as we are, it’s quite awkward for us to sleep in the same room like a married couple.” — Scifi

American couple rings

I’m a lesbian. My mom even asks me if I want to invite my girlfriend for Chuseok and my brother never talks nonsense about sexual orientation. I bring my girlfriend with me, as she doesn’t have any family members here to visit for the holidays. One time while we were together, one of my cousins asked me why my girlfriend and I wear the same ring and whether they were our couple’s rings. Then, my mom defended us by saying, ‘You guys make sure you wear that ring next time as well. I always wanted to buy you rings. You don’t have any married cousins who are as happy as you two are.’ I think my mom has more faith in me than I expect. So even if I don’t want to visit my cousins, I do it for my mom. I know they will speak badly of her if I don’t show up. But I always ask my partner: ‘Do you want to come with me?’ And she replies: ‘I know you’ll
feel small if you go there alone, I’ll come with you.’ — Anonymous

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A father’s silence

“Not everyone in my family knows about my sexuality. My mom responded to me with respect and support, but now that my father has a new family it’s growing harder for me to come out to him. On top of that, my father is authoritarian, conservative and very conscious of society’s eyes and ears. I know he heard about my sexual orientation from someone, but he is ominously silent. Given the situation, family gatherings for Chuseok are like an unending puzzle for me. Because I am transgender, I cannot hide all the dramatic changes that are happening and it is exhausting to stand up for myself against all the cousins’ curious looks and questions.” — Anonymous

Chuseok tickets to Thailand

“The harshest moment out of my struggle, was definitely when I came out to my beloved family. My parents responded with tender hearts and accepted my sexual orientation. The story sounds very rosy, but the fact that my parents accepted me does not mean that we all get along like in that American series Modern Family. It’s been nine long years since I came out, but I still look for cheap tickets to go abroad for the holidays. If I am unfortunate enough to stay and meet everyone in the family, disaster breaks out. ‘Are you seeing someone?’ ‘It’s time that you settle down.’ ‘You’re not one of those mentally unstable gays described in The Chosun Ilbo, right?” I don’t want to hide like some criminal every holiday. — Milo

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