Wednesday, July 3, 2013

So, this is what democracy looks like

I have tried my absolute hardest to not bring religion, politics, or Boy Bands into this blog, as I do not want to isolate any of my audience. But, sometimes things happen, and I refuse to stay silent.

Every generation has their question. Where were you when you heard about JFK? What were you doing when the Berlin Wall fell? Who were you talking to when the Towers collapsed?

Where were you and who were you with when DOMA died and Proposition 8 choked?

In a week where there were more sad panda moments than happy llama moments (and one very stressed wallaby), DOMA's death served as an excellent reminder of the proverbial silver lining.

After a dinner at a microbrewery near Gwangalli beach, my friends and I snagged a beer and settled in the sand for conversations steeped in salt water. I checked the time on my phone, and it buzzed with breaking news from The Washington Post concerning DOMA. The link didn't open and all I read before the screen went blank was 'Superme Court Ruling on DOMA is...' I speedy thumbed my way to the BBC news site and got very quiet.

Quiet Katie can mean one of two things: I am so happy that I have no words, or I am so angry that I cannot even engage in conversation. Without acknowledging the fact that M was in the middle of a story, I whispered, "Hey, guys. I can get married. To whomever I want. DOMA is gone."

My friends had the response I should have had. M screamed a scream that only the oppressed have known. An unadulterated sound of humanity finally getting their shit together. She folded me in a hug, "Yes! We can get married! Not to each other, though. That would be weird."

Immediately, I checked Facebook to send a message to the most amazing man I know, T. He helped me and so many others in their coming out process. He had already posted, and I made sure that he knew how important he is to me and our community.

I put my phone away again, and spent some time being an introvert. The Diamond Bridge's lights slinked through the hazy clouds. Thoughts slid through my mind, some good, some bad, most apathetic. I went to bed that night as an equal in the eyes of American law.

Now, I am just a kid with an oversized ego, writing as if I know everything there is to know. I mean, I was a literature major with a minor in pretension and douchebaggery.

With that being said, I will continue pompously shouting from my soap box.

I would have given anything to have been in Minneapolis, Boston, New York when this news broke. But, I wasn't. I was here, in South Korea, where oppression based on sexual orientation still happens. The dichotomy of "pants vs. pumps" lesbians consistently astounds me. You can be masculine or feminine, but never, ever both. But, I am neither pants nor pumps. I claim androgyny. I identify my sexuality as something more than boat shoes or mini-skirts. I love whom I love based on many things other than gender and appearance.

Because of that, I feel a need to be present in the gay community here. There are thousands of people here repressing a very central part of their identity because they were taught it isn't right. There are thousands others living a secret life, sequestered from main stream society. I want to show this community that it is okay to love whomever you want. I understand that I am more liberal than not, and the rules of the west are very different from the rules of the east. I respect it. But, there is a very severe need for change. In terms of sexual equality, South Korea is about where the States were in the fifties. However, they progress with a remarkable rate.

I want to be a part of this progression. I want to spread my idealism, my hope, my passion for equity. I want to tell my student who wrote a pro-gay marriage newspaper article that I am proud of her, and that she is so brave to address this in such a public forum. Instead, I have to check grammar and leave my ideas of subject matter out.

I want to be a part of something bigger. I wasn't able to be this voice of equality while a leader in my college. I was too afraid being gay would taint my image, my job security, my life that I had created.  I cannot begin to write about how influential T was in the LGBT community at St. Norbert College. He is a hero and paved the way for so many young men and women.

Lucky me, I get a redo- a chance to show people (foreigners and Koreans alike) that there is nothing inherently wrong with gay people. That being gay is just a facet of who I am. I am a better teacher, daughter, sister, friend, writer than a lesbian. I mean, I just started watching 'The L Word' for goodness sake. Stereotype? Too soon?

At any rate, I am not so na├»ve to think that the death of DOMA is the 'be all end all' of orientation discrimination. It doesn't abolish the crimes still happening against gay men and women around the world. It really just protect same-sex couples already married in states where it is legal. However, it is a huge, giant leap for America to recognize the legality of same-sex marriage. I do not need a piece of paper to legitimize my love for another human. But, I do want to hold my lover's hand while we watch our children graduate high school, while they marry the loves of their lives, and- in the final moments- in a hospital promising her that everything was perfect, and I will see her real soon.

Steps down from soap box, dusts off vest, re-velcros Tevas, and leaves you to your peace.


  1. Katie, this is such a phenomenal post. You have inspired me in so many ways even throughout the short time I've known you.
    Thank you for being a beacon of light and standing up for what you believe in so beautifully. When the news came out, Tyler and I were talking about it and we realized, "DOMA is going to be just like the Civil Rights Movement. When we have children, we're going to tell them about this day and how there used to be a time when all love wasn't considered equal."
    I know you'll continue to do great things in South Korea, Katie. You are an incredible woman.

  2. Thank you so much, Natalie. I really hope this is another step in the LGBT movement. I appreciate your support. I know our paths will cross again, Natalie. You are a fantastic woman.