“Till the world turns upside down” Parents of LGBT youth share their stories

Posted on : 2016-05-19 16:58 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Research shows that LGBT people without supportive parents are more likely to suffer depression or commit suicide
Haneul (front
Haneul (front

During a press conference held at the Korea Press Center in Seoul on May 17, a woman in her sixties grabbed the microphone.

“Parents can be the strongest supporters of LGBT kids, but they can also be the most hateful offenders,” said the woman, who identified herself as “Haneul,” meaning “sky” in Korean.

“Haneul” is the activist name that she chose eight years ago after coming to terms with the fact that her son is gay.

Until Haneul learned her son’s sexual identity, she had never even heard the word LGBT, meaning lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. But after accepting her son, she has become the leader of a group of parents and family members of LGBT people like her son and has been advocating LGBT rights.

During the press conference on Tuesday, 26 organizations for LGBT rights and 95 civic groups expressed their solidarity.

According to research by Caitlin Ryan, who has a PhD in public health policy, when parents strongly reject the sexual identity of their LGBT children, they are eight times more likely to attempt suicide and six times more likely to suffer from depression.

One transgender individual who declined to provide their real name said that their parents had used violence in an attempt to provide “treatment.”

On Tuesday, which was the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, mothers and fathers who have embraced their LGBT children and who at the least do not want to cause their children harm shared their experiences with the Hankyoreh.


“I’ll be on your side even if the world turns upside down”: Haneul, mother of a gay son

In 2008, when my son was in college, he stayed in bed for four days straight, not going to school and not even eating anything. So without my son’s knowledge, I called one of his friends and asked if he had any idea what was going on.

That was when first I learned about my son’s sexual identity. It felt like someone had hit me in the head with a sledgehammer.

I wrote a letter to my son and told him, “I‘ll be on your side even if the world turns upside down.” I underlined the phrase “your side.”

After the letter, my son started eating again. He went back to school and resumed his daily routine.

My son, who is now in his 30s, has been with his partner for five years and is satisfied with his life. He credits his “awesome mom” for loving him and accepting him as he is.

When LGBT children are rejected by their parents, they have nowhere to go. All that these children want from their parents is to hear that their parents are there for them.


“You can’t just change your sexual identity”: Ji-in, mother of a gay son

I found out that my son was gay when I snooped on his text messages in 2013.

I used all kinds of harsh language with him, assuming I could change his mind. I told him that he was too young to know any better, that he had hung out with the wrong crowd and that I hadn’t raised him to be like that.

But then I watched the movie “Prayers for Bobby” with my husband. It’s about a woman who is unable to accept her gay son. The cruel things she says to him eventually lead him to commit suicide.

This film - which is based on a true story - changed me. The important thing wasn’t whether my son was gay or not. It occurred to me that my son could die if I wasn’t careful. The fact that so many LGBT people don’t change despite all the prejudice and hatred they deal with should tell you something. Homosexuality isn’t a disease, so there’s no need to treat it or cure it.


“My son isn’t the only one”: Kwon Yeong-han, father of a bisexual son

“Dad, I’m bi,” my son told me in 2014, when he was in the second year of high school. He was pretty nonchalant about coming out. Since I’d attended a lecture on LGBT rights in 2011, I had already thought about how I would treat my son if I learned he was LGBT. While I managed to tell my son it was no big deal, in all honesty I have to confess that, on the inside, I couldn‘t come to terms with it.

But then, on my son’s instigation, I took part in an investigative program on a major broadcaster dealing with the issue of hatred of LGBT people. After appearing on the show, I read the comments that were posted online.

Among the thousands of comments, I found that LGBT people like my son were tagging people they loved and comforting them by writing things like “hang in there” and “I love you.” As I realized that my son was not alone out there, I could feel all the negative emotions inside me starting to fade away.

There are things that parents don’t understand. We shouldn’t make the mistake of judging our children based on unsubstantiated information about LGBT people in regard to issues like anal sex and AIDS.

By Ko Han-sol, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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