Holland Is Gay And That's Okay
By Staci White
Korea’s first openly gay idol, Holland, recently debuted with the song Neverland. While most Kpop fans were stoked to finally get some LGBTQ representation, many were nervous that Holland’s reception would be cold at best. Thankfully, most people (especially international fans) seem to be welcoming Holland to the Kpop scene with open arms.
Homosexuality, for the most part, is treated as a taboo in Korean society. Due to massive protests from conservative anti-LGBTQ Christian groups, political support is limited. There are very few places that the LGBTQ community is accepted without facing repercussions. The few gay clubs in Korea (mostly located in Itaewon in an area known as “Homo Hill”) and LGBTQ-friendly establishments maintain a low profile. Fortunately, acceptance is becoming more common especially among young people.
According to Pew Global, in a study from 2013, 71% of Korean people aged 17-29 believed that homosexuality should be accepted. Last year, the Seoul Pride Parade saw their largest crowd ever when 85,000 people showed up.
Despite the growing acceptance for LGBTQ rights, LGBTQ representation in Kpop is lacking. In the past few years there have been only a handful of trans idols including Lady, a girl group made up of trans women, Hanbit, a model and member of the girl group Mercury, and model and singer Harisu to name a few. Topp Dogg’s Hansol came out as asexual recently, but for the most part, idols either allude to their sexuality or keep quiet.
In a recent interview with The Kyunghyang Shinmun, (which I highly recommend reading) Holland mentions that he was also pressured to keep his sexuality under wraps. However, as an influencer and artist, Holland knew that he held a responsibility towards the LGBTQ community to voice the importance of individuality and expression. His hope is that with more representation in the media, people will understand that LGBTQ represents identity and does not change who they are as a person.
While the music video is well-done and quite progressive for Korea, the song itself is underwhelming. It’s not as well-produced or well-written as a typical kpop song (possibly due to him being an independent artist) but it shows potential. The lyrics describe Holland’s experience as a gay man coming to terms with his identity. The music video does a great job of portraying a healthy romantic relationship that happens to be gay. Although I found the song lacking, I absolutely loved the music video and when I found out why Holland included a kiss scene, I admired him even more. In Korea, music videos have ratings similar to movie ratings in the states and a kiss scene between two people of the same gender bumps an otherwise tamed 15+ music video to the more vulgar rating of 19+ (think an R rating). Holland, understandably, thought this was unfair and wanted people to question the rating.
All in all, it’s not the best debut song but coupled with the stellar music video and an outspoken personality, Holland is a newcomer to watch. I look forward to seeing how his career progresses and a world where all people can be themselves without repercussions.