Monday, July 17, 2017

It was Seoul Gay Pride this past weekend, and I was so happy to go check out the festivities.

When I got off the subway at the City Hall stop, I wasn't sure what to expect. I was elated to see people within the station with pride flags painted on their faces and other visible signs of support for the cause. But I have to be honest in saying that I was also surprised by the number of protesters I saw as soon as I surfaced above ground.

There was a large counter demonstration across the street from where the festival was being held. They also had a huge screen set up to broadcast whoever was speaking on the stage, and that made it both pretty visible and audible from the side where I was standing. At that moment I arrived, there was such anger and vitriol in that specific speaker's voice. I was truly taken aback by it. He was an older gentleman, angrily screaming at the top of his lungs as it echoed everywhere. I could hear the graininess that seemed to come from losing his voice as a result of yelling so loudly. Then on the side of the street where the festival was being held, all I saw was a wall of police officers standing on the sidewalk to keep other protestors from getting too close to passersby as they made their way towards the entrance. I could feel my blood boiling as I had to walk by them and listen to their furious shrieks and protests. They waved their big signs in the air and howled with passion while preaching about how LGBTQ people are less than. They showed so much rage, but everyone who had to endure their hatred did not. Most people simply ignored them or walked by with smiles and excitement for what the day meant.

When I finally made my way into the festival, the vibe was completely different from what was going on outside. There was nothing but love, happiness, and celebration. There were so many people, with a large presence of foreigners as well. Being within the space instantly made me forgot about all the mess that was happening outside, and I happily walked around alone to soak it all in.

The actual parade took place outside of the festival area on a main street of Seoul. And I was fortunate to have perfect timing to witness the entire thing. I can't tell you how moved I was in seeing the thousands of people marching. Young. Old. Straight. LGBT. Korean. Non-Koreans. The diversity in everyone amazed me. All I thought was, where are all these people living and going out to? I didn't realize there was such diversity here, especially among the LGBTQ community. There were way more people actually marching in the parade than watching it as a spectator, which only made me think that people didn't just want to watch it, but they instead wanted to be a part of the movement. Seeing it all almost moved me to tears. It was very emotional and heart-warming. It was parade float after parade float that was filled with swarms of joyful people in between.

Towards the end of the day, the feelings I had from seeing all of the protestors were overcome by the warmth and love I felt from all of the supporters. I have to say that the Seoul Police Department did an excellent job in maintaining order and keeping angry protestors from getting too close to festival goers. I was extremely grateful for that. Overall, it was a memorable Pride. Korean society still has a ways to go in regards to accepting LGBTQ people, but they're definitely on their way there. And the amount of love, support, and LGBTQ allies from the weekend truly did show that.

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