I just got back a bit ago from a work dinner. People go out late here in Korea, especially when you work until almost 10. Work dinners consist of my three coteachers (all Korean) and I going somewhere to eat, and a lot of it is me just sitting there, nodding and smiling, because much of the conversation is happening in Korea, because it is clearly tiring and much more difficult for them to have their entire conversation in English, and they want to just kick back. I don’t blame them, but it makes for some awkward times for the foreign teacher involved (me).
Its pretty baller though because when you go out for a meal with my school, my director pays, and the recently post-university kid inside me always loves free food. My coteachers are damn nice, so they really do try to include me as often as possible (bless their hearts).
Around midnight as we were enjoying some ice cream (SO GOOD, I was devouring my tiny cup), when my boss turned to me, and, out of nowhere said “so something I was curious. Are you straight?”
The above is my immediate response. It was a complete deer in the headlights response. I sat there staring for what was probably 10 seconds…it was rough. My thought was “SHIT…should I just pack my bags now?”
Seeing the look in my eyes and obviously noticing my lack of immediate response, my director said “is that rude?” and my other coteacher chimed in with “if you aren’t that is fine!”
At hearing that, I breathed a sigh of relief and my heart began to settle a bit. In retrospect, this is all a bit funny since I haven’t had to “come out” to anyone since I was 17. I have been broin’ out in my queerness with complete openness, however, I knew coming to Korea that they weren’t incredibly keen on the gays, so I was totally content on just keepin’ quiet about it. Whatever, not a big deal. Not something I would be cool with in the states, but when in Korea.
After processing this, I responded, telling them that yeah, I’m gay and I told them about Matt and whatnot, and they were completely cool. I apparently was not their first gay coteacher. Being a small school, they try to get to know their foreign teachers, be their friend and whatnot, so they had previous interaction with a “gay,” I guess they are pretty cool Koreans.
Another reason that I was so surprised by this question is that Koreans don’t understand the Western ideas of gay performance, so the “cues” that would be picked up in a heartbeat in the US would go completely over the heads of most Koreans. I have noticed this firsthand and have been told this by countless other foreigners.
So, relieved that that all went over well and I will not be fired/banished/flogged by my school. It was definitely interesting to get that momentary flashback to the 17-year old Weston that was petrified with each coming out experience. My coworkers even said they want me to be comfortable with them and be able to talk to them (how sweet!).
I am still up since we went to a coffee shop after midnight, and, as most of you know, Weston doesn’t regularly do coffee, hence the 4 am blog post.
Hope you enjoyed this little tale of my petrifying/surprisingly nice experience of an evening.
Miss you all!
In all my wonderful queerness,