A Better Society Will Embrace You
Park Yang-geon, Lee Won-jun, Lee Jiwoo Reporters
Our lives have become more diverse: the way we consume, the way we think, the way we love, and so on. As a result of these changes, society has become more complex and created a variety of values. Similarly, the concept of family and community is changing. Then, how are people living in the modern century defining ‘gender’ and 'family'? Let us discuss it briefly.
Before we get to the point, sex, gender, and sexuality must be defined. Most people would have heard about sex and gender. Then, what is the difference between these two? Moreover, what is sexuality? According to Oxford Dictionary, ‘sex’ means ‘the state of being male or female’. In summary of the Oxford Dictionary, it states that females are the sex that give birth to babies, thus, a male stands for the sex that does not give birth to babies.
Let us pose the question; what is ‘gender’? Oxford Dictionary says that ‘gender’ is ‘the fact of being male or female, especially when considered with reference to social and cultural differences, not differences in biology.’ Referring to the definition in the Oxford Dictionary, if a human is in fact a male or female, according to cultural differences, regardless of biological characteristics, their gender is male or female. Moreover, there are people who are unable to consider themselves as being a male or female, or who consider themselves to be both male and female simultaneously, or an array of other gender identities.
In addition to ‘sex’ and ‘gender’, ‘sexuality’ must be defined. According to the Oxford Dictionary, ‘sexuality’ is ‘the feelings and activities connected with a person’s sexual desires’. Therefore, if a person loves another individual of their same sex, that person is homosexual, if not, then that person is heterosexual. As with gender, there are also numerous types of sexuality.
The number of types of gender and sexuality is not the problem of existence but of cognition. Simply speaking, it is similar with the color of light which is penetrated through prism. To help your understanding, attached below is a gender and sexuality chart, yet bear in mind that this chart is only a sample of various gender and sexual identities.
Someone whose gender identity is different from the one they were assigned at birth might identify themselves as transgender. For example, a person who considers oneself as a male, but biologically is a female.
Cisgender is a term which is used as the antonym of transgender. Cisgender is a term to describe someone whose gender matches what they were assigned at birth. For example, an individual is assigned female at birth based on being born with female genitalia, and simultaneously acknowledge themselves to be female.
An individual who does not identify themselves as a male or female, but somewhere in between. This term is an umbrella term, thus, its meaning is purposely broad.
Gender fluid stands for an individual who varies their gender and sexuality frequently. It is also included in the non-binary category.
An individual who identifies themselves as neither male nor female. It is not a well known concept, and it is included in the non-binary category.
First, there are two types of sexualities.
-Romantic: an individual who feels romantic attraction toward another.
-Sexual: an individual who feels sexual attraction toward another.
An individual’s sexual/romantic orientation towards the same sex. In other words, someone who is attracted to the same sex.
An individual’s sexual/romantic orientation towards the opposite sex. It is also known as ‘straight’.
An individual who is attracted sexually/romantically to any kind of sexuality and gender. The difference between Pansexual/romantic and Bisexual/romantic is that Pansexual/romantic is the concept which was coined in consideration of ‘gender’, and not only ‘sex’.
An individual who never experiences sexual/ romantic attraction toward both the same and the opposite sex.
This term falls under the asexual spectrum. A lithromantic is an individual who feels romantic attraction and loves toward any kinds of sexuality, and at the same time, does not desire to enter a romantic relationship. For example, if someone asks, “will you be my girlfriend?" a lithromantic person might reply, "I’m sorry, but I'm lithromantic. I really like you, but I don't want a relationship that way.” Or in a different instance, "I had such a crush on Julie, but when she tried to kiss me, I felt really uncomfortable. I think I might be lithromantic."
Some countries, regions and institutions are changing their policies in regard to these changing concepts of gender and sexuality. United, American, Delta and Southwest Airlines have agreed to recognize a third gender in gender information options. In addition, the states of Oregon, California and Colorado have allowed drivers' licenses to include a third gender. The American White House also has gender-neutral restrooms in their building. Additionally, in Sweden there was a gender-neutral toilet implementation policy, and in the Netherlands and England, there was a movement to change the phrase "ladies and gentlemen” into a broader category.
As stated above, there is now a variety of genders, and the concept of ‘gender’ continues to expand, which affects the family composition. Beyond the rigid structure of the past, the meaning of ‘sex’, ‘gender’ and ‘family’ is constantly changing, yet how?
First, ‘family’ should be defined. According to a survey of Korean university students, in response to what they think family is, half of the respondents answered that it is a ‘group of people with blood ties.’ The other answers included ‘a community that shares a spiritual communion’, and ‘people who live with one another.’ According to the Standard Korean Language Dictionary, ‘family’ means a group of people who are related, mainly referring to married couples, blood ties, and adoption. The definitions of families listed in the Collins COBUILD Advanced Dictionary and Oxford Dictionary were also similar. According to the definition of a ‘family’, regulated by the law of South Korea, Article 779 of the CIVIL ACT states the following:
(1) Family members shall consist of the following persons:
1. The spouse, lineal blood relatives, and brothers and sisters.
2. Spouses of the lineal blood relatives, lineal blood relatives of the spouse, and brothers and sisters of the spouse.
(2) In the case of paragraph (1)-2, it shall be limited to the case where they share living accommodations.
[This Article Wholly Amended by Act No. 7427, Mar. 31, 2005]
Currently, in Korea, remarriage and adoption are more common. According to the marriage statistics of the Korean government in 2018, 16 percent of men remarried, and 18.1 percent of women remarried, while 378 children were adopted within South Korea.
Consequently, let us consider adoption for same-sex couples and the legalization of same-sex marriage, which are still controversial issues. Once the Netherlands legalized same-sex marriage for the first time in the world in 2001, more than twenty countries, including Denmark and Finland, have legalized same-sex marriage and adoption. In Germany, adoption by same-sex couples took place three months after the legalization of same-sex marriage in July 2017. The United States legalized same-sex marriage nationwide on June 26, 2015, although the State of California granted the legalization of same-sex domestic relationships since 1999. However, the southern U.S. states do not recognize any legal status of same-sex couples. Naturally, adoption by same-sex couples is impossible.
Single parent adoption in South Korea has also increased. The Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare allowed single parent adoptions in 2007. This policy was aimed at encouraging single parent adoption and boosting the adoption culture, in line with the growing trend of single households. However, single parent adoption in Korea is difficult. Conditions include that the adopter must be over thirty-five years of age, and occupational, mental and physical stability are necessary. The final rulings must be made by the Family Court. However, since the court is concerned about the potential negligence of single parent adoption, such as the crime of abuse, it is not easy for single parents to adopt compared with the adoptions of married couples.
The meaning of family has even expanded beyond the relationship between humans. Karl Lagerfield, a world-famous designer, left his property to his cat "Choupette". Not only this, but some global celebrities such as Oprah Gail Winfrey said that they wanted to leave property to their pets. In Germany, if a pet is designated as an heir through certain organizations, the pet can inherit the property. In Korea, however, animals are not considered to be a subject for inheritance. Under the laws of Korea, only those that have the capacity to enjoy rights can be subject to inheritance, and the Supreme Court of Korea ruled that animals are ‘material’.
Following these global changes in perception, a series of changes are also appearing in South Korea. Last December, Korean Air became the first Korean airline to accept a customer of a same-sex family. According to Korean Air, the same-sex couple applied for the combined mileage of Korean Air’s "SKYPASS" family, and received approval a day later. As a result, the couple can use their own mileage to give bonus tickets to registered family members and add up their family mileage, in order to use them to purchase bonus tickets. However, there have also been many change-resistant movements. On November 12th of last year, an amendment to the National Human Rights Commission Act was proposed. The amendment includes excluding sexual orientation from anti-discriminatory clauses and reducing sex to a dichotomous concept.
We surveyed JBNU students to find out their perception of ‘gender’ and ‘family’. Below are the various responses for each question. Let's look at them.
1. Do you think the state should specify and consider various surnames in law, institutions, and policies?
1) Yes: “Because it's about the human rights of the people”, “Because the rights and interests of the minority must be protected”, “Every human being has the right to sexual self-determination, which deserves to be respected”, “It is not right for the state to deny the identity of the people”.
2) No: “The various sexual categories are not accepted by many citizens, so they will cause a lot of social conflict and cost”, “For the effective application of laws, systems and policies”, “To cause confusion in law or order”, “Because there are only two surnames: a woman and a man at birth”.
2. Do you think the meaning of family should be extended?
1) Yes: “Because the meaning of sex and family has become ambiguous”, “There are many ways of life in the world and they should be respected unless they violate morality”, “Blood relations are not the only family”.
2) No: “Because the definition of a family is a group of people of a certain range who are connected by blood, connection, and adoption”, “Excessive expansion of family meaning in terms of taxes, medical benefits, and census means that overhauling laws and institutions can be time-consuming and costly and cause social confusion”, “A family can only be formed between the same species”.
3. Do you think sexual minorities should be able to be parents?
1) Yes: “The state cannot deprive the sexual minority of its right to raise a child”, “It should be possible for the sexual minority to be a parent if they have the financial ability”, “The sex minority should also be respected as a person, and with their choice, they will be fully capable of acting as parents”.
2) No: “Because the healthy growth of an adopted child is impossible”, “Many cases have been subject to bullying, alienation and violence because their adopted children are children of sexual minorities”, “The sexual minority is their choice, but the children raised between the two do not choose their parents to be the sexual minority”, “I know that sex minorities include pedophiles, but in that case, I think being a parent is a crime in itself”. “Gay couples are also banned from adopting girls in countries that allow same-sex marriage. What would be the reason?”
What is the true meaning of ‘gender’ and ‘family’? The world is becoming more diverse and creating a more extended identity and community beyond the ‘conventional relationship'. In particular, the number of single households in Korea is increasing, and various relationships are being created based on this change. Of course, many may disagree with the legalization of same-sex marriage and the expansion of the family scope. However, the world is changing, and accordingly, it may be necessary to rethink the meaning of ‘sexuality’ and 'family'. In addition, perhaps the government should consider the opinions presented above and institutionalize policies in accordance with the trend.