There are not many celebrities in Korea who speak up for human rights. I thought there’s got to be someone like me who discloses their sexual identity. — Holland
Welcome to our Gaydar Feature of the Month! A place where we turn on our little gay radar and go on a search for talented minds and souls who are a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. With our premiere piece, we are introducing a lesser-known and underrated artist from the land of South Korea: Holland.
In 2018, the debut of Go Tae-Seob who goes by the stage name Holland, stirred up South Korea and the international public’s attention. It was an obviously big step for the then 22-year- old to come out as the first openly gay K-pop idol in South Korea, a place where queerness is still taboo and public acceptance is low. His appearance in the entertainment industry attracted split opinions from the public.
Holland hit roadblocks in his journey to pursue music as he faced rejection from countless music studios due to the mere fact that he is an openly gay man. Undeterred, he juggled two part-time jobs, funding and creating his own debut song from scratch. He worked on the lyrics, melody, rhythm and production of the song all by himself, without support from any entertainment companies. His debut single “Neverland” was released in January 2018, the music video tells a story about how love is the key to Neverland, a fictional place where every happiness is created from deep within your heart. The music video received a 19+ rating in South Korea due to its depiction of two men kissing but it managed to rack up a million views in only 20 hours.
Public opinion was split three-ways over Holland’s entry into the K-pop scene. He garnered a considerable fan-base of members from the LGBTQ community who accept and support him for who he is, and by extension, his music too. On the flipside, he faced haters whose criticisms are rooted in homophobia, and even from within the queer community who thought he was just using them for the clout. But he proved them wrong with kissing scenes with another man in his music videos. There are also those who like his music but do not support his personal lifestyle. These ingrained discrimination and prejudice within the South Korean society have deprived him of the recognition and support he deserves from his home country, which is why he is more famous outside of Korea.
By the end of the year, Holland released two more songs: “I’m So Afraid” and “I’m Not Afraid”, the former song depicting his fear and struggle coming out to his parents. His parents only came to realize the truth about his sexuality through his interview article. Away from home, Holland wrote a letter to his parents explaining things after the article was published. His parents were initially reluctant to acknowledge the truth, but agreed to support him unconditionally. The latter song was in response to the former, telling the story of how he was finally accepted by his peers, and no longer being afraid to face the public with his true self.
Holland is definitely breaking barriers and lending a voice to the sexual minorities in South Korea. We applaud his courage to continue the pursuit of his dreams despite the relentless skepticism and discrimination against him. No one deserves to be put down for bravely pursuing their dreams and expressing who they truly are and who they choose to love. We ask that you please show your support and love for Holland and his music!