Holland, the first openly gay K-Pop idol, realized that his sexual preference was “different” during middle school. He debated about his sexuality over a hundred times by himself, until he finally got up the courage to confide in one of his closest friends.
He thought his friend would be understanding, but instead, the friend spread his secret and Holland became the victim of homophobic bullying for the next 3 years.
He revealed that he was bullied every single day by his classmates for his sexuality.
They would bully him in the cafeteria and seek him out when he was alone in the classrooms. Those he had once considered friends tied a rope around his neck and dragged him around the school yard. The other students just laughed.
The bullying became so bad that he even attempted suicide, but he was thankfully saved by a few words from a true friend – “Your existence isn’t ‘wrong’.” He regained his purpose to live and decided to send out his story through a song, titled “Neverland”.
“Every lyric comes from my personal experience. I’ve never learned how to write lyrics but I wanted to convey my true thoughts. I still suffer from PTSD and depression because of the trauma I faced when my friend told the whole school my secret and I became the victim of homophobic bullying. I wanted to tell other gay people and victims of bullying that ‘You have nothing to be ashamed of. You have the right to live your life normally as anyone else. You can share your own stories.’ I wanted to give them hope.”
However, the road to releasing his song wasn’t easy. He had sent his song to different labels and two responded back with an agreement too sign him as an artist. However, right before the final signature on his contract, Holland told them that he wanted to promote as an openly gay artist. Both labels rejected him.
“I prepared the album from start to finish all by myself. That’s why you’ll probably see a lot of parts that are lacking. But I think if I keep practicing I’ll be able to share the stories I want to share and say what I want to say to those I want to reach out to.”
He knew that he would be putting himself in danger by publicly coming out, but he thought the message he needed to send was much more important.
“Everyone worried, ‘You’ll probably get attention for coming out gay but you’ll also be open to a lot of danger and hate.’ But I didn’t want to hide the fact that I’m gay. I simply want to tell other gay people that ‘You’re not doing something wrong.’”
He was especially driven to release the song because the bullies who tortured him were now promoting as successful idols and actors.
“I know the pain from being bullied can one day feel dull but I felt that I wouldn’t be able to improve myself if I didn’t share my story. The people who bullied me are promoting as idols and actors just fine. Gay people or bullied victims can become singers too.”
After officially debuting as a K-Pop idol, Holland says he’s received a lot of hate as expected, but he’s also received a lot of love and support from his fans. He wanted to sincerely thank them for giving him strength through his tough times and hope he can also become a source of strength for them.
Although the road as the first openly gay idol in Korea will be hard, Holland fights for the day when gay celebrities will appear more on television and society will stop belittling those who are different.