Excerpts by Corina Knoll. See below for citations.
Prepared for www.apiequalityla.org by Jill Mizokami.
Jeff Kim and Curtis Chin, partners of 14 years, were featured in an article in the May 2008 issue of KoreAm Journal, a monthly Korean American magazine. Titled the The Right to Say, “I Do”, the story also spoke with other Korean Americans in same-sex relationships who made their case for marriage as a legal right.
Kim and Chin told KoreAm writer Corina Knoll how the denial of access to marriage rights has shaped the way their relationship is perceived externally and how they have essentially been blocked from reaching a social milestone that brings with it validation of their union, along with a public outpouring of love and support. Following is an excerpt from the article, reprinted here with permission:
“You get hurt on a very personal level because you know that it’s something you’ll never be a part of,” says Chin.
They haven’t had a commitment ceremony like other gay couples have, but did toy with the idea of throwing themselves a 10th anniversary party.
“It’s societal, it’s traditional, it’s historical, it shows something’s beginning,” says Kim.
Curtis Chin and Jeff Kim say when they have their ceremony, they’ll see an immediate change in their rights and benefits. Kim, 42, a program director for the California Wellness Foundation, will no longer be taxed for having Chin, a writer and producer, on his employer’s health insurance, something that doesn’t happen to his straight colleagues. And Chin won’t have to worry that Kim’s parents have more legal rights than he does.
“I don’t feel protected in the sense that if something were to happen to Jeff, I would not be surprised if his parents cut me out in the sense of being able to see him at the hospital,” says Chin, whose own Chinese American family has been warm and accepting of the couple.
First-generation Korean immigrants, Kim’s parents still struggle with their only son’s sexual orientation and acknowledging his relationship with another man.
“Embarrassment is a huge factor in the Korean community,” says Kim, who does note that his sister is extremely supportive. “[Being gay] would fit in the category of ‘Oh my god, you brought shame to our family.’ That is kind of a way that people and communities control their populace: the shame and embarrassment factor.”
If there is a wedding, Kim doesn’t think his parents will show up. But, he understands.
“Having grown up in a Christian Korean environment I know where they’re coming from,” says Kim. “There are evil homophobic people — [my parents] aren’t evil. It’s more about ignorance and not wanting to leave their comfort zone than it is about hate.”
They’ve never really thought about what their own wedding would be like, though they’ve attended dozens of such ceremonies for friends and family members over the 14 years they’ve been together.
“We were gonna ask people to make up for all the weddings,” quips Kim.
“Yeah, for all the gifts we bought!” adds Chin. “The big joke is, we used to just say, on a pure financial level, it’s just not fair. We spend thousands of dollars on weddings, and we’re never gonna get that back!”
This story was published before the California Supreme Court issued its historic ruling to legalize same-sex marriage. It is not known if Kim and Chin have any immediate plans to marry, but they like so many other couples finally have the legal right to do so and the opportunity to invite their friends and family to celebrate and offer the love (and gifts!) Kim and Chin have generously shared with others in the past.
*Excerpts of The Right to Say, “I Do” article have been re-formatted here. Corina Knoll is the article’s credited author. KoreAm Journal is fully recognized as the publisher. For the full text, please click here.