A Comparative Analysis of Korean and American Prospective Teachers' Perceptions of LGBTQ Issues

Keywords: homosexuality, heteronormativity, homophobia, prospective teachers, teacher education


Korea and the US have different levels of tolerance toward homosexuality. At the same time, the school in both countries is considered to reinforce homophobia and heteronormativity. This study focuses on juxtaposing Korean and American prospective teachers to compare their past and current understanding and attitudes toward homosexuality. The research highlights the differences and similarities between the attitudes of the prospective teachers from the two countries and analyses reasons behind these attitudes. This study also examines how the participants face their own biases, understand the complicated issues related to sexual minorities, challenge their own perceptions, and decide whether they would change or keep them. Ten Korean and 10 American prospective teachers participated in a journal writing project guided by anti-homophobic discourses. In the beginning of the project, the Korean participants displayed greater homophobia in a more drastic way than the American participants did. However, the difference between the two countries might be only superficial in that heterosexuality is placed as a norm in both countries. In other words, even though homosexuality is more tolerated in American society, it does not mean that it is accepted as part of the norm. At the end of the project, the American and the Korean participants agreed that heterosexist beliefs and practices permeate society and that such social institutions as schools play an important role in reproducing and reinforcing homophobia. However, three American participants remained silent on the final question of whether they would fight against homophobia and three Korean participants decided not to support homosexual issues. If one says nothing, one cannot be accused of homophobia. By their silence, they voiced their true feelings on the issue, that they didn't support it, showing that silence is far from neutral in a heterosexual society.