K-pop group Lionesses claim they are the first out LGBTQ+ K-pop boy band. The band released its debut single "Show Me Your Pride" earlier this week hoping to inspire other queer Koreans to find their own joy and happiness.
The track covers issues that LGBTQ+ people face like coming out, dealing with anti-LGBTQ+ attitudes, and more. "Let me see your pride. Because you're the one who shines like stars," reads the video's YouTube description.
The four-member band is made up of Damjun, Kanghan, Lee Marlang, and Foxman. Both Damjun and Foxman were previously part of K-pop management companies, they told The Advocate over email.
Their name, they said, is inspired by the real leader of the savanna.
"We tend to think that the carnivore at the top of the food chain in the African ecosystem, which we often see through the media, is the male lion with the thick bushy mane. But the ruler of the plains is actually the lioness. It's a group of lionesses in charge of the hunting of the troop," Damjun told TW News.
The members told The Advocate they met by visiting LGBTQ-friendly places and connecting over their desire to make music with people similar to who they are.
"I think Korean society is still very conservative -- although it's much better than before -- and I think our perspectives and perceptions will change more in the future," Foxman explained.
Damjun points to the death of Byun Hee-soo, a transwoman who was discharged from the military, as an example of South Korea's still traditional society. Last month, a court in the country found the military unlawfully discharged her. However, Hee-soo died in March by suicide before hearing the court's decision.
"Wouldn't it have been nice if she could have cried a little less? She was a soldier who devoted herself to protecting this country," he said.
Queer acceptance has been a signifcant focus of their music. Damjun told TW News that the main takeaway for "Show Me Your Pride" was "This is who we are."
"Loving yourself as a minority requires a lot of struggle and reflection," Lee Marlang told The Advocate. "This is because society is violent and discrimination and oppression are severe."
As for their future plans, Damjun said it was for world peace and for the liberation of minorities. "We just want to play the role of a lighthouse so that young LGBTQ people who dream of becoming musicians don't miss their shot due to their fear ... At 18, I needed that lighthouse, but I didn't have it," he said.
The feeling is seconded by the other members of the band.
"I wanted to show that perceptions are gradually changing in Korea and that they are different from before," Foxman said. "We will show you a society that gradually improves."
The band told The Advocate that their next single will be out in December.
South Korean LGBTQ+ rights group Beyond the Rainbow Foundation's Ivan City Queer Cultural Fund supported the video, according to The South China Morning Post.
The outlet notes that there are several out LGBTQ+ singers in South Korea, such as K-pop star Holland and R&B singer MRSHLL. Several former K-pop group members have also come out like Jiae of Wa$$up, who came out as bisexual or Hansol of Xeno-T and Topp Dogg, who came out as asexual.
South Korea has yet to pass federal anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBTQ+ people and there's still a significant stigma to being queer. LGBTQ+ people in the country faced a backlash last year after an outbreak of COVID-19 was linked to gay clubs in the country's capital, Seoul.