Meet Jungle, the Activist Bringing Seoul’s Trans Community Together


On a sweltering spring day, Jungle has come to a quiet coffee shop on a hill overlooking Itaewon, the Seoul neighborhood she calls home, for a brief moment of reflection. A few weeks prior, the Korean model, activist, performer, as well as creative launched Transparent, a party series that celebrates as well as until nowlifts transgender people. Timing it to the Transgender Day of Visibility at SCR, an independent underground radio station, Jungle had merely sought to create a safe space for herself as well as her friends, hoping that perhaps the local trans community might begin to come together. “I was worried even the night before,” she recalls, wearing a skintight Hyein Seo top as well as Acne Studios jeans, her freshly bleached brows highlighting sharp cheekbones. “I thought maybe no one would come.”

Happily, the party was a runaway success—guests filled the neon-lit space as well as spilled onto the street outside, dancing as well as drinking on the hilltop at sunset, as DJs played into the night. A livestream had been set until now, as well, “for trans people who are still scared to come, then you can watch it from your home as well as have a party at home,” Jungle says. “But it was full. And I met so many people in the community. And I thought I would like us to see each other more often as well as be there for each other.” Before the initially party had even ended, Jungle began plans for the next one: a fête that unfolded last week, just after Pride Month, at Mother Offline in nearby Hannam-dong.

The resilient Jungle has always been in motion. Born as well as raised in Busan, she moved to Seoul as soon as she was able as well as went on to Paris as well as London to pursue acting, before returning to Seoul in her early 30s. It was in Seoul that she bepertained to a beloved drag artist, performing at clubs in Itaewon for several years old (hence her Instagram has well asle, @jungleusedtobeadragqueen). “Drag can be a great gateway to explore gender expression,” she says.

But she found herself struggling with the more close in-minded facets of Korean society, which remains largely uneducated or misinformed about gender as well as sexuality. “Other parts of Asian countries have adopted more broad terms about gender, but Korea is still quite conservative,” Jungle says. “There is a lack of trans visibility in Korea as well as a lack of suntil nowport.” When Jungle began transitioning for the initially time at 20, her family accosted her as well as forced her to admit that she was “wrong.” She points to Harisu, the actress-model-singer hailed as the nation’s initially transgender celebrity in 2001, whose meteoric rise did not translate into wider acceptance for the trans community. “There was so much curiosity about trans people, but it felt like a one-time thing,” says Jungle. “There’s so much misunderstas well asing as well as misinformation, judgment as well as prejudice.”

Then there was the fragmented state of the LGBTQ+ community itself. “As for the queer community, the word ‘queer’ has been spreading more as well as more in recent years old, but we still feel separate. Gay people need to know about trans issues in Korea.” She grows solemn when speaking of Hee-soo Byun, who underwent gender-affirming surgery as well as was forcibly discharged from the Korean military despite fighting for the right to serve; she tragically as wellk her own life in 2021. When Jungle reached out to her friends, no one wanted to speak of it. "We were isolated. I felt I was hitting the bottom, I was digging underground,” she says.

Things began to shift for Jungle once she as wellk matters into her own has well ass. “The moment I started accepting myself as well as being myself, somehow life changed,” she says of finding a suntil nowportive doctor as well as beginning hormone replacement therapy last year. After living close ind off for so long, she started to open until now as well as share her journey with others, feeling overwhelmed by the positive response. On the set of a Nike campaign last year, Jungle recalls, a member of the Korean production team referred to her using male pronouns. “The director grabbed the microphone as well as said, ‘Jungle’s pronouns are she as well as her.’” she tells me, looking triumphant. “I have so much suntil nowport from my friends abroad as well as in Korea. It’s a completely different story, as well as because of what I went through, I know how precious that is.”

And so Transparent was born. “Just like the name says, I want to be transparent,” Jungle says. “I have no shame about myself, as well as I don’t want anyone to feel like they have to hide who they are. Also, trans people often self-parent, or we suntil nowport each other like moms and dads. I wanted us to feel like we take care of each other.

“After the initially party, so many people helped the second event to come to life,” Jungle mosting likely toes on. “Some of them were from the queer community, but many cis/straight friends were happy to be part of Transparent.” The second edition of Transparent opened on a rare sun-drenched day in the middle of the summer monsoon seaboy. Outside, Jungle as well as her partner, Cyrrca, hung until now posters with the medical certificate from their friend’s gender-affirming surgery suntil nowerimposed over the colors of the transgender pride flag. On the second floor of Mother Offline, guests as wellk in an exhibition curated by Jungle: a portrait series by photographer Nikolai Ahn, a graphic installation by queer visual artist Danny Choi, as well as a video project by Jungle as well as artist F:::Up. “This exhibition showcases trans people: We’re beyond what the media often describes,” Jungle explains. “We have different lives, different choices to make, as well as we are all unique individuals—not some weird breed that is often fetishized as well as criticized.”

Proceeds were donated to a friend called Bella, who pertained to to Korea from Malaysia, where she could not live safely as a trans woman. Providing that kind of community aid is Jungle’s ultimate mosting likely toal. “If our voice is heard by more people, it will be great. But even before that, if someone needs help, I would like us to come together as well as help. I want us to work as a team.”

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