Openly Gay K-Pop Idol Holland Takes LGBT Community to ‘Neverland’ in Debut

Neverland — a place of magic and wonder, invented by Scottish writer and playwright J.M. Barrie and later launched into American cultural relevance with Disney’s re-imagining of “Peter Pan” in 1953.

Neverland itself continues to be symbolic of the idyll of childhood, the invincibility of young minds and hearts, immortality and escapism. It is the symbolic nature of the “second star to the right” which K-pop’s newest darling, the indie artist Holland, draws from with the release of his single “Neverland ” in late January earlier this year.

Holland, 21, is credited as being K-pop’s first openly gay idol. The “Neverland” music video, which was released on Jan. 21, garnered nearly 700,000 views in the first 24 hours of its debut and now peaks at nearly 7 million views a month after its initial launch.

In an interview with PRAN, he described the track as “a song about a boy who is dishonest about his desires and is discriminated against for his sexuality, wanting to go to a place where he can do what his heart wants.”

“Holland” is a stage name. The singer’s Korean name is Go Tae-seob. He joins a small group of other “out” South Korean entertainers Hong Seok-cheon, Harisu and MRSHLL. “I wanted to tell queer people that although we can’t marry someone and we can’t be sure of what is going to be next,” he said, “we are OK nevertheless.”

Holland added in a SBS Pop Asia interview: “This song is for kids who are having a hard time because of their identity. I wanted to comfort them with this song while they’re struggling. That’s the main story. This can also be my own story where I cannot be honest about my love.”

The music video was rated for audiences at least 19 years of age for including a same-sex kiss, which Holland explained to PRAN was not something he was originally for, but chose to include in hopes that curiosity would make people want to see why it was flagged. He hopes it will influence change in those that have watched it.

His debut has been met with open arms internationally and inspired scores of reaction videos from the YouTube LGBT community.

Popular K-pop vlogger Jose Ochoa explained in his reaction video that “This isn’t about me. This is about, I’m getting this way, happy and emotional and all that positivity. If I got teary-eyed and stuff, it’s happiness. It’s for everybody that he will inspire to be brave enough to be themselves, whatever that is.”

Alejandro Montes, another K-pop vlogger, was likewise brought to tears in his video.

“I love how it was portrayed that gay couples are just normal. We have hardships. We have happy times. We feel lonely sometimes and it’s just very emotional and I hope that people view this and understand it and don’t just fetishize it like ‘Oh my god, yes, gay Korean men. I’m all for this!’,” Montes said. “I hope people view it and take it not only as a learning experience but as a step forward into a more accepting future.”

Twitter users from all over the world flocked to the hashtag #HollandDebutDay, thanking Holland for his openness about his sexuality and frankness on topics that ordinarily would be left unaddressed by the K-pop industry.

As it stands, LGBT South Koreans face legal challenges and sexuality-based discrimination. The Pew Research Center found that, in 2013, almost 57 percent of Koreans believe that homosexuality should not be accepted by society, though that disapproval is a decline from 2007, when 77 percent rejected homosexuality.

“‘You did nothing wrong,’ I just want to tell this message to LGBTs. There is also a sense of responsibility in coming out. Revealing [that I am] LGBT may [mean I] need to be careful in every abnormal behavior and words I say,” Holland explained in a interview with Korean media, according to a fan translation. “But these days, I get more comfort and strength from my fans. Whenever I get a message from them saying ‘Thank you,’ I feel my choice was not wrong.”

While the musician has yet to release a date for his debut album, he is working on his next single. In early February, he posted an open call on Twitter.