Oli London is a British social media influencer who has long been known by his fans for a love of Korea, having lived there for several years and becoming fluent in the language.
This week, London turned many heads by coming out as both non-binary and Korean. “People might not get it, it’s a new concept, whatever,” London told fans during several videos posted online since the weekend, explaining:
I’ve been trapped in the wrong body for eight years, and that’s the worst feeling in the world when you’re trapped and you don’t feel like you can be yourself. But finally I’m Korean. I can be myself, and I’m so, so happy.
This comes at the end of eighteen ‘racial transition surgeries’ that London has endured, including rhinoplasty, lip fillers, a blepharoplasty, and a genioplasty. London’s goal has been to have a nose, lips, teeth and eyes that resemble those of K-pop star Jimin from the pop group BTS. London has long confessed to having a ‘crush’ on Jimin.
“I’m feeling really good,” London told fans.
For the first time in my life I feel beautiful. I’m looking in the mirror and I love the way I look, and I feel happy, and I hope people can respect my decision.
As part of the transition, London has selected the pronouns they/them, Kor/ean, and Jim/in, though it’s not entirely clear how and when each of these are to be used in sentences.
London explained that this tell-all was timed to coincide with Pride Month:
I’ve seen a lot of other people that have come out online and been very brave about it and shared their story about how they identify… So I’ve taken courage from these incredibly brave people. It’s Pride Month at the moment so I thought this was the best time to do it — to add a voice, add strength to the LGBTQI community. So I am going to come out today and say that I’ve been transitioning.
No longer does London wish to be referred to as British:
I know a lot of people don’t understand me but I do identify as Korean, and I do look Korean now, I do feel Korean. I don’t identify as British, so please don’t refer to me — any media or anyone online — as British because I identify as Korean, that’s just my culture, that’s my home country. That’s exactly how I look now.
This rather ground-breaking transition has been extremely controversial. In the online fashion magazine Paper, contributing editor Sandra Song wrote,
“As someone who actually has Korean DNA though, I can say that some white fetishist — as proven by those 15 surgeries to look like Jimin — suddenly deeming themself ‘Korean’ is incredibly offensive…”
But the biggest protest has been in defence of the transgender community. Many commentators and social media users have expressed concern that by professing both non-binary gender and Korean ethnicity in a single transition, London has “harmed” the transgender community.
In other words, London has harmed the credibility of the entire concept that someone can transition genders. Indeed, identical reasoning was used by London in both the gender and racial transition: being trapped in the wrong body; a rejection of the oppressive facts of biology; pursuing the freedom to be oneself and feel beautiful; and having one’s decision respected. In London’s words:
Always do what makes you happy in life. This is my message. This is my motto. Be who you want to be. Love who you want to love. Be what gender you want to be. Be what person you want to be. I support all the LGBTQI community, and all the people that identify in different ways. I think it’s a very beautiful thing that in 2021 we can all have these different identities and we can love different people freely.
Where’s the inconsistency? It seems that those who object to London’s decision can’t find fault in the logic — they simply don’t want to live with the implications this has for the transgender narrative that has been told and re-told over recent years.
Illustrative of this was a curious conversation that took place on the talk show Daily Blast LIVE. Hosts Sam, Erica and Jeff clearly struggled to make sense of the London transition. Evidently, their biggest challenge was to speak of London with the same level of respect and affirmation they would normally extend to a transgender person.
On this count they failed, making comments that we could only describe as ‘transracialphobic’.
“Racial transition surgery!?” Erica scoffed. “What’s that? Where they do that at? What? I am so confused. I don’t even have the words.” She protested that someone can’t simply chose to transition into her own African-American culture, for instance — for the simple reason that they haven’t done the ‘legwork’ of living in her culture.
Couldn’t the same be said of a person who adopts a gender they weren’t born with?
Sam was just as narrow-minded, insinuating that Oli London wasn’t in “the right state of mind” when undergoing all of those medical procedures. “It’s very problematic,” she said, expressing her hope that there would be more discernment in the medical community before carrying out such surgery.
On what basis then is it wrong to say the same of someone undergoing transgender surgery?
“Is this where society is going to draw the line — on ‘racial transition surgery’?” Jeff asked tentatively, before becoming more resolute. “People aren’t going to accept that? Is that what we’re saying as a society?”
Isn’t the same hesitancy towards transgender people considered offensive?
What became clear from this conversation was that Western logic is broken. We have conceded that someone’s internal beliefs about who they are must be accepted as definitively true by society at large. And now we have no way of putting brakes on that logic without harming the sacred cow that is transgenderism.
And whether intended or not, Oli London is now here to troll that logic:
People might think I’m such a joke, but you know what guys? You don’t understand… I’ve had so many people online bully me about my looks, my love of Jimin, my love of Korea, and people just don’t get it…
I don’t want to receive any backlash for this because this is a very personal thing to share… I’m doing this because it’s how I identify, it’s how I feel. So I just want people to please be respectful in the comments, please be respectful online.