Image from “Coming to You.” Courtesy.

Coming to You (너에게 가는 ) is an indie documentary from South Korea chronicling the journey of reconciliation and acceptance for two Korean mothers whose children have come out as queer. To this day, Korea is still slow to accept or even acknowledge its queer citizens, so when I heard about the film, I was immediately curious to see it. 

The documentary is directed by Gyu-ri Byun, a woman who is associated with the Korean feminist organization PINKS, which has worked to advance human rights through media activism since 2004. What initially started out as a project to help the Korean PFLAG group create a short promotional film ended up becoming a full-fledged documentary. Coming to You was shot over four years, and though PINKS ran out of funding at one point, the group managed to complete it in 2021 and it was released in Korea the same year.  

The movie was released in the U.S. through video on demand on March 22 and can be watched on Hoopla, Kanopy, Prime Video, and Apple TV.   

The film follows Nabi and Vivian, two working-class mothers. Nabi has been a firefighter for 34 years and is divorced. Nabi’s son Han-gyul (they/them), is transgender and in the process of getting their official identity changed. Ever since Han-gyul’s breasts started growing in middle school, they were repulsed by the sight of them and would shower in the dark.  

Han-gyeol’s relationship with their mother had been fraught with tension because Nabi refused to allow them to get breast removal surgery, even though they begged and cried, at times fearing that the procedure was essential for them to keep on living.  

“I felt that she was saying it just wasn’t right. I think I was deeply hurt because, in a way, she was denying my true identity. I also became severely depressed because I couldn’t get the surgery,” said Han-gyul in the documentary. “But even when I thought about ending my life, the main reason that kept me from doing it was that it meant I would die as a woman.”  

Vivian has worked as a flight attendant for 27 years, and her son Yeh-joon is gay. He came out to his parents through a letter in which he explained that although he felt lonely being in the closet, he didn’t feel he could come out to his parents right away. Instead, he came out to his friends first, and with their support, he found the courage to tell his parents the truth.  

“He said we might also be happy about it because he believed we would still love him no matter who he was,” said Vivian in the film. Vivian described not being able to sleep after learning the news. “What are the first words I should say to him? How do you even start that conversation? So I texted him, saying I was both sad and confused…Then I said ‘I’m sorry I gave birth to you because you have such a difficult path ahead.”  

Coming to You follows Nabi and Han-gyul as Han-gyul undergoes gender-affirming treatment and the arduous process both of them go through to convince the legal system to allow them to change their legal identity from female to male. Through it all, viewers are able to see the stonewalling the Korean legal system does to prevent individuals from having their gender identity recognized.  

The film also follows Vivian and Yeh-joon as he studies abroad in Toronto and considers possibly living there indefinitely. There, Yeh-joon falls in love with Sung-joon, a Korean man, and comes back to Korea to pursue the relationship seriously. Although Yeh-joon’s parents have known their son is gay, his partner Sung-joon’s mother finds out only during the filming of the documentary. Though Vivian initially felt shocked and hopeless about her son’s coming out, the documentary follows Vivian’s journey as she becomes an avid and passionate activist for the queer community.  

Coming to You is a heartwarming and heart-wrenching tearjerker that will make people smile, laugh, and most importantly, feel hope about the future. It will make people question humanity, but in watching Vivian, Nabi, and the rest of the PFLAG community’s love, support, and determination as they fight for their children and friends’ rights and happiness, viewers will find the film refreshing and perhaps it will even move them to help others in need.  

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