It’s been years since an all-openly queer K-pop idol group graced the stages of South Korea. All-trans girl group Lady disbanded in 2007 and we’ve been waiting since to see what an out and proud idol group would look like in an industry that, despite profiting off queerbait-y fanservice, doesn’t seem all that welcoming to the LGBTQIA+. Enter QI.X.
QI.X is a rookie queer idol group under independent label Sweet Potato Productions. The group consists of 22-year-old nonbinary leader and main dancer Prin, 27-year-old genderfluid main rapper Jigook, 26-year-old genderqueer main vocalist Maek, and 22-year-old lead vocalist Youra who’s questioning. All members, save for Jigook who uses he/they, use they/them pronouns.
QI.X debuted on Nov. 12, 2022 and first performed their debut single “Lights Up” at trans rights organization Jogakbo’s Transgender Day Of Remembrance program on Nov. 19 the same year. “Lights Up” is a catchy and empowering anthem with a chorus that goes: “Lights up above our heads / Never gonna hide again / Lights up, lights up / If you can see yourself / We got the power to make it, make it.”
The members previously opened up about how they didn’t feel that the K-pop industry accepted their identity and appearance so this track about being unafraid and reclaiming the space together is a great choice.
While the group has gained a fandom officially called QTZ, they’ve also faced homophobic detractors. QI.X and the group’s producer Jiyeon wrote in a letter to fans released on Jan. 18, “We are very, very thankful and grateful for all of you. But at the same time, we’re dealing with bullying comments. People leave mean comments such as we are mental patients, we are losers, etc. We’re a group of people who’ve been dealing with our differences in our lives. How we wanna look, who we date, who we love, [and] who we want to be have been struggles in our lives. QI.X won’t be defeated and will continue dancing, singing, and spreading love for others and for ourselves. QI.X stands in solidarity with the most vulnerable folks in society.”
It takes a lot of courage for an openly queer artist to debut in South Korea. Especially after Holland got attacked and called a “dirty gay” in a hate crime incident that happened in May 2022 in Itaewon, the Seoul district where the row of LGBTQIA+ safe spaces nicknamed Homo Hill sits.