We recently spoke with Taylor Chiang, an M.D. candidate, about what Pride Month means to them. It’s been a long and difficult year for everyone, especially people of color and those who identify as LGBTQIA+. From racial justice protests to being a first year medical student during a global health pandemic, Chiang reflects on what it means to celebrate Pride Month this June after so many months of uncertainty.
Scrubs Mag: How do you identify, and what are your pronouns?
Taylor Chiang: I identify as a Chinese, Filipino, queer, non-binary medical student and athlete. My pronouns are they/them.
SM: What made you pursue a career in healthcare?
TC: The reasons have changed over the past year. As someone who holds identities that are underrepresented and underserved in medicine, I wanted to go into healthcare to increase diversity and access for individuals like me. I’m privileged to have a relatively high level of health literacy, which will only grow as I continue my education as a medical student, but not everyone has that same privilege.
SM: What does it mean to you to be LGBTQIA+ and in healthcare?
TC: To me, being a LGBTQIA+ medical student means that I have some level of responsibility to educate others on queer health issues. As one of very few transgender medical students, I feel some level of responsibility to increase representation within the medical field, to share how my identity has shaped how I personally see and experience healthcare. I do this in hopes of expanding the narratives of what healthcare is like now, and all the improvements that could be made to it in the future.
SM: Is there a particular experience or moment that stands out to you in your healthcare journey so far?
TC: Since starting medical school, I have talked about something as basic as pronouns time and time again. Several facilitators know that my pronouns are they/them. However, they are often used incorrectly, as in when they are speaking directly to me, they change the “you” to “they” or “them” making it sound like they are talking to someone else. I will try to correct them, and they nod their head signaling to me that they heard me, but often show that they are not listening, making the same mistake again and again.
This kind of interaction has also happened with other medical students; one of my friends will correct someone who misgendered me, and they will just nod and say “got it.” However, within less than 24 hours, they’ll make the same mistake again. As future healthcare providers, we have to care and respect the identities of our future patients, and that starts with actually listening to the criticisms and experiences that we have.
SM: How do you broach the subject of your pronouns in your daily life?
TC: I personally don’t like to introduce myself to other people with pronouns when I first meet them. In medical school, we’re asked to go around the room and say our name and pronouns which feels very odd for me because I am almost always the only non-binary person in the room. I also don’t like to write them in email signatures. For me, this feels like I’m either “outing myself” to someone I don’t know or just met, and that this is more for the other person than it is for me. Pronoun introductions in these settings feel like a safety blanket for other people to make sure they do not get them WRONG, instead of actively trying to get them RIGHT.
Instead, I prefer that people I meet ASK me what my pronouns are, as opposed to me TELLING them. To me, this means that this person: (1) Is actively thinking about pronouns, (2) Would like to know more about me. I have no problem saying that my pronouns are ‘they/them,’ but until there are more people in healthcare and medical school who have they/them pronouns, pronoun introductions won’t feel like they’re for genderqueer/ non-binary people.
All that being said, educating other people on pronouns is super important, as well as correcting people when they get it wrong. I enjoy educating others via my social media because this gives me the opportunity to educate others on my time when I have space to do so. I also prefer if people have questions that they do ask me, because more often than not I am very open to sharing my experiences, what pronouns mean to me, etc. Day to day, I have some really great friends who correct other people who misgender me. Usually, they talk to that person afterwards when I’m not around, and that’s what I prefer because sometimes it’s exhausting advocating for yourself all the time, and sometimes I just don’t hear the misgendering because I’m not paying attention. To me, this is what queer friendship and allyship looks like, and is an important part of actively learning how to support the LGBTQ+ community.
SM: What does Pride mean to you?
TC: Pride means being my most authentic and unapologetic self in whatever fashion I see fit. Sometimes, I think being proud is sharing my experiences on Instagram, and other days I think it’s about walking around in a store holding hands with my partner. Sometimes I think being proud is about going into a new barbershop to get a haircut, and sometimes I think it’s about making new medical school friends. Trans folks are often told explicitly and implicitly that we don’t belong in healthcare spaces, or that our identities aren’t valid, or that some of us are not “trans enough.” But Pride is about still existing in this world, despite being told all those things.
Pride is a wonderful time of year that gives me a chance to celebrate all the things I love about being queer and trans with people who truly love and support me.
SM: Why is celebrating Pride important, and how do you plan on celebrating this year?
TC: Pride is super important because it’s just as valuable to celebrate love, and joy, and belonging to this wonderful community as it is to talk about all the unequal access to healthcare, or the various anti-trans bills trying to be passed in various forms of government. I think people forget that there are AWESOME parts to being queer and transgender. There are experiences and friends that I NEVER would have had or made without embracing my identity.
SM: You wrote about “trans joy” in one of your previous IG posts…can you expand upon that topic? What is trans joy and why is it important to see?
TC: Trans joy is the ecstatic or euphoric feeling that a trans person feels from doing or experiencing something. Often times, the narrative surrounding transgender issues or topics includes suicide, dysphoria, homelessness, bathrooms, and surgeries, which are all very real concerns and topics within the transgender community. But there are also wonderful parts about being trans that I feel are often overlooked. Trans joy is a crucial part of the trans experience, and it can take so many different forms. Joy can come from someone using the correct pronouns, or going on a date with someone who is gender affirming, for example.
Trans joy can also come in the form of doing something that is completely unrelated to a trans person’s identity or gender expression, like going on a bike ride, getting an 85% on an exam, moving into a new house, or listening to new music. Trans joy is so important for people to see, and specifically for non-trans folks, because it allows people to empathize with us; it shows others that being trans is often only part of our identity and that we have so much to offer the world. Although there are very real issues trans folks face, we also experience a lot of joy.
SM: What impact has sports had in your life and development? What have you learned about yourself through such physical activity,?
TC: Sports have been a huge part of my life ever since I was three years old. I was lucky and privileged to be the kid that was enrolled in soccer, swimming, ballet, tennis, and lacrosse from a pretty early age. Swimming and lacrosse ended up being my main sports throughout middle and high school, and I went on to play lacrosse at a D3 school. Going to practice and competing taught me discipline and teamwork, like many sports do, but sports also showed me what cool things my body is capable of.
Growing up and being socialized as a woman, I was often taught to make myself smaller, literally, and figuratively. I was taught that women’s sports weren’t as important, and there was no need for us to be strong. Rather, we needed to be quick, fast, and also, usually skinnier. From powerlifting to running my first half marathon, I’ve learned that I can be both. I can be strong and fast. I didn’t have to be just one thing.
SM: For those who feel constrained or pressured to fit into a particular sexual orientation, label, or identity, what would you say to them?
TC: Your sexual and/or gender identity is only for you. You get to decide what words describe your identity the best, and if there are no current terms that you think fit with how you see yourself, that’s okay too. I know that I didn’t have the words or language to communicate my identity for most of my life, and it took some time to get there. But language is not a static thing; it’s always evolving, so even though there may not be a term right now that you identify strongly with, that might not be the case forever. Society really likes pre-made boxes and categories, but if you can stay true to yourself without compromising any part of your identity, you’ll be able to create your own space for however you identify.
SM: March 31st was Transgender Day of Visibility! How do you feel during this current political climate, with attention being on everything from banning transgender youth from some sports to various types of discrimination being committed against transgender people?
TC: I feel a little defeated, to be honest. I feel like trans folks, especially black and Indigenous trans people of color, often do a lot of the leg work to make non-trans folks aware of these issues. It’s exhausting having to shout to the world that you’re being discriminated against, and in return, it feels like no one really gives a crap about it. Sometimes, when people do care, it feels like pity. If you’re not trans, ask questions, read books, and diversify your feed, because it’s really hard to raise awareness and fight these bills if no one is helping us fight these battles.
This interview has been edited for clarity.