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Love, Compassion and Joy: Supporting LGBTQ+ Youth

Published on Jun. 14, 2021

When we talk about the idea of Pride, many of us might think of flashes of bright rainbow color or parades down streets with throngs of crowds waving flags and signs. While images of parties and festivities seem like good fun, LGBTQ+ history over the years involves so many more complex and nuanced stories that at times, might seem as though they’d fit better under the umbrella of Fantastical Fiction.

But they’re not. The history and lived experiences are real. 

From stories of struggle, hidden and open love, death, heartbreak, racism, courage, and persecution, living life as a LGBTQ+ person has often been seen as an act of simultaneous love – both for themselves and for forbidden others – and as rebellion.

The struggle for LGBTQ+ recognition and equality throughout the years remains as relevant today as it was 100 years ago.

As a pediatrician who specializes in the care of LGBTQ+ children, teens and young adults, I often get asked variations on the question “Why?” – from “Why me?” to “Why are all these issues coming up now?” to “Why did this happen?” From patients, from families, and even from doctors and people in healthcare, there is understandably a lot of confusion in a rapidly changing landscape.

My answer is generally the same: “Because that’s what being human is.”

LGBTQ+ people have always existed. In our collective work to build a more free and just society, so too has the freedom to express our authentic selves to the world. Thus, the result is that we are having more conversations around how to live with and how to embrace people with what some might call the “invisible” identities.

In my years here at Valley Children’s, I have been blessed to find a community that engages in those conversations. One of the greatest joys and privileges as a pediatrician is the ability to advocate for and to empower ALL young people to live fulfilling and joyous lives. For me, bringing our best to the children of the Valley means actively learning and changing how we include our communities who have historically been harmed and excluded. I admit, the work of making effective change through advocacy is slow – even at the best of times. And at the worst of times, ineffective.

But it is worth it.

Much of my work begins with acknowledging words and actions. The work of building educational curriculums that all can participate in – THAT is truly magical. Through building dialogue and sharing knowledge with one another, we remind ourselves and those around us that the language we use is important. The way we provide care for one another is important.

Being part of the solution, of the effort to make a better world for others is, in a word, invigorating.

Often, as part of these initiatives to bring our best for the families and youth of the Central Valley, I get many questions on how to best support our youth in the various settings of our lives – from our schools, our homes, our health care environments, our workplace, or our places of worship.

I find that in responding to these questions, the answers are rooted in the same questions that we all look for the answers to:

What does it mean to live a good life? What does it mean to do right by our children, our friends, our family and our community?

For me, the answers are simple, but difficult in their execution:

  1. Love one another. Assume good intention and authentic identities.
  2. Give compassion. Allow for grace and support others who are in need.
  3. Experience joy. Identify the choices, conversations, and actions that build meaningful relationships and create shared experiences of happiness – and allow others to be able to do the same.

The rest are just details.


About the Author

Kevin Nguyen, MD joined Valley Children’s Hospital as a resident physician in Pediatrics in 2018. He serves in a variety of roles, including advocating for more education and inclusion of LGBTQ+ patients and families to receive just medical and psychiatric care. He is continuing his fellowship education at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania in General and Child/Adolescent Psychiatry starting 2021.