Sidney Kimmel Medical College student Paul Endres shares his coming out moments, what it means to be an advocate and his hopes for the future of LGBTQ+ medical care.
Coming out to me is living your most authentic life—for yourself, not for anyone else.
As a gay man, I’ve had to come out many times throughout my young adult life. I always knew I was gay, but it wasn’t until college that I felt comfortable and confident enough to be open about it.
Two coming out moments are near and dear to my heart. One occurred as a sophomore in college. We were in the middle of an icebreaker activity where you step into the circle if you relate to what was said. One round involved stepping into the circle if you were a member of the LGBTQ+ community. There was a sense of hesitance in the room.
I had several close friends who knew I was gay, but I wasn’t technically “out” yet. I was standing as still as possible when my friend jumped in. I had no clue they identified as LGBTQ+. All I could think of was how I couldn’t let them do that alone and jumped in as well. It felt life-changing.
A year or so later, I was ready to come out to my parents. I called them to tell them about my first pride parade—and that I was gay. There was silence on the other line and then a change in subject. So, I repeated myself, “Hey, did you hear me? I’m gay by the way.” My dad responded, “Yes, we’ve always known, and we’ve always loved you.”
I feel incredibly fortunate to always have had such a supportive community around me. Of course, I’ve experienced my ups and downs. My story, just like anyone else’s, is muddled with moments of judgment, pain and sadness. But I’ve always had someone to turn to—whether it’s a friend, family member or even a professor.
The Health Nexus asked Paul Endres about his involvement with the LBGTQ+ community at Jefferson, how his LGBTQ+ identity shaped his career goals, how he overcomes adversity and more.
How are you involved in the LGBTQ+ community?
As a second-year medical student in Sidney Kimmel Medical College, I hold several leadership roles on campus that give me the platform to speak up about LGBTQ+ needs. I’m president of JeffLGBTQ, the LGBTQ+ student association at Jefferson’s Center City Campus. I’m also a member of the LGBTQ+ Executive Committee at Jefferson Health, which comprises of staff, faculty, administration and students from across the enterprise. We meet monthly to discuss any concerns and ideas we may have about fostering a strong, inclusive environment for all LGBTQ+ people.
What does it mean to you to be an advocate?
To me, advocacy means having the ability to elevate the voices of those who can’t speak up—or don’t have the courage to—and make a difference. I feel blessed to have a position where I can bring people’s ideas to light and spark positive changes. For example, a few classmates and I were concerned about the lack of education on intersex individuals; we created a lecture, and plans are in motion to refine the curriculum.
Has your LGBTQ+ identity shaped your career goals?
I grew up in a small town in northern New Jersey, and I never saw many LGBTQ+ healthcare providers. As I got older and had more questions regarding my own sexuality, I realized I couldn’t get them easily answered. I started hearing stories about all these negative experiences people encountered seeking care. Part of that inspired me to pursue med school.
While there are already affirming providers and practices, the LGBTQ+ population is only growing, as is the need for adequate healthcare. I want to help take care of this community. Part of what I’m called to do in life is educating people about the world around them. That’s why I love science. I feel privileged to be able to share my life and educate others.
What would you like to see in the future of medicine to boost LGBTQ+ care?
I think it all starts with empathy. You need to be able to connect with your patients. As medical professionals, we always should be learning. While LGBTQ+ needs have been historically brushed under the rug, they’re a necessity now. There are still many societal misbeliefs that primarily come from lack of education, so let’s change that.
How do you overcome adversity?
I approach it with the empathy that I strive to have as a healthcare provider. I realize that any judgment directed toward me often comes from a place of pain or confusion. People don’t fully understand who I am, and that’s OK. We’re only human.
Admittedly, some of my motivation comes from a place of spite. It’s infuriating when you’re told you can’t do something. It only makes me want to do it that much more. It’s like a “you-wait-and-see” moment.
Do you have any advice for others thinking about coming out?
It’s very individualized. You should do what feels right for you. Don’t let negative, unsupportive people be the ones to guide your life. I know that’s difficult because we all want acceptance and validation. But if someone only wants to tear you down, there’s no benefit from that.
Coming out only adds positivity to the world. I’ve been on the other end for several years, and it’s freeing. Sometimes, you just have to have fun with it. Make jokes. Be honest. You should embrace yourself and surround yourself with people who treat you with the same respect.
Above all else, remember to breathe.
Top photo credit: ©Thomas Jefferson University Photography Services