Dr. Austin Chiang was nominated by GLAAD for “TikTok Queer Advocate of the Year.” Here, he shares what the recognition means for him and changes he wants to see.
Each year, GLAAD honors those in the media for their inclusive and intersectional LGBTQ+ representation at the Annual GLAAD Media Awards. The 32nd award show premiered on GLAAD’s YouTube last month and included a new award – “TikTok Queer Advocate of the Year.” The nominees for this award creatively use the app to promote inclusivity by inspiring and educating their followers.
Jefferson’s own Dr. Austin Chiang, a gastroenterologist and medical social media officer, was among those nominees. Dr. Chiang has amassed a TikTok following of over 400k by using humor to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, spread facts around COVID-19, and much more. We sat down with Dr. Chiang to discuss what it means to be nominated and what he hopes for the future.
How did it feel to be nominated for the GLAAD award?
It was surprising! I was truly honored because there are so many deserving people out there. I think that I was recognized as someone who provides some perspective from a health professional. I never thought that I would receive a nomination for something like that. It was surreal to be mentioned during the award ceremony and to have my name read by Jojo Siwa. So many of my younger followers were excited about that for me. I didn’t win, but I didn’t expect to. The winner was someone I admire a lot, and it is very deserving.
My work with The Trevor Project put me on the radar of those at GLAAD. TikTok identified LGBTQ+ trailblazers, and we were each paired with different organizations. I was lucky enough to be paired with the Trevor Project. I remember their work with YouTube influencers in 2014 and have admired what they do for the safety of LGBTQ+ youth. To think that I would work with them years later is a great feeling.
How would your younger self feel about this happening to you?
I feel like sometimes I have doubts about whether or not I deserve this recognition. A little bit of imposter syndrome, and I wonder if I’m truly qualified to be a representative of people’s interests. In some ways, it is stressful, but at the same time, I think I’ve always looked to others for inspiration. And to think that one day I would be the one inspiring others, I don’t think my younger self would even be able to fathom it.
@austinchiangmdNational blood shortage but we’re stuck in the 80s. 😰 #lgbt #pride2021🏳️🌈
What are some of the issues involving LGBTQ+ medical care right now?
Change needs to start from people in leadership positions, just like with racial diversity. Representation is necessary from all marginalized groups to meet everyone’s interests.
One of the largest issues is the national blood shortage and the current nationwide policies towards men who have sex with men, and the restrictions around donating blood. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions were loosened by shortening the duration of abstinence required from a year down to three months. But there’s a blood shortage again. Blood donations shouldn’t be orientation-based and should be risk-based. The current policies allow a promiscuous straight person to donate but restrict a monogamous gay person.
Another problem is transgender protections. Last year, protections were rolled back to allow healthcare providers to deny care to transgender or LGBTQ+ individuals. I hope that this is something that changes soon. (Editor’s Note: As of May 11, 2021, anti-bias protections for LGBTQ+ individuals have been reinstated.)
What are providers doing to be better allies to this community? What makes you feel optimistic about the future of care?
I feel that there is greater general awareness towards gender pronouns and ensuring that health professionals take the time and effort to ask patients how to address them properly. From my perspective, there’s more representation year after year within medical trainees and students, which is inspiring for the future. I think that I feel the conversation has changed remarkably since I was in medical school.
Our society has made so much progress outside of healthcare. I’m optimistic that with greater awareness, we will see positive changes in healthcare.
Applies to any discipline. Happy ##Pride 🏳️🌈
Is there anything that you would want people to know about caring for the LGBTQ+ community or what a provider should do to be helpful to them as a patient?
Even within the LGBTQ+ community, there is a good amount of diversity, whether gender identity or sexual orientation. These are only one facet of an individual’s identity. I feel like, in some ways, we need to be more mindful in general, rather than focusing on this one aspect of a person. But at the same time, when practicing medicine, you have to put everything aside, political ideologies or any other biases you may inherently have, and focus on caring for the patient.
It’s important to not assume or stereotype within any patient situation. For example, patients often face assumptions about their marital status or those accompanying them, or even simply what their sexual orientation is and judging by how they dress or speak. Putting an end to this simple judgment would help make a more positive experience for patients.