Celebrating LGBTQ+ pride has not been the same during the pandemic, said first-year medical student JP Nguyen.
What was missing? The party.
“I’m an MS-1, and from what I’ve heard, there were little opportunities to build community (since the pandemic began),” Nguyen said. “Everyone was isolated or doing online events. It’s nice to see the community come together and share moments like Pride Month where we can share and embrace the best parts of our community.”
Through online events and social distanced gatherings, Baylor’s LGBTQ+ group BCM Pride was able to come together as safely as possible during the most critical parts of the pandemic. But virtual venues lack a sense of togetherness that LGBTQ+ pride is built on.
BCM Pride will host an in-person event, Pride Palooza, the group’s first drag and talent show which will raise funds for Covenant House Texas, a Houston shelter that serves unhoused youth, including LGBTQ+ teens. The show will be at 3:30 p.m. June 19 at the Montrose Center, 401 Branard Street. Admission is donation-based.
Nguyen will be one of at least five drag performers at Pride Palooza, dancing and singing under his drag name, Boba Cat. Benjamin Solder, medical student and former BCM Pride president, is scheduled to perform, as well.
Nguyen’s commitment to the LGBTQ+ community is reflected in his choice to practice psychiatry.
“The reason I want to do psychiatry is to help queer people heal from trauma. In the LGBTQ+ community, there is a high prevalence of mental illness because of the stigma we have to deal with,” Nguyen said. “As a community, we face so much, and it’s up to people to keep on building community and helping uplift others with social support.”
Many BCM Pride members have existing ties to Covenant House Texas’ LGBTQ+ programming, said Nat Moss, medical student and group member. He said the fundraiser is the best of both worlds. They hope Pride Palooza will be a recurring and successful event for the group, so Houston knows it has allies among the Baylor community.
“We get to explore our identities within this community and as young professionals at Baylor while we uplift other parts of our community,” Moss said. “We’re hoping the youth will attend the event, as well, because we want to build long-term connections with the community.”
On June 25, the campus group will have a booth at the 44th annual Houston LGBTQ+ Pride Celebration at 901 Bagby Street. Festival hours are 1 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. with the downtown parade starting at 7 p.m.
Volunteers will pass out contraceptives and brochures on testing and treatment available for sexually transmitted infections, and swag will be given out in the hopes to educate Houston’s greater LGBTQ+ community about resources available.
Leah Kafer, BCM Pride president and Ph.D student, said separate LGBTQ+ groups at Baylor combined in 2020, which has helped increase engagement on campus. The school’s Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion has assisted the group in developing a Compassionate Conversation talk concerning transgender healthcare in the fall.
A recurring topic for the group is the development of healthcare professionals who will be able to connect with their most vulnerable patients, especially those in the transgender community. Not being comfortable going to the doctor is one of the largest hurdles in uplifting the LGBTQ+ community, Moss said.
“It’s difficult as a transgender adult patient to be fully vulnerable with your doctor, and a lot of us have had negative experiences with healthcare professionals in the past,” he said. “Even as a medical student, it makes me cautious seeking out medical care so a lot of our drive is making sure there’s more of us within this position of power who can understand the vulnerable patients and they will be comfortable to share with us.”
By Julie Garcia