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A Conversation with Postdoctoral Associate Yong Gun (YG) Lee about Pride Month
June 13, 2022

Yong Gun (YG)YG Lee Lee is the Postdoctoral Associate in Intersectionality & Sexual and Gender Minority (SGM) Health at Rutgers School of Social Work. He studies social-ecological factors shaping the health of SGM individuals with the intention of informing interventions aimed at expanding safe and equitable access to health care. As part of his doctoral training, YG collaborated on clinical trials of interventions harnessing interpersonal (e.g., partners, peers) influences for promoting linkage to HIV care among men who have sex with men and illicitly use substances in New York City and Kazakhstan. YG hails from Seoul and Jakarta and received his MSW and Ph.D. from Columbia School of Social Work. 

YG reflects on the importance of Pride Month and shares what social work students and practitioners can do to honor LGBTQ+ communities this month.

Why is Pride Month important to you?
As a gay man from Seoul and Jakarta, where Pride is not widely (if at all) recognized, I do not take lightly opportunities to commemorate it. I understand that other members of the LGBTQ+ communities globally, including parts of the U.S., do not have the same opportunities; rather, many continue to face multiple forms of violence based on our identities. Pride Month for me is a time of reflection and recharge for the ongoing struggle for queer liberation and social justice.

Tell us about some of the scholarly work you've done relating to LGBTQ+ communities.
My research centers on addressing health disparities among sexual and gender minority (SGM) persons. During my doctoral training, I conducted research on contemporary approaches to addressing HIV prevention needs among men who have sex with men and use drugs in Kazakhstan, where the rates of HIV infection have been on the rise. This fall, I am excited to begin working with Drs. Alessi, Robles, and LaSala on further contributing to the scientific knowledge of intersectionality and SGM health.

What can social work students and practitioners do to honor LGBTQ+ communities during Pride Month?
Pride is a commemoration of the riots that followed a violent police raid at a popular New York City gay bar, the Stonewall Inn, in June 1969. Led by trans and nonbinary activists of color including Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Stormé DeLarverie, and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, the Stonewall riots have paved the way for modern LGBTQ+ movements worldwide, which continue to protest police brutality and demand justice for queer and trans people. Honoring LGBTQ+ communities would mean doing what we social workers are well-positioned to do: expose, challenge, and change systems that oppress and marginalize members of our societies.

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