Alan Sang Talks About LGBTQ Media and Mental Health

Allan Binalla

Introduce yourself!

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My name is Alan and I was born and raised in north central New Jersey. After high school, I headed to the west coast to attend the University of California, San Diego. I graduated with a BS in biology three years later. Unsure what I wanted to do, I worked in research in St. Louis and Philadelphia. I ended up going back to school for an MBS. Currently, I am now back in Jersey, pursuing an MD. On the side, I am in the works of publishing a psychiatric paper on LGBTQ media and the mental health and treatment disparities among racial-ethnic subgroups within the LGBTQ community.

Amazing! What is something about yourself that people would be surprised to know?

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I think I am more introverted than how I portray myself online. I like going out time to time (pre-Covid) but most days, I don’t mind just being at home or lounging around with a close group of friends.

When did you realize you were gay?

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It was more of a gradual process. Now looking back, I might have known maybe as far back as elementary or middle school. I think I found a male classmate attractive in fourth grade and another in sixth. I remember wanting to be in a group with them when going on field trips or hang out with them during recess. But it was the same feeling towards two girls in middle school as well. I just did not understand what those feelings were at the time. I don’t remember there being LGBTQ representation or any exposure of the sort around me personally. I had a better idea towards the end of high school/start of college.

Are you single? If so, how does someone win your heart?

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Haha it’s not something I have been thinking too much about to be honest, with all that is going on in the US and in my personal life.

Can you tell us more about your paper regarding  LGBTQ media and mental health?

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Sure! Studies have known LGBTQ+ individuals are more likely to suffer from mental health issues and receive less adequate treatment compared to those who are straight. However, if we take a magnifying glass over the LGBTQ+ community, we can see there are further differences when it comes to race and ethnicity. My paper aims to explore those health differences and possible reasons behind that, one of them being the media. What is also pretty cool is that my paper also incorporates a survey that I gave out through Instagram, where people checked off which LGBTQ+ television shows they have seen, gave their thoughts on representation, as well as answer questions about their mental health

Continuing on the topic of mental health, what are the best things to say or do for a friend that may be depressed?

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Good question. It really depends on your relationship with that friend. But I feel like in most cases, first listening and responding, and gauging how much they would like to share, before trying to come up with something to say or do would be very helpful to them. Asking a few open ended questions before asking more specific questions can be therapeutic for them and also help you understand what they are going through. Connecting with your friend is important as well. Empathy is something that cannot be taught, but rather learned through experience. If you are able to empathize with your friend, and able to show it, you will all the better help them feel supported and that they are not alone. Other resources such as a therapist, psychologist, counselor, or psychiatrist, or even just talking to family can be explored as well depending on how comfortable they are with that idea.

Speaking of the media, what are some good television shows or movies you suggest that have positive depictions of members of the LGBTQ_+ community?

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I think Magnus Bane from Shadowhunters and Nico Minoru from Marvel’s Runaways are well-written characters that are both racial and sexual minorities, and were depicted without falling into the “Bury your gays” trope in their respective shows. Other shows with great LGBTQ+ representation are How to Get Away With Murder, Orange is the New Black, and the Umbrella Academy.

What kind of message do you try to give with your social media?

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For my personal social media, I usually want people to see it as a fun outlet amongst all the craziness and stress from work, school, the pandemic, etc. In terms of a message, I hope my feed and story posts inspire others to step out of their comfort zones, elevate themselves both inside and out, become a better version of who they were yesterday, or just smile.

What are some big plans you have when the pandemic is over?

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I definitely want to see family and friends in nyc and Cali, and just enjoy a bit of the night life again. The gym is something I’m looking forward to as well haha.

Did you have anything else you’d like to say?

Life is short. Appreciate the relationships you have with your family and friends. If given the opportunity to do something you love, take it. Wear a mask and social distance to keep yourself and others safe :)

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