This month, we are delighted to introduce Eddie S. K. Chong (firstname.lastname@example.org), a doctoral candidate in the Department of Psychology at the University of Maryland, College Park as our member in spotlight. Chong’s research interests broadly include issues related to stigmatized groups (sexual minorities in particular) across the lifespan and cultures. More recently, he is interested in examining systemic factors that influence individuals’ well-being and community cohesion. He is also interested in identifying effective stigma coping strategies and resilience process of such groups.
We asked scholars to describe one of the following: a) what drew them to do work on Asians,Asian American children and youth, or another topic that is important to you now? b) who was an important mentor to them in this work, or an influential particular study in the field or in a related field? c) any particular advice or tips to someone starting out in the field who is doing work in their area.
Mentors have played a huge role not just in my career development, but also in my personal growth. I am a native Hong Kong Chinese and also identify myself as a queer person. I did not move to the U.S. for my graduate training until 4 years ago. Growing up in a community that was at times oppressive and stigmatizing against sexual minorities could be quite threatening and disempowering. Nevertheless, my mentors throughout my training and education––Drs. Winnie Mak, Paul Poteat, and Jonathan Mohr––have been offering me with immense support and guidance. With my mentors, I am able to affirm my queer-self. I have also learnt from them the value of conducting translational research in impacting policies and systems while maintaining scientific rigor.
Meanwhile, my direct experiences with sexual stigma and witnessing friends who cannot authentically live their lives because of their sexual orientation also engender a sense of justice in me. So the combination of my mentors’ continuing support and this sense of justice have provided me with the impetus to work with people in various marginalized groups (particularly sexual minorities and Asians/Asian Americans) and to raise awareness about issues facing them (e.g., HIV stigma within the MSM community in Hong Kong, sexual orientation-based disparities in school and juvenile justice discipline, and a sense of conflict between racial/ethnic and sexual orientation identities among LGBTQ Asians/Asian Americans). Given these experiences, I think being able to identify affirmative mentors and to locate one’s sense of passion in their work helps develop one’s career in a long run.
We also asked scholars to describe a particular recent finding, current study, or recent publication and what makes them excited about it. Feel free to describe its importance from any one or more of these lenses: a) research contribution; b) our knowledge about Asian or Asian American populations; c) our knowledge about other understudied populations; d) practice or policy relevance.
I have been interested in factors that encourage community building and cohesion among youth and young adults. Two studies come to mind in this regard. The first is a study I conducted in Hong Kong examining sexual minority-tailored social media uses among LGB young adults (published in the American Journal of Community Psychology in 2015). We found that social media gratifications (for understanding one’s network of LGB connections, expressing oneself, and experiencing emotional support) mediated the association between social media uses and a sense of group membership in the LGB community. Further, this sense of LGB group membership was positively associated with mental well-being. It is exciting to see the results as social media may build camaraderie and bolster resilience among LGB youth and young adults that may otherwise be difficult in regions with high sexual stigma.