As the grandson of two South Korean Southern Baptist preachers, James grew up surrounded by religiously and culturally rooted homophobia from his family and surrounding communities. Years after leaving home, he experienced an altogether different kind of marginalization—a sexual assault charged with racist undertones. His experiences as a queer survivor spurred him to fight for systems that lift up queer youth. Specifically, James saw—through his experiences as a queer Asian American, health educator, medical volunteer, and friend of many LGBTQ people struggling with mental illness— a mental healthcare system that needed to change to better accommodate queer people.
Since matriculating to medical school at the Mayo Clinic, James has sharpened his focus on a career in mental health for the queer. He conducts research investigating homophobic family structures, discrimination in academic medicine, and the administration of healthcare for the geriatric queer population. He volunteers for two crisis hotlines and has contributed writings about the marginalization of queer people within medicine. He leads workshops about healthy sexuality, intersectionality, and gender identity for high school and college students. He also enjoys writing songs and prose, most recently receiving an Irvin David Yalom, M.D. Literary Award for his short story “Conversations with Joanne.” In 2019, James will apply for a residency in psychiatry, which will allow him to provide excellent mental healthcare to queer youth and continue his work as a fierce educator, writer, and researcher for queer people across the country.