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Celebrating Pride as a Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Employee

LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer) Pride Month is celebrated in June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan. Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals raises funds to ensure all kids receive the best care. During Pride Month we are celebrating the efforts of those who help kids and families in the LGBTQ community have the care they need when they need it most.

The following story was shared by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Market Director Gaelen McCartney.

Gaelen with friends at World Pride in New York City

One thing I’ve learned so far in life is that I am always coming-out and learning more of who I am – through and through. It is one of the most challenging yet beautiful adventures to be on.

I come from the standpoint asking why I, as queer, have to come out when others don’t, which was something I’ve struggled with as I continue to discover my identity. The hardest person to come out to was me. I grew up in a loving and “traditional” household, where sexuality and gender norms were present. As a young queer individual, these norms inhibited positive self-discovery. Similar to many, it was leaving home and going to college that allowed me more space to be myself.

Coming out to loved ones is a struggle for many because one cares most about their reactions. It wasn’t the easiest for me – or my brother, who is also gay – at first, but we are grateful for the love and support from our family over time.

Gaelen at Philadelphia Pride

Throughout all of this self-discovery, I cherished pride most. I became more proud of who I am, proud of my new community, and proud to celebrate each and every one of us. I work to uplift queer friends, artists, activists, and all who continue to educate others about our community. I went from someone who was very apprehensive of pride festivities to marching in the Philadelphia Pride Parade the past few years with my LGBTQIA+ Sports League. Last year, I even marched in the World Pride Parade in NYC, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Protests.

Even after coming out and growing confidence and pride, being your true self is still scary. My time as a Dance Marathon student and now at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals with our collegiate programs, has allowed me to join an open, accepting, and supportive community. I can go to work and be myself, knowing that I have the support of colleagues and partners who are LGBTQIA+ individuals and allies. And CMN Hospitals knows that the job is never done, and continues to invest in ways to make us more inclusive and diverse to all.

Gaelen with Friends

I felt the most support from colleagues as I began talking about my gender identity. As I mentioned earlier, my most important life lesson is that self-discovery is constant if we allow ourselves open space to explore. I don’t identify as male or female, but gender-queer. There are times when I express more masculine traits and other times when I’m expressing more feminine traits. I feel just as much a woman as I do a man. I ask that people use either he/him or they/them pronouns when referring to me.

When sharing this part of my identity with colleagues, it was the first time I was sharing it outside my immediate safe space – and I was definitely nervous. But a colleague reached out afterward saying, “I love you, and all that you are. You give me a great deal of strength. We are lucky to have you.” It is small moments like this, that truly make an impact in one’s life. Feeling accepted, appreciated, and seen is all anyone ever wants.

I’ve learned that when we live more authentically, live more proudly, our approaches to all parts of life change drastically. We celebrate family more, embrace friendships more, and more fully dedicate ourselves to our work. Whatever each person’s journey may be, we should take time to discover more on the inside and be proud of all that we are.

My name is Gaelen, and I’m a proud gay, gender-queer individual.