LGBT+& Mental Health
“In the opinion of the Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS), homosexuality is not a psychiatric disorder.”
In July, 2018, The Indian Psychiatric Society released a landmark position statement on homosexuality and made it clear that the Indian psychiatric fraternity does not look at homosexuality as an illness. It further went on to state that this is in line with the position of the American Psychiatric Association and the WHO. They also said that same sex sexuality is a normal variant of human sexuality like heterosexuality and bisexuality and cannot be altered.
India, legally, still sees homosexuality as a crime with the archaic Section 377 which keeps homosexuality in the same categories as crimes like sodomy and bestiality. The matter of scrapping homosexuality as a crime has been presented before the Supreme Court which has reserved its judgement on the issue.
The most surprising and pleasant thing i have noticed over the past months is how open and accepting people have been regarding homosexuality across the political spectrum. Even the RSS, a perceived conservative organisation, in 2016 made its position clear that they support the decriminalization of homosexuality.
LGBT+ and Mental Health
Even though people from the LGBT community are no longer seen as ill people in large parts of the world, they are almost 3 times more likely to suffer from a mental illness than heterosexuals. There are 10-12 countries across the world where homosexuality may lead to a death penalty.
When we look into the reasons why LGBT people are more prone to mental illnesses, the most obvious answer that comes to mind is the stigma and discrimination they have to face. Not only this; the presence of laws criminalizing homosexuality are often misused to blackmail or harass LGBT in India.
People from the LGBT community have to be careful and cautious about who they are seen with and when they come out to their families. One would think that family means unconditional support and love but for many people, coming out to their family has led to attempts of ‘honour killing’ or complete alienation from their family. They may even be forced to take ‘treatment’ for their ‘ailments’ which includes Electro shock therapy. The situation of mental hospitals in India is already pretty dire and it is even worse for a homosexual person.
The psychological burden that comes with having to hide a whole aspect of your life from people is a very heavy one and not everyone manages to carry it for long. Some families accept their members as homosexual or transgender but only if they behave like heterosexuals. Even psychiatrists cannot always be trusted since there have been reports of doctors trying to ‘heal’ homosexuality with strong anti-psychotic drugs and other unethical practices.
LGBT people are also highly more likely to commit suicide than other people. The situation really doesn’t bode well when I paint it like this.
In order to decrease the psychological burden and create acceptance to LGBT, we need a huge paradigm shift in our society. Unfortunately, such a change cannot be enforced overnight but will need time and a lot of effort to bring any meaningful change. There are many LGBT friendly websites and magazines in India right now like Gaysi and Gaylaxy.
Families need to be more accepting and act as safe spaces for their members. The threat of ostracization or harassment cannot keep looming over a person if they are to be comfortable with who they are. The decision taken by the IPS in July and the expected favourable decision of the Supreme Court will act as huge steps in the right direction. The main mission now is to drive this message right to the grassroots level in the rural areas and limit this belief that homosexuality needs to be treated.
The LGBT community is not here to ‘take over’ the world and make your children gay or lesbian with their agenda. They simply wish to be accepted as equal citizens and enjoy the right to life and exist.
Why do we still deprive them of that?