Treading Into The Mind Of The LGBTQ+ community

Dr Prasad Raj Dandekar, Founder of Health Professionals for Queer Indians (HPQI)

Like most, I have not pondered over the choices of the others because I am so busy fighting my own battle for survival. But when Swati Jain, Corporate Marcom Manager, The LaLit, invited me for a seminar on mental health issues of the LGBTQ+ community, I must say I was hesitant.

‘I am straight. What does this have to do with me? Why should I get into what people with other sexual preferences are doing?’ and so many more thoughts crossed my mind. But then a journalist can’t refuse to explore a queer moment. That’s what good stories are all about and I landed for a short while at the hotel.

As a thumb rule, we don’t easily address mental health issues. We like the world to be normal. We propagate meditation and spirituality. We find solace in prayers, places of worship, religion, neighbourhood, but we don’t like going to the person who is trained to understand the brain, the way it works and how we can rectify the patterns and have a better life. I was walking into a sensitive and unexplored zone. But a few moments spent listening to Dr Prasad Raj Dandekar, Founder of HPQI, and I was hooked. ‘Understanding LGBTQ+ community from a mental health perspective’ was perhaps one of its kind initiative taken by Indian Psychiatric Society and Health Professionals for Queer Indians (HPQI). It was supported by The LaLit Group of Hotels.

Everyone has anxiety, depression or suicide issues, but in this community, the fears are multifold. HPQI is among the few organizations in the country which works on sensitizing healthcare professionals to the needs of LGBT community.

(Right) Dr Keshav Suri, ED, The LaLit Group, “Over the years, I have realised that mental healthcare is non-existent for LGBTQI people in India. It is yet another of the initiatives from our #PureLoveCampaign and we want to tell people we are here to support them and spread the message of love.”

In fact, the Executive Director of the LaLit Group Keshav Suri is one of the petitioner against the section 377 law which is a major violation of human rights for the LGBT community.

Among the eminent speakers were the Chairperson of the LGBT Task force of IPS Dr. Kersi Chavda. Without beating about the bush, he said, “The IPS has made it abundantly clear that having a ‘different’ sexual orientation is not symptomatic of a disease, but of a difference. It believes there should be no discrimination against LGBT community because of this, and that all should be accepted as ‘normal’. There must absolutely be no attempt to change or ‘convert’ the sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual, but psychological support provided instead if needed.”

Suppressed emotions can have a major impact on the wellbeing of the person, the immediate family and eventually the society. While acceptance is the keyword here, working towards acceptance is also a task. ‘Coming out’ with their preference also requires huge amount of time and effort. And a forced or coerced marriage has proven to be the bane of many. Then there are issues related to children, wives, and giving into the family. Surprisingly, Dr Prasad said that he had not found a married woman coming out with her choices, while married gay men did speak out. The conference was attended by psychiatrists, doctors, counsellors, psychologists, NGO workers and human resource (HR) professionals.

By the end of it, I was clear that acceptance is the keyword for a happy life. The campaign had the perfect hashtag #PureLove because embracing choices with an open heart is nothing but pure love!

India-based journalist, photographer and videographer, worked with Outlook Traveller, Swagat and written for Mail:

India-based journalist, photographer and videographer, worked with Outlook Traveller, Swagat and written for Mail: