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Navigating the Rainbow: Mental Health Challenges Within the Queer Community

Society is progressing every day, be it in the field of medicine or science, yet the queer community has to go through a lot of harsh experiences and comments daily. Historically, the fields of medicine, psychology, and psychiatry―each of which studies or, some might say, enforces standards of normalcy―labelled gay men and lesbians as inverts, as deviants suffering from arrested development, and as people with an illness (Ristock & Julien, 2009). The queer community is an umbrella term for people who do not identify as cisgender or are not heterosexual. There is still a persisting prevalent stigma in society related to sexual choices or even sex change operations. It is safe to say that it is still taboo in many places, especially in rural areas and a few parts of urban India. The adverse reactions stem from a long history of societal oppression that has pathologised gay men and lesbians (Ristock & Julien, 2009). Because of the stereotypes, societal rejection, and even catcalling distort their mental health to a great extent, so much so that suicidal ideation, depression and substance abuse become very common. There is an NGO in America which was founded in 1998, “THE TREVOR PROJECT”, which majorly focuses on suicide prevention of the members of the queer community given that the suicidal rates have been soaring ever since. It also provides a toll-free number that connects the individual for assistance with a trained counsellor, which guarantees confidentiality. However, it is essential to understand that the experience differs for everyone. Within this heterogeneous population, the experience of each member of the LGBTQ community varies widely depending on numerous potentially intersectional factors, including ability, age, sex, ethnoracial group, nationality, religion, socioeconomic status, geographical location, and other factors (Veltman et al., 2014). American Psychiatric Association (APA) notes that the term “homosexual” is rarely acceptable because of the psychopathological connotations acquired when it was listed as a mental disorder (APA, 1991) (Ristock et al., 2009).


Pride Flag

Another significant rising challenge is the paucity of queer affirmative healthcare professionals and psychologists. Despite the dire need for health care professionals in order to address the unique mental health challenges and provide gender-affirming care, there remains a massive scarcity of the same (KItwana, 2014). The lack of queer affirmative health professionals can have a severe negative effect on the societal stigma and also the inadequate health and educational training regarding the LGBTQ+ community. This lack of proper and appropriate knowledge can further add to the already established prejudice. It can be a hurdle for aspiring psychologists to specialise in LGBTQ+ affirmative care, which again harms the people who need such psychologists. From recent research, we know that gays and lesbians use therapy (and likely other mental health services) at a high rate and that psychologists and other mental health professionals report a lack of knowledge and information in the area of gay, lesbian, and bisexual psychology (RistockJanice, et al., 2009).


Love is Love

For the people belonging to the queer community who have had a long history of facing homophobia, addressing the issue of physical violence is progressively challenging. Sometimes, there is a pattern to the violence, with violent episodes occurring in cycles and increasing in intensity and frequency over time (Ristock et al., 2005). For instance, gay men have a hard time opening up about the physical violence they have been facing, which was very clearly portrayed in a Bollywood web series, ‘Made In Heaven’, wherein the male protagonist was brutally beaten up first by his mother in a very young age and even in prison. Several studies have suggested that LGBTQ people in small rural communities may be particularly vulnerable to violence because of increased isolation, lack of services and support, and even the increased presence of firearms (McCann & McCann, 2012).

For those individuals who choose to go for sex change operations, it gets all the more difficult in order to maintain their mental health. It is due to the injected hormones that cause the body to function differently altogether. In a 2015 Boston study of 180 ‘transsexual’ youth who had undergone SRS (106 female-to-male; 74 male-to-female), these youth had a twofold to threefold increased risk of psychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety disorder, suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, self-harm without lethal intent, and both inpatient and outpatient mental health treatment compared to a control group of youth (Fitzgibbons et al., 2015). The character of Meher Chaudhary from Made In Heaven, Season 2, gives a glimpse of how catcalling gets all the more real after the operation. Dr Trinetra Haldar shares snippets and little anecdotes about her life through her Instagram account as she becomes the first Transgender Doctor in India. Furthermore, movies like ‘Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui’ portray the harsh reality of Indian society wherein the parents also refuse to accept their own child’s identity, making them all the more vulnerable. 


Pride Parade

To conclude, it is high time to treat humans as humans, as they are also a part of this society. Proper educational and medical training should increase awareness and acceptance and reduce stereotypes and prejudices against them. People like Dr. Trinetra are role models for the queer community. An increase in the number of empathetic queer affirmative psychologists is the need of the hour. 


REFERENCES
  1. Fitzgibbons, R. P. (2015). Transsexual Attractions and Sexual Reassignment Surgery: Risks and potential risks. The Linacre Quarterly, 82(4), 337–350. https://doi.org/10.1080/00243639.2015.1125574

  2. McCann, D., & McCann, D. (2012). What does violence tell us about gay male couple relationships? https://core.ac.uk/download/219373051.pdf

  3. Kitwana, I. (2014). A Community That Dances Never Dies: An Ethnographic Study on People of the African Diaspora Within the African Dance and Drum Community in Chicago. https://core.ac.uk/download/235201633.pdf

  4. Politics: Dave Chappelle Narrates the Sad Story of His Trans Friend. https://politics4thought.blogspot.com/2022/07/dave-chappelle-narrates-sad-story-of.html

  5. Ristock, J., & Timbang, N. (2005). Relationship violence in lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer [LGBTQ] communities. Violence Against Women Online Resources.

  6. Ristock, J. L., & Julien, D. (2009). Disrupting normalcy: Lesbian, gay, queer issues and mental health an introduction. Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, 22(2), 5-8.

  7. RistockJanice, L., & J. (2003). Disrupting Normalcy: Lesbian, Gay, Queer Issues and Mental Health An Introduction. Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health. https://doi.org/10.7870/cjcmh-2003-0009

  8. Veltman, A., & Chaimowitz, G. (2014). Mental health care for people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and (or) queer. Canadian journal of psychiatry. Revue canadienne de psychiatrie, 59(11), 1.


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