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A matter of orientation!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Those who belong to the LGBTQ community can find it stressful to cope with society and seeking help can make a difference, says Dr Kedar Tilwe

Sexuality has been for a long time one of our most personal concerns and most private of preferences. Research and studies have shown that the ‘sexuality’ of a person is not a binary switch, but rather a complex interplay of the biological and psychological make-up of an individual along with the prevalent social, cultural and legal norms at that point in time. In essence. it becomes a matter of orientation rather than choice.

 The recent judgment by the Honourable Supreme court decriminalising consensual same sex intercourse enables the process of acknowledgment and de-stigmatization of the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) community, furthering their assimilation into society.

Recent years have witnessed remarkable efforts at societal and institutional levels, in the efforts to reduce bullying and trolling, as well as in developing tolerance and an accommodative attitude. But people may still have to deal with it on individual basis, subject to personal circumstances. It can lead to a huge personal turmoil and distress if one chooses to suppress their true sexual identity. This might make a person experience enormous amount of stress, making them vulnerable to various mental health concerns like anxiety, depression and substance use such as alcohol.

So let us take a look at a few examples where seeking advice from a mental health professional would be beneficial

‘Coming out’ refers to the process in which a person of LGBTQ community informs their family, friends and support system of their orientation. While it has been noted that most often, immediate families and friends will accept the person, this phase is usually associated with a marked insecurity, anxiety and worries about the future, especially as it can potentially alter the dynamics of important relationships.

Family members of the person who make their preferences known may also experience feelings of shame, guilt and even a sense of betrayal. Some may have difficulty in accepting the situation and might try to cut all ties with the person, because of intense personal anger or fearing societal pressure. Often, these situation can be breeding grounds for major psychological breakdowns, not only for the person but also amongst the family members.

Bullying or trolling is another social demon that a person from LGBTQ community is forced to deal with, leading to depleted self-esteem and confidence, which can have a lifelong impact on the mental well-being of the individual.

 Accepting that one is under stress is the first step to dealing with these situations. Next, and the most crucial step, is reaching out to an understanding member from your support system, for help and guidance.

However, if you find yourself under stress and in the need to talk to someone but don’t know who; reach out to a mental health professional near you, and share your worries and concerns; all of us shall be happy to help!

Dr Kedar Tilwe is a psychiatrist, sexologist and geriatric psychiatrist with Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi – A Fortis Network Hospital

Short Takes

Sexuality is not a binary switch, but a complex interplay of the biological and psychological make-up of an individual along with the prevalent social, cultural and legal norms.

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