The International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) was started in 2004 and commemorates the 1990 anniversary of the World Health Organization’s declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder and disease. The date is an annual opportunity for mobilization of LGBTI people across the world and to draw attention to issues of discrimination, violence, and prejudice that plague the community. The theme for this year’s IDAHOT campaign is mental health and well-being. Given that homosexuality and transgenderism are still heavily stigmatized in India, particularly among the psychiatric community, The Humsafar Trust has proposed a series of activities to lend a voice to the struggles of Indian LGBTI persons. The tentative series of events is called ‘Queers Against Quacks’.

'Queers Against Quacks'

‘Queers Against Quacks’

In recent years there have been a number of psychiatrists from around India promising to “cure” homosexuality and transgenderism through a range of medical services. For instance doctors promise to cure homosexuality through hormone therapies, electroshock therapies, and other such suspect medical treatments. Such practices misrecognize homosexuality as an illness rather than a natural expression of sexuality. An example of such misrecognition is when Dr. Vinod Raina stated, “The problem with homosexuals is that they have more female hormones. After taking blood samples, we increase male hormones in them .” Although such treatments are pseudo-scientific and life threatening at worst, they continue to become popular forms of ‘managing’ homosexual and transgender expressions among patients. Moreover, psychiatric services are rarely sought out by LGBTI persons themselves but by family members refusing to accept gender and sexual difference. In light of the consistent incidents of misuse of psychiatric services against LGBTI persons, especially in India, we seek to organize a series of events that calls attention to the violence that LGBTI persons face in psychiatric settings. Through our campaign and events we will also work to destigmatize gender and sexual differences as “mental disorders”, “diseases”, “and madness”.

We have seen several internet sites offering cures for homosexuality lately. On making calls to these locations, techniques such as hypnotherapy, hormone therapy and aversion therapy were mentioned as cures to homosexuality.

In light of the position statements made by the World Psychiatric Association and the Indian Psychiatric Society , the above treatments should be considered as quackery. Mental health professionals need to understand that sexual orientation is a part of nature’s sexual diversity and should not be treated as a mental health disease.

'Queers Against Quacks'

‘Queers Against Quacks’

The objective of this exercise is to visibilize transphobia and homophobia within the mental health community through an online social media campaign by highlighting the following:

• Letters issued by the World Psychiatric Association and the Indian Psychiatric Association giving their position statement on homosexuality.
• Exhorting LGBTI people to share stories of homophobia, discrimination and cures offered by quacks.
• Highlighting medical practices of doctors who are offering cures for homosexuality in India.
• Asking queer friendly psychiatrist to show their continued support to the queer community.

On the final day of IDAHOT, 17th May 2016, the Queer Community in Mumbai will meet at Azaad Maidan from 5 pm to 7 pm highlighting the quackery within the medical fraternity around homosexuality.

Pallav Patankar

Pallav Patankar is Director, HIV Programs, at Humsafar Trust.