Bhave Institute of Mental Health

Bhave Institute of Mental Health


We live in a world with people who differ in their appearance, religion, culture, languages etc. Similarly, many amongst us are different in terms of their gender identity and sexual orientation. As these entities are poorly understood by community, such people are often misunderstood, treated harshly or are ridiculed. The internet is rife with news items about suicide committed by many such adolescents or adults who have faced ire of the society due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. This article aims at creating awareness and improving the understanding people possess for the same.

Biological sex constitutes the organs, hormones and chromosomes one is made up of. Gender identity is a person’s sense of maleness or femaleness (a female can identify as a man or a male could identify as a woman). Sexual orientation refers to the sex of the person to whom one is physically and emotionally attracted. This could be towards opposite sex (heterosexual), same sex (homosexual/gay) or both sexes (bisexual). The term LGBTQ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer. Queer is an umbrella term for sexual and gender minorities.

A very common misconception is that people can change their gender identity or orientation. Several parents/ family members come to a psychiatrist or psychologist hoping for “conversion therapy”. This practice of trying to convert someone has been deemed non-scientific and tantamount to mental cruelty for the concerned person.  

What causes this difference in sexuality among people? The most researched hypothesis currently is that level of circulating male sex hormones in mothers’ blood can affect brains of developing foetus. Scientists have also found genes on certain chromosomes which might contribute to causation. It is possible that genetics are involved as we see a higher prevalence in identical twins. Psychological factors also affect development of homosexuality. Victims of sexual assault in childhood experience psychological trauma leading to change in orientation. However, it is quite clear that presence of homosexuality does not appear to be a matter of choice. 

How do we support someone who is facing emotional difficulty in coming out with their sexuality or are facing opposition due to same?

  • An ally is a someone who supports, stands up for and encourages people from queer community.
  • ‘Calling out’ someone is a way of addressing problematic language or behaviour in public. Avoid using derogatory terms for queer people and raise an objection if you see someone doing the same. Avoid making fun of someone for the way they dress or their body language.
  • ‘Calling in’ refers to checking the behaviour of your peers privately and encouraging them to change.
  • Be empathetic and kind towards them. You might not have a solution to their problems but you can always provide a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on. 
  • Do more research to broaden your knowledge.

A little kindness and help do not take much but can help others and go farther than we think.

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