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Sexual Orientation Change Efforts by Medical Professionals in India

Even though for the past several years homosexuality is not considered a disorder by itself in medical circles around the world, some Indian medical professionals continue to be in the grips of homophobia, religious intolerance and outdated knowledge. In India, a very small percentage of medical malpractice cases come to light chiefly because of mass ignorance, poverty and lengthy court procedures. The irreparable harm caused to the lives of numerous homosexuals across India by unscrupulous psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, “holy men”, quacks and medical professionals is alarming.

Some homosexual people are categorized as ego-dystonic, meaning that the person’s thoughts and behaviours are in conflict with the needs and goals of the person’s ideal self-image (“I am not happy being gay”). These ego dystonic homosexuals need to be carefully assessed by an unbiased mental health professional to see whether they would be happier living their lives as heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual. Forcing the person to “go straight” is certainly not the objective of any remedial therapy. The mental health professional needs to see that an ego dystonic homosexual is provided the right therapy such that s/he is comfortable with whatever sexual orientation is innate in that person, i.e., the person lives the ego syntonic life of a homosexual/bisexual/heterosexual (“I am ok with being gay/straight/bisexual and in a loving relationship, based on trust, with my partner”).

For the past few years the LGBT population in India has been at war with psychiatrists and other medical professionals who actively prescribe Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) to homosexual men and women. In India a surgeon may go scot free even after killing the patient, it is no wonder then that homophobic psychiatrists/counselors in India rarely face the heat and almost always manage to wriggle out of trouble. A medical professional may not say upfront to the homosexual patient that the objective of the “treatment” is SOCE. It is often cleverly disguised as treatment for “anxiety”, “hypersexuality”, and “depression”. Here are two cases (with names changed to protect identities).

Case 1:

Bobby, 28, is taken by his distressed parents to a Mumbai based psychiatrist when Bobby comes out as a gay man to his parents. The psychiatrist talks to the family and convinces them to send Bobby to a clinical psychologist for a battery of tests, Bobby is also sent to a pathological laboratory for blood and hormone levels tests. Bobby is very clear that he is completely homosexual and does not want an SOCE treatment. Bobby is successful in his career and is socially active. He says that he does not feel depressed or anxious. However there is a lot of strain between Bobby and his parents. His weeping mother insists that Bobby can “change”. His father admonishes Bobby to “cease all contacts with those friends”. Bobby’s test reports are normal. Bobby is put on a daily dose of anti-depressant (escitalopram) which may have side-effects like decreased libido and erectile dysfunction. The psychiatrist
instructs Bobby to come to him for consultations (which may last anywhere between 20 minutes to 45 minutes) every ten days and charges him Rs. 500/- per visit. The tests cost Bobby Rs. 4500/-. Bobby is forced by his mother to take the tablet every day. Bobby manages to spit it out on most days. Any psychological test is open to interpretations. In Bobby’s case the psychiatrist may argue that the daily dosage of anti-depressant given to Bobby will ease the strain within Bobby’s family by making Bobby more “adjusting”. Bobby asks the psychiatrist point blank if he feels that homosexuality is a curable disease. The psychiatrist does not give a clear cut answer to Bobby or his parents.

Case 2:

Vivek, 26, has recently come out to his parents as a gay man. His hysterical mother and infuriated father take Vivek to a “baba” who insists that it is “easily curable” by any doctor who will prescribe hormone therapy for a week. Vivek’s parents take him to a child specialist whom they respect. The child specialist tries to reason with his parents saying that there is nothing wrong with being homosexual and that they should be happy that Vivek is honest about his sexual orientation. Vivek’s parents are not convinced. The child specialist refers Vivek and his parents to a prominent sexologist and therapist who has previously published articles in news papers where he has argued that all homosexuals indulge in unsafe anal sex and hence should be termed as criminals. Back home, Vivek breaks down in front of his parents. He insists that he will never get married to any female and would rather castrate himself to beg on the streets as a eunuch. Vivek tells his mom that if she hates him so much he can leave his home. His mother is mollified somewhat and tells Vivek that they want him to change by daily prayers and rituals. But if in the end he cannot change
they will let him be.



Editor’s Note: Our sincere thanks to Deep and Dr.Raman for sharing this article with Orinam.net. Please join our fight against LGBT phobia in the Indian medical community.

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  1. Reparative therapists
    claim to be trying to help people who are strugling with the same sex attractions.
    But instead it hurts because it promotes the view that people with same-sex attractions can really be “cured” or transformed into heterosexuals. The problem with this is that this is really just an illusion and not true.
    All research is suggesting that people change their behavior and their values. There is no indication that the very basic desires to change as the result of the therapy.
    There are studies that show that most people who undergo this therapy have a loss in their mental health.

    The same people who would be willing to waive the prohibited behavior, often also would love to believe that they can actually “convert” not only the lifestyle, but the real attractions completely. They end up discovering years later that this approach is not the case and are devastated. This results in some cases of suicide and leaving the faith.

    Besides all the mainstream psychiatric, psychological work, social, the World Health Organization advisory groups and even many experts among people who have been involved in “reparative therapy” mostly agree with that. Does not work in shifting the focus.

    According to those who believe such conversions, the success rate is about 0.4%

    Warren Throckmorton, a psychologist and professor at the evangelical Grove City College recently surveyed 239 men in the “mixed orientation marriages” in which her husband is attracted to other men and women is heterosexual. About half of the males had been through a conversion therapy.

    Throughout their marriage, men, “same sex attractions increased …” and “attractions for your spouse declined,” according to Throckmorton.

    Another study by Mark Yarhouse, a researcher at Regent University – which was founded by Pat Robertson – reached the same conclusion.

    The leader of the Exodus, the largest audience of people (thousands) that changed from a gay to the heterosexual lifestyle admits that this does not include the end of same-sex attraction for 99.9% of the group.
    “There was a change in our beliefs about therapy focused change orientation and do not believe that it is effective.”

    Dr. Spitzer
    “If people can recognize that being gay is something that can not be changed and that efforts to change will be disappointing and may be harmful if it can be more widely known it would be great.”

    Without clear evidence that a treatment is effective it can not in good conscience, recommend an unproven treatment that can cause undo pain, suffering and death

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