CHENNAI: Members of the Lesbian Gay Bi-sexual Transgender (LGBT) community in Tamil Nadu are a worried lot. Faced with a lack of social acceptance, harassment and rejection by parents which has complicated internal struggles over their sexuality, around 16 members, within the age group of 18-30, have committed suicide over the past 18 months.
“Suicides among the LGBT community has been increasing and this alarming trend is visible ever since the 2013 Supreme Court verdict on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which has criminalised same gender sex,” says Vikranth Prasanna, founder of Chennai Dost, a closely-knit collective of LGBT members, which also doubles up as an organisation that offers counselling sessions to members with depression.
To highlight the issue os mental health issues among the LGBT community, and also to encourage them to opt for counselling over self-harm and suicide, Chennai Dost conducted a programme titled Muttrupuli (Full Stop) at Besant Nagar during the weekend. Experts like Dr Lakshmi Vijaykumar, psychiatrist and founder of Sneha (suicide prevention help line), delivered a talk at the event.
“The issues leading to suicides are complex and all dots are connected. While majority of suicides were due to break-ups, other factors such as societal discrimination and parental pressure along with the unfair law play a crucial role in this,” says Vikranth. “Break-ups happen because there is no long-term guarantee in any relationship. But some parents refuse to accept their child’s sexual orientation and force him or her to get married, which leads to further complications.”
The situation is even worse in rural and semi-urban areas of Tamil Nadu, where sensitisation is almost nil.
“The last suicide we recorded was of a lesbian couple in Salem,” rues Vikranth. “Even cinema continues to portray the LGBT in an insensitive manner, ridiculing gays with phrases like avana nee, which hurt the community members even further. You also have many gays or lesbians who have been cheated by straight or bi-sexual people for money.”
Dr Dinesh Ponraj, CEO of Chennai Dost and a Chennai-based venereologist, says that 60-70 per cent members of the community are on a regular dose of anti-depressants or anti-anxiety drugs. “In fact, those with suicidal tendencies have told me that attempting suicide is a way of letting their parents know about their sexual orientation,” Dinesh says.