Through the lens of queer-affirmative therapy

The decision of SC to abolsih Section 377 may have been a step towards equality, but India still has a long way to go in terms of accepting and normalising queer lives.
For representational purposes (Express Illustrations)
For representational purposes (Express Illustrations)

It has been over three years since the Supreme Court has decriminalised homosexuality. The decision may have been a step towards equality, but India still has a long way to go in terms of accepting and normalising queer lives.

The stigma associated with the LGBTQIA+ has made it difficult for those in the community to assume their identity openly and come out of the closet. While significant steps in the realm of education and awareness can help, queer affirmative therapy is another field that needs to be ameliorated.

Taking to therapy

Given how personal therapy is - exploring thoughts, identifying patterns, understanding oneself - it is important to pick the therapist best suited to your needs - one that is informed and provides a non-judgmental space to open up.

For a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, this would mean a queer affirmative professional, who uses an inclusive therapeutic lens to address their concerns.

Aishwarya Chawla, a psychotherapist and narrative practitioner, elaborates, "The importance of creating safe spaces for the LGBTQIA+ community is to ensure that there is emotional safety, trust, and an environment where folx can authentically show up as their truest selves."

A prejudiced and uninformed therapist (on matters of gender and sex), may not only make the process futile but may also magnify the issues.

Shane (23), who identifies as a lesbian, concurs, having had to change several therapists since 2018 due to a lack of connection and faux concern on the professionals' end. The same was experienced by E (20), a queer individual, who had to change their therapist after they were prescribed a medicine without information of its effects.

"Many therapists say they are gender-affirmative but in reality, are not. It is about having an understanding of gender and gender dysphoria and how to go about it. My new therapist has helped me connect with professionals who can help me with binders and address questions regarding its usage," they add.

While some look to a better future with therapy, others reflect on tender pasts. Shubh Goel, a member of the community who has been in therapy for three months, shares, "For me, therapy has been about understanding my patterns and coping with the traumatic experiences of the past. It was a lot of unravelling. You often tend to associate bad experiences with your queerness and wonder if this would still happen to you if you weren't queer. Say, if I talk about abuse, the impact of it would be more extreme for a queer individual because you start associating your queerness with your experience. Therapy can help you work your way through these emotions."

The fault in funding

The luxury of therapy is affordable to few in India; even fewer if you are queer. Since many do not receive monetary support from the family, they are unable to receive the help they need. E relies on their personal savings; Rs 1,000 a session.

"My mom has cut me off financially. I bear my own expenses but I also have ADHD, so it gets difficult when I can’t work for months," they share. For those with unsupportive families, queer collectives play an important role in supporting individuals with funds for medication, therapy, and more.

"Individuals approach a member of the collective informing us of their condition. We discuss and cross check the details. Last month, an individual reached out to me. I could see that they were coming from an abusive family. So we ran a fundraiser of Rs 7,000," explains Titas Goswami from Miranda House Queer Collective.

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The New Indian Express