- As Pride month of June approaches, let’s learn more about the LGBTQ community and how we can help build a more equitable society.
Talking about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer (LGBTQ) are taboo topics, especially in the Indian community. It’s customary in the Indian culture to ignore anything seen as controversial in hopes that it will just go away. This tactic rarely works. However, if we embrace the diversity of each of us with love and acceptance, we can avoid unnecessary heartache in our lives.
Approximately 4.3% of adults in the U.S. identify as LGBTQ. That means that there are more than 10.7 million LGBTQ adults in the United States. According to the New York Times, 10,000 to 20,000 wives of gay husbands have contacted online support groups looking for a way out.
Homosexuality in India has been existent from ancient times. There are no official demographics for the LGBTQ population in India, but self-declared data shows there are about 2.5 million gay people recorded in India. This is likely a huge underestimation since individuals conceal their identities due to fear of discrimination. Mental, physical, emotional and economic violence against the LGBTQ community in India continues to be a problem.In fact, sexuality in any form is rarely discussed openly. In recent years, however, attitudes towards the LGBTQ have shifted slightly thanks to the persistence of advocates and exposure through various forms of media.
I recently saw a series of short films called “Bombay Talkies,” starring Rani Mukherjee. It hit a little too close to home. Rani is unknowingly married to a gay man. She has a loveless marriage and blames herself for not being “good enough” as her husband has no interest in her. They live as roommates, not as husband and wife.
When homosexual individuals feel compelled to conceal their sexual orientation through the disguise of heterosexual relationships, it only leads to tragedy. It causes an empty marriage and extreme depression in both parties involved. Dishonesty about sexuality comes out of fear of rejection from society. The consequences are severe and can lead one to become the worst version of oneself, trapped in a lie. If homosexuals were empowered to come out, then these mishap marriages wouldn’t exist ruining two lives.
Another story of “Bombay Talkies” is of a young boy who loves to dance and dress up in girls clothing, a sign that he may be transgender. His father slaps him when he catches him dancing with joy in female clothes. Will a slap transform a lesbian, gay, transgender or queer? As a doctor, I can attest, it won’t. Accepting your child for who she/he/they are is an expression of true love. Parents love their kids unconditionally, so if one only loves a child if he/she/they is straight, that’s conditional isn’t it?
Tejinder Gill knows unconditional love all too well. As a mother of a transgender child, she advocates with Desi Rainbow Parents and Allies (DRPA) for acceptance. It wasn’t easy at first. In fact, when she first started noticing differences in her child, she was confused, “I asked myself how is this possible? At the time, I didn’t understand how a person could feel trapped inside the wrong body. This is my child that we were talking about so I wanted to figure out how we could get to the next step to support him. In the absence of knowing everything, we started the journey.”
Now, Tejinder works to educate others about what it means to be LGBTQ and how to embrace it rather than reject it. Her son Jay has his own story to tell, “At times I felt lost, and left with a lack of vocabulary. The more education my family and I received, the more the pieces started to come together. I was able to gather my support system and navigate my real identity.”
Together, they are a powerful duo who demonstrate what life can be like if we choose acceptance rather than shame. They are both living fulfilling lives and empowering people around the globe to do the same.
Why do we fear being LGBTQ to the point of even marrying the wrong person just to hide the truth? The National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health 2020 gathered data from over 40,000 respondents – young adults between the ages of 13 and 24 who identified as LGBTQ, 40% of them have contemplated suicide in the last year. What are we doing wrong as a society, to drive people to suicide?
The more we are aware, the better we can avoid the implicit bias we all carry toward communities we are unfamiliar with. Imprisoned in our own views, our minds are raised from seeds of fear and hate rather than love and acceptance. We can evolve from lessons of our past like Tejinder and Jay did.
As Pride month approaches, we can learn more about the LGBTQ community and how we can help build a more equitable society.
If you or someone you love is struggling with gender identity or sexuality, there is help out there. Because life is tough enough as it is, we don’t need more discrimination to bring out the worst in ourselves and others.
For more information listen to Beaumont HouseCall Podcast: The Gender Identify Episode featuring Jay and Tejinder and or visit desirainbow.org
Dr. Asha Shajahan is a primary care physician, writer and podcaster from Detroit, Michigan.