HIDING IN THE CLOSET: PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF COMING OUT

Do you know that AIDS was first termed as GRID, i.e., gay related immune deficiency? The medicine text books, particularly, the text book of forensic medicine describes homosexuality as similar to pedophilia or voyeurism. The ICD & DSM describe being a queer as a psychological disorder. So, imagine how hard it would be for the members of the LGBTQ+ community to open up.

Firstly, the society, especially the Indian society, can never get used to the concept of gender-queer. Many members of the community are disowned by the family first of all after opening up; the acceptance by the society is something quite far off. Most of the people suffer from what’s called “queer-phobia”, being queerophobic is a collection of behaviors which reinforce the oppression of queer people like- physical harm, mental abuse, back-handed compliments etc. not just the general population, even the medical practitioners mostly are queerophobic, who might intimidate the queer patients by asking questions like- do you think you are a real man/woman, have you dreamt in last 6 months where you were a man, etc, even the clinical forms have gender options like- male, female and others, which kind of gives them a sense of being alienated. Such kind of behavior prevents them from seeking medical help at the time of need, they prefer to rather suffer from the disease than such humiliation.

Even the trans men suffer from menstruation but their needs are neglected by the society. Many a times the doctors and the rest of the staff are not aware of what it actually means to be a queer, the basic sensitization regarding the gender identity, sexuality is missing in the very system.

Many a times when a person opens up in front of the parents he is taken to a psychiatrist because it is considered as a disorder, many a times the doctors themselves make the queers go through painful treatments like electro-convulsive therapy just because people don’t realize it’s normal to be a queer.

Also, for the sex-reassignment therapy that includes surgical procedures and hormone replacement, the person needs the consent of a psychiatrist just to ensure that he is psychologically fit for it. But many a times psychiatrist who aren’t sensitized enough towards the community might consider it a psychiatric illness like- schizophrenia where the person according to them is merely hallucinating and considering himself as a different person.

The marginalization and the rejection in almost every sphere of the society leads to lack of self-esteem, they start considering themselves to be abnormal which may also compel them to go for inhumane conversion therapy. The marginalization paves the way for depression, substance abuse, IV drug infusion (leading to diseases like- HIV). Anomie, lack of social control, and alienation can lead to suicide because basic social needs are not met. The suicidal rate is 1.5-3 times higher in the LGBTQ+ community as compared to the general public. And they prefer to suffer till death rather than get treated for any disease they acquire. For those who prefer to stay in the closet Hiding and passing as heterosexual becomes a lifelong moral hatred of the self; a maze of corruptions, petty lies, and half truths that spoil social relations in family and friendship. LGBTQ+ individuals face a number of stressors when considering coming out. Although hopeful to be met with care and compassion, when considering coming out LGBTQ+ individuals are often plagued by the following questions:

Will ________ understand?

Will ________ still treat me the same way?

Will ________ judge me?

Will ________ be angry?

Will ________ be sad?

Will ________ hurt me?

Will I lose my job?

Will I lose my home?

Will I be safe?

Enduring these stressors, LGBTQ+ individuals often feel lonely disconnected, confused, sad, ashamed, fearful, angry, and vulnerable. These coming out stressors help to explain the unfortunate statistic that LGBTQ+ individuals are 3 times more likely to experience a serious mental health concern.

While coming out can be challenging, it can also often be beneficial. Coming out has been associated with both physical and psychological benefits. One study found individuals who were out had lower levels of stress and depression than those who were not. Additionally, coming out has also been associated with a more positive self-image and higher self easteem For many people, coming out feels liberating, as it allows them to live their lives openly and proudly. No longer living in fear of being found out by others, dealing with the stress of keeping secrets, or even leading what feels like a double life can have a significant positive impact on well-being. Sharing one’s identity openly can also make it easier to connect with other members of the LGBTQ+ community, which can help individuals develop a more extensive support network and community.

Coming out can also have a larger societal impact. As more people openly share their LGBTQ+ identity, the acceptance and understanding of the community has grown. Representations of LGBTQ+ people in popular culture, in television shows such as Modern Family, for example, have influenced attitudes about marriage equality and helped people to challenge some negative stereotypes about LGBTQ+ individuals. Additionally, research has shown that having a friend or family member who identifies as LGBTQ+ leads to more positive attitudes about homosexuality among heterosexual people.

Because coming out can pose any number of challenges, support is generally considered an essential part of the process. Support can come in many forms: from a family member or friend, a teacher, an LGBTQ+ advocate or community center, or from a helpline. When an individual is struggling with the process of coming out or with negative reactions from loved ones, therapy may also be helpful. A qualified therapist can provide a safe, supportive, and affirming space in which an individual can explore their identity and the potential impact, positive or negative, of coming out

Although since the abolishing of the section 377, the degree of acceptance for the queer has slightly increased but we still have a long road to travel. Most importantly creating LGBTQ+ health care professionals is the need of the hour. For that first and the foremost, it’s extremely essential to get rid of the queer-phobia, develop empathy towards the members of the community and considering them as normal human beings.

#Content Created by Akanksha Mahajan

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