PODCAST : HEALTH SECTOR & QUEERNESS
MENTAL HEALTH AND QUEERNESS
In this episode, we talk to our guest Qasim about the challenges revolving around mental health issues in the LGBTQIA+ community. Qasim shares many insights on the problems he had faced and how he was able to overcome those.
Qasim is a HR professional who is very much passionate about diversity and inclusion. He also conducts sessions and educates people to understand more about the LGBTQIA+ community.
Rishma — Welcome Qasim. Thank You so much for joining today. We really appreciate it. Qasim is a HR professional and is passionate about diversity & inclusion space.
Qasim — Thank you so much for having me onboard and giving me this opportunity. I would love to share my journey around mental health.
Rishma — It’s our pleasure to have you here! Would you like to share about your interests, hobbies etc ?
Qasim — Basically I’m very enthusiastic about diversity & inclusion. I take a lot of sessions sensitizing people around LGBTQ space, educate people around what LGBTQ community is all about, sensitise people about difference between sex gender and sexuality. I also try to help the society to be progressive.I also try to ensure that people of LGBTQ community are accepted across the society. I love traveling! I love cooking! I have realized during this pandemic that I’m also a bookworm.Over the period of time i have also realized health is also one of the important things that i need to take care of, so i’ve been health conscious since 2020. These are what I’m keen on on a personal level.
Rishma — That’s great for you! You mentioned about equality and making people understand the difference between sex and gender, how one is a social constrcut and one being a biological difference. That was probably one of the first things we were taught when we were having women’s study courses on LGBTQ space. The work you’ve been doing sounds really inspiring and thank you so much for it because the necessity of it is immense, now more than ever! So you identify as part of the community as well, has that in anyways changed your approach to the issue of Healthcare and Medical treatment.Has that affected you availing Medical treatment and services in any way when it comes to mental health ?
Qasim — So to be very honest with you and the audience, i have been very vocal and quite confident after accepting my sexuality and who I am. Because of that i’ve not face challenge to avail mental health services. But as a queer person because of the social stigma around it, i did face a challenge. I was in a state of denial for almost 2 months that i cannot get into depression, anxiety, stress. This is because mental health is not spoken very vividly and society does not take it positively. Hence there was a delay in approaching mental health practitioners whether it’s a doctor or a counselor. And i don’t think so being a part of the community i faced challenges in availing medical help or aid. I hope this answers your question.
Rishma — Yeah, it absolutely does and it’s considerably different from my personal experience. For the longest time I couldn’t even tell my parents that I wanted to see a therapist because of the questions they were gonna ask us why it is necessary. And then once I started seeing one, it was not the greatest experience at first because finding a clear affirmative person who will help you out when you’re having your own crisis is so difficult. This is one of the major issues a lot of us face because of the acceptance of society. Do you think democratic factors i mean cast, class, religion, gender, location affect availing or diagnosing mental health services ?
Qasim — Absolutely yes. All of this definitely affects people reaching out to mental health practitioners. For example, somebody living in a metro city, the feasibility of approaching a mental health practitioner is more easier than someone in remote or non metro. When we talk about somebody below 18, their parents would question what are you talking about. For somebody who is working they could directly seek help. I feel democratic factors matter a lot in the approach to availing mental health services. And in the qeer community, definitely yes. Even in the LBGT space, lesbians bisexual Gays have more accesisbilty to mental health practicers than Transgenders.
Rishma — We were talking to some trans people on our podcast. They were talking about their experience in availing health care and talking to healthcare practitioners be it mental health or otherwise. And it just seems to be such an uphill task just to get their basic right. And i didnt know how to react because of the reality that they have to go through just to live the way they want to. It’s really tough and it’s really daunting and takes a lot of strength and courage. I really applaud going through it and staying out. You said you’re proud about your sexualiuty. Has the perception of it impacted your interpersonal relationships ? And has that affected your mental health? For me personally that has happened a lot. Most of my friends know and some of my family members know but not a whole lot of others. That would just initiate conversations and reactions and judgment. They will not go to the extent of disowning me but it’s just not going to be pleasant. So I have just avoided that possibility altogether as long as I can. Does that ever come to your consideration or has that happened to you ever ?
Qasim — This is a very good question. Definitely when it comes to acceptance for people from the LGBTQ community, our society though in the 21st century, we’re still living in the 15th century and our thought process is not very progressive. We are still very regressive in terms of acceptance, change and modernization. My family, my close related family is very very religious and even my extended family for that matter is very religious. FOr them homo sexuality is a crime, so you can imagine if I come out to them. Forget about acceptance, disowning is something that can happen with. So I’m not worried about it. I’m open and have come out to my mother. She is the one who is important in my life and she should know who i’m. Secondly my interpersonal relationship, it has impacted because of my sexuality. There have been times when those close friends who have been with me, where i’m talking specially about guy friends. I only have two guy friends who I can call them as bros. And when i came out to them, they broke all the relations and ties with me. But then there were people who I did not expect to accept me, they accepted me with open arms and that made me stronger. It’s okay for people who don’t want to accept me for who i’m, no matter what I try they won’t accept me and I don’t want those people. It’s important to move on from those toxic relations. And i’m making myself stronger irrespective of who comes into my life or goes out. I will be who i’m. Because if i’m gay it doesnt mean that you are going to judge me for who i’m. Homo sexuality is not a crime and I’m not a criminal. This is what my motive in life is and that is why I’ve taken up a job where I prefer to educate people around gender sexuality. Now those friends have accepted me but during the phase when I needed help, they weren’t there. The feeling has definitely been different for them now. I have been with them during their lows and when I was at my lowest, I still remember one of my friends telling me, “go get a treatment of your brain” . That statement literally broke me down. I still have three friends of mine where I met in one of the previous organizations, vidisha, Jayshree and smitha. They have been my backbone and they are part of not only my life but they are part of my heart. They have been there for me no matter how difficult the situation has been, no matter how harsh people have been on me. And I really want to keep them for the rest of my life. And that made me stronger. Of Course interpersonal relationships do impact when you live around people who has a regressive thought process and are not ready to accept who you are.
Rashmi — Absolutely. Good riddance I will say. I know it doesn’t sound the greatest and it hurts a lot when people close to us react in this way. But then they don’t deserve our friendship and our lifes i think. I think the lack of basic sensitivity about humanity is the real problem here and the fact that you’ve been able to work in a field where you can actually make a change helps people understand the issues if really great! Thank you for that. That’s a service to the community and I’m sure a lot of people are thanking you for it. So this brings me to my last question which is that since there is lack of sensitivity, there is a lack of healthy curiosity, there is a lack of asking the right questions, listening to what people from the community have to say about things. People who are not part of this experience seem to assume, stereotype people here. Do you think your experience as a queer person, have they been approraiated ? I’m asking more about medical legal. Do you think there is a correct vocabulary, lack of accessibility, difference in the narrative. Do you think so ?
Qasim — Honestly i’m not sure how to put an answer to this. From a medical lens, the medical students needs to be taught around these sensitive topics. And I think a specific subject in the psychiatric department should be invented which gives them a perspective around LGBTQ community. That will help these current students when they come out with a degree, they will be able to handle people who are struggling with self identity. To deal with those people and family members better. Second, from a legal perspective, our country is way behind the rest of the world. Though scrapping 377 was a great work done by the supreme court, there is a long journey now to go. Because we can see heterosexuals getting married and having legal rights, homo sexuals doesn’t have the same in india. Why are we still struggling for it ? All of them sometimes impact mental health.And I do feel low at times thinking why am I not able to marry a person of my choice being an Indian citizen. Why do I have to go to a different county, become a citizen of that country and then marry there! Why can’t my country pass those laws. Why is a country only considering men and women as partners. WHy not men/ men and women/women as partners. Though PF form have made changes in the sex where they have men/women/transgender as particulat addition post the transgender bill that was passed in the parliment. I think there has to be certain changes and vocabularies should be formed. I think so even from a legal point of view, when we go to a police station people who are biologically male but their general expressions are femininee they are treated as if they are criminals. Even if they are victims, they are considered as the ones to have commited the crime. So all of this together has to be taken care of and it’s the responsibility of the people who are in power. If I talk about law, the ministry of justice ensures the legal aspects change for the country. And ofcourse the medical institute introduces more subjects around handling LGBTQ community better. That’s what I would have my suggestions on.
Rashmi — I understand exactly what you’re talking about. We had guests on the other day who were talking about no real change that can possibly be made unless we have any proper representation where actual decision making is taking place. Like you said, the parliament where bills are being amended and laws being changed, that’s where the representation needs to be. That representation I don’t think will happen unless there is broader sensitization. That sensitization has to happen from a very basic level right from childhood in a holistic way. It does not have to be treated as something different and it should be a little more holistic and organic. The laws need to be changed and it’s high time it gets changed.
Qasim — I’m not sure whether you know this, there is only one MP in the parliament from the NCP party who speaks about LGBTQ issues. She has spoken about LGBTQ community, transgender. I think that’s the only party that has formed LGBTQ community. I think parties should also come up and support this community so that people in the parliament become more sensitized on this.
Rashmi — Absolutely. I think it was very recently that saurav people the first openly gay judge on the supreme court panel which is a win for sure. The fact that we are celebrating such small wins in the 21st century is disheartening. There needs to be a lot more people working on this, talking about this in a healthy and a sensitive manner. Unless that happens, our only hope is to keep talking about it, keep these conversations going and that is also the motive behind this podcast to share the perspective that aren’t talked about and generally found in the mainstream media. Keep the conversations going hoping that it helps somebody out, be a source of comfort, reliability to someone who needs it. That was fantastic Qasim and thank you so much for doing this. I can’t appreciate enough how wonderful it is talking to you and thanks a lot for your time.
Qasim — Most welcome. Anytime it’s my pleasure.
This article has been transcribed by Sakhtivel, Volunteer at Rangeen Khidki Foundation