Homosexuality is a well-known concept nowadays in both developed countries and urban areas of developing countries. However, it still remains a topic of curiosity & prejudice in health professionals as well as other sections of society. Patients with alternate sexuality face problems from society, religious preachers, and individuals . This column is focused on various attitudes towards homosexuality.
Homophobia (from Greek homós: one and the same; phóbos: fear, phobia) is defined as an irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals, or individuals perceived to be homosexual.
It could also be defined as an unreasoning fear of or antipathy towards homosexuals and homosexuality, fear of or contempt for lesbians and gay men, as well as behavior based on such a feeling.
Internalized homophobia is thus a form of cognitive dissonance, that causes severe discomfort and disapproval of one’s own sexual orientation. The individual cannot resolve the conflicting conscious or unconscious sexual desires with values and beliefs gained from society, religion or upbringing. Such a situation may cause extreme repression of homosexual desires.
Attitude Of Society
By and large, our society is heterosexual all over the world and thus any behavior against the mainstream of society is considered as abnormal or is disapproved . Heterosexism is an ideological system that denies, maligns & stigmatizes any non-heterosexual form of behavior, identity, relationship or community.
Attitude In Educational Setup
Homophobic bullying is common in educational setup. Boys are stereotyped as sporty and strong decision makers while girls are expected to be emotional and expressive. As a result, boys who show their feelings or who are too intimate with other boys are often called ‘girls’ or ‘poofs’. Girls who are considered to be too boyish or who hold feminist views run the risk of being called ‘dykes’ or ‘lesbians. Almost half of sexual minority youth report experiencing harassment or violence in school; 1/3 of such students are missing school out of fear for personal safety.
Attitude of Employers
Although there is a negative attitude towards an entire homosexual community, Transgenders and Hijra community are worst affected. Following are the examples of employment-related attitude:-
Workplace discrimination- which could be formal/informal, perceived/real, potential/encountered.
Occupational restrictions (e.g. military, sports, religion)
Little/no access to various community services like banking, traveling, pensions, & basic health services.
Homosexuality is prevalent in all the major religions throughout the world. Following are illustrations of religious attitude towards homosexuality.
Sharia Law: Islam forbids homosexuality. The death penalty is given in countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria, Somalia, Afghanistan.
Christianity: It is considered as “Sin to GOD”
Jew: accept the homosexuality with no restrictions.
Hindu: Generally negative attitude but a few instances of homosexuality are mentioned in Kamasutra and also in Khajuraho.
Attitude Of Health Care Professionals
The majority has negative, stigmatization attitude which leads to malicious gossip . Many consider homosexuality to be associated with mental illness or dysfunction but the concept is changing nowadays. Therapists may attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation ( especially under the pressure of relatives of homosexual individuals).
Violence towards the individuals
Homosexual individuals report incidences of violence in various forms. This may include threats, physical assault, sexual assault, rape, torture, attempted murder or even murder. This could be caused by cultural, religious or political mores & biases. A hate crime is when individuals become victimized because of their race, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation. Hate crimes against homosexual people often occur because the perpetrators are mostly homophobic.
It’s a high time that we all become more progressive in our thoughts and try to change our attitude towards homosexuality. I say why make it so special? Be more inclusive and let’s integrate the sexual minority with the mainstream of society. As a mental health professional, it’s my responsibility to increase awareness about our own attitude towards alternate sexuality and it is our responsibility to change it!
DR ANUP S BHARATI
Psychiatrist & Sexologist, Nashik