Primitive as it may sound, this is the common refrain psychiatrists hear from rich parents of gay teenagers. Convinced that homosexuality is a psychiatric disease, parents drag their wards to psychiatrists in thehope of changing their sexual orientation.
“An educated family wanted me to give their gay son electric shocks to make him straight. They were upset when I explained that nothing can be done about one’s sexual orientation. A chartered accountant got her son along hoping to cure him through shocks and surgery,” said Dr Pulkit Sharma, psychologist, VIMHANS. He claims to have turned down 50 such requests over the past two years.
Agrees Dr Samir Parikh, chief psychiatrist, Max Healthcare: “Parents who come to convert their gay sons believe there’s a cure for the ‘mental disease’. They tell me, ‘If you wish, you can change his life. We have to get him married, please save him’.”
“The richer and more educated the parents, the more difficult is it for them to accept a gay child. They experience guilt and shame that often turns into hatred for the child,” says Dr Sandeep Vohra, senior consultant psychiatrist, Apollo Hospital.
Gay rights activist Ashok Row Kavi says some doctors take advantage of these desperate parents. “To extract money, even well-known psychiatrists use electric shock therapy on gays and transgenders and turn them into wrecks. Still, parents don’t give up.”
Katrina, 20, a transgender born to parents who wanted a son after five daughters, says she was sent to a mental health institute to make her behave like a boy. “I was beaten, given electric shocks and sexually assaulted there, but when I shared it with my family, they refused to listen,” says Katrina, who has attempted suicide thrice.