Navigating the Psyche: The LGBTQ+ experience in India, with a peek into the Hindu Mythology


In this article, we delve into the psychological landscape of LGBTQ+ individuals in India, exploring their unique experiences and drawing insights from Hindu mythology that subtly reference LGBTQ+ themes.

Being a member of the LGBTQ+ community in India often involves a complex negotiation of one's identity in the backdrop of a diverse society. While the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 2018 marked a significant legal milestone, societal attitudes can still be conservative, and LGBTQ+ individuals often face discrimination, stigma, and misunderstanding.

Family plays a central role in Indian society, and coming out to family members can be a daunting challenge. Some LGBTQ+ individuals experience acceptance and support, while others face resistance, familial pressure to conform, estrangement or even violence. These experiences can lead to emotional turmoil and a sense of isolation. One’s self worth might also crumble. Perhaps, that's why many LGBTQ+ individuals in India continue to struggle with their sexual orientation or gender identity, often in silence. The fear of rejection, isolation, and discrimination can lead to profound difficulty in self acceptance and cause significant psychological distress.  This internal struggle can manifest as anxiety, depression,  low self-esteem and even destructive personality traits like impulsivity, emotional reactivity and a disturbed self image.

Moreover,  there is still a lot of social stigma and discrimination which yields significant barriers to LGBTQ+ individuals in India. Homophobic attitudes persist even today, and individuals may face prejudice in various aspects of their lives, including education, employment, living quarters, and healthcare. Therefore, social resistance towards LGBTQ+ members is still highly prevalent. 

However, this was not the case in ancient India. Hindu mythology, with its intricate narratives and characters, offers subtle but meaningful references to LGBTQ+ themes. One such reference can be found in the story of Shikhandi from the Mahabharata. Born as a female, Shikhandi identified as a man and underwent a transformation through penance and divine intervention. This narrative mirrors the experiences of some LGBTQ+ individuals who attempt to navigate through their own identity. Another reference is the representation of Ardhanarishvara, an androgynous form of Lord Shiva that fuses both male and female attributes. Ardhanarishvara symbolises the fluidity and interconnectedness of gender identities, offering a glimpse into the acceptance and embracing of diverse gender expressions in Hindu mythology.

While these references are not explicit endorsements of LGBTQ+ identities, they underscore the notion that diverse gender identities and expressions have been woven into India's cultural fabric for centuries.

In conclusion, the psychological impact of being a member of the LGBTQ+ community in India is a journey marked by both resilience and challenges. The struggle for self-acceptance, the fear of rejection, and the battle against discrimination are integral aspects of this journey. By drawing insights from Hindu mythology, we can recognize that India's cultural heritage has subtly acknowledged the presence of LGBTQ+ themes for centuries. As India continues to evolve in its understanding and acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals, it is crucial to create a more inclusive and empathetic society that respects and celebrates diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. In doing so, we can work toward reducing the psychological burden faced by LGBTQ+ individuals and fostering a more accepting society for all.