The president-elect of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), Dr. Dinesh Bhugra, has publicly come out as gay, and called for putting an end to anti-gay therapies.
The WPA’s About page states that its mission is “to promote the advancement of psychiatry and mental health for all peoples.” The organization plays a large part in setting ethics and standards of care around the world.
In an interview with Patrick Strudwick of the Guardian, he said that he has been with his partner Mike for over thirty years and has been out to his family and friends for a while, but had never discussed it in his professional life before.
Dr. Bhugra was born and raised in India, which just reinstated a colonial-era law first struck down in 2011 that made homosexual acts a crime. Growing up in the small northern city of Yumuna Nagar, he said he always knew he was somehow different, but it wasn’t until he came to the UK to for psychiatry training that he realized he was gay. He told the Guardian it “wasn’t difficult—it gave meaning to how I felt.”
After meeting his now-partner Mike, Dr. Bhugra found the courage to come out to his loved ones: “My father freaked out completely, my mother was really pragmatic and said, ‘Who’s going to look after you in your old age?’”
Dr. Bhugra will officially become the president of the WPA, which has 200,000 members worldwide, in 2014; he has decided he will use his time in office to change how being LGBT is viewed.
“There are still countries where it’s seen as an illness. We need to make a stand.”
Interviewer Patrick Strudwick, who is also gay, later told Gay Star News, “This is an historic moment not only for psychiatry but for LGBT people around the world. Finally, we have someone to represent us, to fight our corner and to take on those who still claim we are ill, sick, or need treatment. […]
“Having grown up in India, his beliefs will likely not be seen by developing countries as an imposition of Western values.
“This is of paramount importance and represents a huge opportunity to transform the way in which LGBT people are treated by mental health professionals around the world.”
When asked if he believes psychiatry should apologize for the harm that has been inflicted on the LGBT community over the years, Dr. Bhugra replied, “There is no doubt psychiatry hasn’t covered itself in glory. I think we ought to be apologising for all of the areas, not just one bit—like the treatment of women.
“I remember seeing a patient admitted to a psychiatric hospital when she was 16 because she got pregnant outside marriage. She died there in her 80s.”