Queerness and Mental Health in Educational Spaces- A Myth or Hope?

At a time when classrooms in colleges are meant to provide an open platform for dialogue and discussion, LGBTQIA community still lacks inclusive and active participation writes RITWIK DUTTA.

The attempts to create a space for queer people has successfully spread far and wide. However, the parallel resistance from the strong societal structure has always pulled back the approaches. 

University spaces are supposed to consider disagreements, provide freedom to be vocal, and ensure mutual acceptance in all degrees. Queerness is a part of society. It is silently wrapped within the existence of the cis-heterosexual majority of the society and claiming the space is a long battle. All the more, when the majority of the society is yet to be visually aware of the community’s existence.

Wouldn’t a utopian educational environment always be a place where people may talk without fear of being attacked? The daily prejudices and challenges faced by a queer person, being amongst the marginalized, can be emotionally rough and also effects the mental health of a queer person.

Historically, a person from the LGBTQIA community has always been refused proper care and attention due to lack of resources, social ostracization and denial of opportunities within the society. This not only excludes them from having access to resources and services but also curtail their ability to even seek proper health services. Interestingly, several educational spaces have come up with collectives, groups belonging to the community in the past few years. Gradually, this has led to a whole new level of engagement between the LGBTQIA and cis-heterosexual people.

Several colleges have also started providing mental health assistance on their campus to create a more friendly environment for the students. One of the students, Avanti (name changed) from Ambedkar University mentioned, “There is a mental health help space in our campus but it can take more than a week at times to take an appointment but knowing that there is such an option itself is comforting, to be honest.”

On being asked how was it for their mental health in a queer affirmative educational space, she responded, “As a gender non-conforming person, I never had to come out because everyone almost knew about me. It felt a lot reassuring for me even though there are issues like non-availability of a gender-neutral washroom at our campus.” She further added, “I derived a lot of courage from the collective in the campus when I was studying there, and that courage was helpful for my mental health.’’

Another student, Nayra (name changed) from Miranda House college shared that there are events organized in the campus that are attended by individuals from different colleges and places. The level of interaction has slowly increased within collectives over time, where they get opportunity to engage in different activities that reassures a positive impact on mental health.

Some colleges are far behind when it comes to creating a space for queer people. The diverse identity of people from the community in such spaces will always be cloaked inside the closet. The question is until when? “Queerphobia is real on campus. I think without the presence of the collective the situation could have been worse as there won’t have been any space for me to address the oppression. By the presence of the campus, I can be openly political about my queer identity,” said another student.

The visibility of a queer person and the affirming mental health assistance is a welcome move but it has a long way to go to be truly affective. Also, spaces that are queer affirmative have also led to a decrease in the number of cases of discrimination. Fortunately, this has impacted the growth of the mental well-being of a queer person.

However, the question will always remain – if the identity is never considered, will mental health be?

(Photo: Members and supporters of the LGBT (lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender) groups during Delhi’s 10th Queer Pride march in New Delhi. | PTI Photo Vijay Verma)

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