The president-elect of the World Psychiatric Association, a group that sets ethical, scientific and treatment standards for psychiatrists worldwide, has come out as a gay man, and called for an end to treating homosexuality as an illness.
Dr. Dinesh Bhugra is a practicing psychiatrist at Kings College in London, and a past president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. He told Patrick Strudwick of the Guardian, that he has been out to friends and family for some time, (he and his partner have been together thirty years) but he has never revealed his sexuality before professionally. As I write this, even Wikipedia doesn’t know.
“Being gay is an important part of me, but a private part,” explains Dr. Bhugra.
Dr. Bhugra was born in India, a country that recently recriminalized homosexuality. He says he always knew he was different, but he never had a word for it. Growing up, sexuality was never disgussed. It wasn’t until he came to England to study psychiatry that he realized he was gay. His partner helped him come out to his parents.
“My father freaked out completely, my mother was really pragmatic and said, ‘Who’s going to look after you in your old age?’”
Now, anticipating his new role as president of the world’s premiere psychiatric professional organization with 200,000 members worldwide, Dr. Bhugra has decided to use his tenure to change the way homosexuality is viewed, telling Patrick Strudwick:
“There are still countries where it’s seen as an illness. We need to make a stand.”
Following the interview Patrick Strudwick, who is himself gay, was bullish on Dr. Bhugra’s ability to affect public opinion:
“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.
Professor Bhugra condemns attempts to “cure” homosexuality, including conversion therapy (which is still practiced even in Britain). He not only wants to stand up to those who say otherwise but is the perfect person to do it. 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.”
Dr. Bhugra will assume the helm of the World Psychiatric Association January 1.
Dr. Bhugra’s Photo via Twitter
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