For the past sixteen (16) years I have been working with animals, but it was not until recently that I realized that my work as a veterinary technician was a form of refuge from the societal pressures I was suddenly identifying. At a moment of loneliness, I found myself particularly susceptible to the way certain people were treating me because of my sexual preference and realized how being gay would cause even some relatives to act differently around me. I hadn’t acknowledged how much these acts of discrimination had impacted my life until the moment of my epiphany. A moment of awakening which marked the beginning of my journey studying psychology and of embracing my new-found purpose of helping those who have also suffered because of their gender and lifestyle choices.
Right around the time of my realization, there were news about a series of gay men who had committed suicide because of bullying and acts of discrimination. This solidified my new career choice and sparked my interest in studying these cases and finding solutions. I have now been studying psychology for four (4) years and have focused particularly on developmental psychology because of my interest in gender and culture studies. My participation in the 2017 India Global Health Psychology Study Abroad Program will broaden the scope of the impact I can have in these areas and narrow the gap to the fulfillment of my purpose.
Although there has been an emergence of more understanding and acceptance of people’s differences as well as more tolerance of diverse views and behaviors, there are still obstacles to overcome in many societies around the world. As someone that believes in diversity, the study abroad program will be a way of finding new ideas to help those that are rejected and who still have not found their own path among Health Disparities and Sexual Minority communities. The differences as well as the familiarities between both worlds that I will come to know, will provide me with a more accurate understanding of the global challenges as well as opportunities that members of this community have.
Since India is a part of the world where this topic is still a taboo, the rejection of those associated with same sex relationships has resulted them to be in the shadows of society. Studying and conducting a social networking and gender focused research will be relevant and important for a deeper understanding of the repercussion of these issues in two completely different societies. Thus, I will be gaining clinical experience while working with those who have contracted HIV and probable stigma associated with it within their society. For example, in “Bangalore, South India, there has been studies where researchers collected data to compare HIV epidemic to how different possible mixing scenarios where consistent with behavior” (Mitchell, K. M., Foss, A. M., Prudden, H. J., Mukandavire, Z., Pickles, M., Williams, J. R., … & Rajaram, S., 2014). The focus of the study will allow my research to look at different environments of HIV stigma along with the different reaction they encounter from people and themselves. As well as, the influence of social networks in seeking for help.
The Health Disparities with Sexual Minorities community has been rejected and forbidden in this part of the world and as a research student I am highly interested in getting closer to finding the reason why this has remained a taboo; but more than anything I am eager to listen directly from the MSM and Transgender in the community and learn from their experiences. Many questions come to mind and I wonder how profound are the differences in the way society treats those who have HIV and those who don’t. I would like to understand the way the members of the Health Disparities with Sexual Minorities community in India feel because of the lack of support from their families, and fully grasp the way they integrate and interact within their society. As much as I believe that religion and faith play a key role in overcoming the challenges that sexual minorities have to face; I am certain that researching this topic is a way of helping and breaking barriers between all men around the world. I look forward to this opportunity to connect with other cultures and understanding the difference in opinion and emotions surrounding this topic.
Ultimately it all goes back to the core purpose of my recent career redirection and the possibility of positively impacting the community I belong to, while also making powerful connections with those living in a more close-minded society, as well as those who live with the additional pressures and concerns that come with having HIV. I am certain that my time in India will not only change my life but also my outlook about the way I have felt regarding bullying and acts of discrimination in my part of the world. I’m looking forward to the challenge of becoming a better agent of change for those who, like I, have to walk through life still feeling different, still feeling the pull and tug from a society which is yet to elevate itself towards tolerance, genuine embrace and true love for all.