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India's MBBS Is Riddled With Queerphobia: Dr Trinetra 'Dissects' the Problems

Medical intern and content creator Dr Trinetra Gummaraju breaks down queerphobic content of the medical textbooks.

Updated
Gender
3 min read

Video Editor: Deepthi Ramdas

Senior Editor: Shelly Walia

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In a first, the National Medical Commission (NMC) earlier in October issued an advisory directing various medical textbooks in forensic medicine, toxicology, and psychiatry to amend unscientific and derogatory remarks against members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

The order was passed by the NMC as per the directions of the Madras High Court. In a landmark judgment earlier this year, judge N Anand Venkatesh had issued a slew of instructions to both state and central agencies to frame guidelines that recognised the basic rights of the queer community.

The Madras HC also referred to Dr Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju's report which stated that the textbooks described “sodomy,” “lesbianism,” and “oral sex” as sexual offences, including references to cross-dressing as “sexual perversion”.

Speaking to The Quint, Dr Gummaraju, who wears many hats, including that of a medical intern and content creator, and identifies herself as a trans woman, breaks down queerphobia in the language and content of the medical textbooks.

'Females Who Are Mentally Deranged'

"Lesbianism is practised by females who are mentally deranged. They also commit crimes like homicide, suicide etc. Women of the Isle of Lesbos practised this perversion."
The Essentials of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology

Citing that the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders, removed homosexuality as a mental disorder, Dr Gummaraju questioned which century the authors of the textbook were living in.

"This happened in 1973. In 1990, the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of disorders. This was in 1990. Why are we studying this in 2021? Why?" she questioned.

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'Abnormal Sexual Behaviour'

"Homosexuality, transvestism, and transsexuality are abnormal sexual behaviours. These are psychosexual patients and need careful handling and a lot of counselling before taking and accepting the individual's decision."
Final Year Medical Textbook

The Indian Psychiatric Society, the American Psychiatric Association, and the World Health Organization collectively and strongly believe that homosexuality is not an abnormal social behaviour and neither is 'transvestism,' Dr Gummaraju said.

She also explained that 'transvestism' was an unscientific word.

"Transvestism basically means cross-dressing. So, apparently, if a woman cuts her hair short, it is an abnormal sexual behaviour. Or if a man puts on some kajal, it is abnormal sexual behaviour. For god's sake, why are we doing this? This is so damaging to patients and so damaging to psyche. Transsexuality and gender identity disorder are also outdated terms. But psychiatry textbooks and syllabi continue to use these words," she rebutted.

'Lesbians May Have Enlarged Clitoris'

"For a lesbian woman, a clitoris may be normal sized or enlarged. In a normal female, menstruation is normal but in a lesbian woman, menstruation may be irregular.

The medical intern asserted that this has nothing to do with science – and that one's gender orientation did not impact or is not ascertained by the size of your clitoris and how regular your cycles are.

"I can't tell you how damaging it was to sit in a classroom and read these things amongst my peers. And for all of them to learn all this information as legitimate, scientific and objective, and actually get marks in exams by spewing the same nonsense. I had to spew the same nonsense in my viva sessions. It was humiliating," she added.

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The NMC's advisory, therefore, is a step in the right direction.

"While teaching UG/PG students wherever the issue of gender or similar kind arise, the mention of Clinical history or complaints or signs/symptoms, examination findings or history about nomenclature shall not be taught in such a way that it becomes/perceived in any way derogatory/discriminatory/insulting to the LGBTQIA+ community," the NMC statement said.

But Dr Gummaraju urged students to take it up with their departments if they are still being taught homophobic and transphobic texts.

"This is not the end. There is so much more of this in our textbooks and this is exactly why it is so important for us to remove these things because imagine the kind of harm that this does. At least the National Medical Commission recognises that all of this cannot be taught anymore. I urge every medical student watching to take it up with your departments."

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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