A Thiruvalla-based sexologist and psychologist is facing flak from the LGBTQ community in Kerala for claiming to “cure” homosexuality.
Dr Titus P Varghese runs a YouTube channel called ‘Sex and Health’ and also appears on several television shows. His website claims his educational qualifications to be MA, MPSW, PhD, DHRT, DABS (USA).
Through videos published on his YouTube channel, Dr Titus has been claiming that he can “treat” homosexuality and “correct” the “problem”.
According to him, homosexuality is “a behavioural change that happens due to certain experiences in childhood”. Even as he reiterates in his videos that homosexuality is not a “disease”, Dr Titus argues that he can “cure the problem”.
In one of the videos uploaded in 2016, Dr Titus says: “Homosexuality, like the media claims, is not a big thing at all. Homosexuality is not a disease but is a behavioural change based on our experiences in childhood. If a sexologist or a psychologist cannot correct a simple thing as homosexuality, then what kind of a sexologist is he? Homosexuality is not a disease, but is a simple behavioural peculiarity that a sexologist can easily treat. Nowadays, even cancer and AIDS can be cured. Then why can’t we change homosexual behaviour? Because people are not trying to. But if a person wants to cure his homosexual behaviour, then who are we to tell him not to? It is very easy to correct this, when events and experiences that influenced a person to become a homosexual are altered.”
In yet another video published in late 2017, the sexologist puts forth an unscientific and absurd (not to mention sexist) “theory” of how men “turn out to be homosexuals”.
“Only a man who is not influenced by his father, psychically or mentally, can think about another man – who belongs to the same sex as that of his father – in a sexual way. This means a person who shows homosexual traits has a weak relationship with his father. This is a fact. In most cases, the youngest son in a family turns out to be homosexual. This is because the youngest son is mostly more attached to his mother than to his father. In such boys, the figure of their father becomes weak and so there is no barrier for him to think about another man in a sexual way. So when a man touches him, he will comply, because he will not feel like resisting it. That is one type. Another type is people who enjoy homosexuality. Those people want to propagate it. But people who want to move away from homosexuality can be cured with treatment,” Dr Titus claims.
Dr Titus faces flak
With Titus propagating ill-informed and unscientific information about homosexuality, LGBTQ support group Queerala has decided to hold Titus accountable for his actions.
Vihaan Peethambar, a member of Queerala, told TNM that the collective is set to file a formal complaint against Dr Titus with the Health Minister KK Shylaja, the Human Rights Commission and the Indian Medical Association (IMA).
“We are in the process of reaching out to these bodies to raise the issue,” Vihaan said.
Reacting to Dr Titus’ claims of curing homosexuality, Vihaan said:
“We have had many guys whose parents have taken them to this doctor for treatment. Because of the social stigma involved, they go there… and this doctor is basically ripping them off. He charges anything from Rs 25,000 for one sitting alone and keeps asking the men questions about their sexual encounters. His claims do not make sense in any way. He is duping people saying he is part of US bodies, so vulnerable parents fall for it. He is causing harm to so many people.”
Vihaan said that Queerala has independently verified that Dr Titus’ claims of being a member of several US-based medical bodies were bogus. He said that after Queerala began to call him out, Dr Titus has removed claims of being part of international bodies from his official Facebook page.
Rajashree Raju, a board member of Queerala narrated how a lesbian woman she knew was subjected to 'counselling' by Dr Titus. The methods of counselling ranged from keeping the woman in a room full of different lights and asking her to write down her sexual encounters, to telling her parents that its their fault.
"This woman's mother was told that her daughter turned out to be a homosexual because she, as a mother, did not give her enough love. Dr Titus told the mother that was the reason why her daughter was looking for love from another woman. Those are the kind of things he tells the people who go to him for counselling," Rajashree recalled.
"He is so good at convincing parents that homosexuality can be cured. After a point, parents choose to trust a certified doctor and not their own child. Dr Titus, though he claims he doesn't use any medication for treatment, urges parents to send their child to a de-addiction centre, where hormones are injected into them," Rajashree said.
She pointed out that while parents think Dr Titus' methods are safe, for it does not involve medication, his methods are in fact more dangerous than the others.
"He gets all the past sexual encounters of the person and obviously with women, they get shamed for having indulged in sexual encounters. He can any day use that information against the people, and this fear often forces homosexual people to think that they can indeed change themselves," Rajashree said.
A state member of the IMA said that they have not received a complaint against Dr Titus yet, but will look into the matter when a complaint is filed.
TNM was not able to get a response from Dr Titus. However, he told TOI that he does not consider homosexuality to be a disease and never claimed to cure it.
However, in 2017, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) upheld a complaint against Dr Titus for issuing an advertisement falsely claiming to cure homosexuality. The sexologist was found to be making “false, misleading, and unsubstantiated claims.”