A young boy Tarun aged 18 enters the chamber of a psychiatrist. Although he is accompanied by his parents, he prefers talking in private with the doctor. I was in the other room busy with my own writings when the psychiatrist sent the boy to me for a counselling session.
“Hi, how are you?” I asked.
Without exchanging any pleasantries, he replied, in a quivered voice “I am going to die, I am unwell.”
I offered him tea, tried to calm him down but nothing seemed to help him. He wanted to talk. He started talking though he failed to keep his composure several times during the sessions. Make no mistake, I am not here to unfold a story of a personal account but I am here to caution how grave the effects of Gender Dysphoria and Depression can be if not dealt with accordingly and on time.
Tarun is an only child. His family lived in a joint family until they all separated and started residing as nuclear families. Since his birth, Tarun hadn’t seen harmony between his parents. His father worked for a private firm and then started his own business as a mobile recharge owner, but the business did not fetch him enough revenue to maintain a household. To add to the meagre income, the mother started a home business of making imitation jewellery items. In spite of this, the family remained under tremendous financial constraint and they are in a hand-to-mouth state.
“I never got love from my parents”, Tarun sobbed.
I could not comprehend why he said so as both the parents had accompanied him to the doctor’s clinic. Tarun appeared to be an introvert and from our conversation, I learned that he loved draping in women’s clothing rather than the apparels typically meant for a boy, since he was a toddler. He hid these facts from his parents and used his mother’s makeup kit and painted himself to look like a girl.
He loved to wear a ‘bindi’ on the forehead, loved bangles and other accessories a woman uses to adorn herself. He also draped his mother’s saree and for hours together stood in front of the mirror indulging himself as a girl and not as a boy. His body language changed and back in school and within his circle of friends he became a butt of ridicule. They made a mockery of him and he became an outlier in his social circle. An already introverted Tarun gradually cocooned himself within a shell.
At school, no one preferred to sit next to him and he sat alone at his desk and sulked. Amidst this identity, chaos came a rude shock when Tarun’s mother was diagnosed with depression. The little boy failed to understand why his mother cried so often and would not talk to him for days together.
There was a park in the nearby locality which Tarun often visited and witnessed little children playing cricket with their fathers. It left him heartbroken and he yearned for his own father. He wished his father played with him like all the other daddy’s out there in the world. By that time, his parents had severed all ties with their other relatives and Tarun did not even have a cousin to play with.
It was in standard ten when he suddenly realised he is crushed between his identities. He had suicidal thoughts and as a desperate attempt, Tarun discarded all his women’s clothing and tried to become a man again, although his body failed him.
He first tried to commit suicide by tying a rope around his neck at the tender age of fourteen. He even wrote a suicide note which he showed to his mother much later. Yet in another instance, he says he was at Ranchi visiting his grandparents when during their return the grandfather commented “Tarun you are the only son and you are the only hope of your parents. Study well and get a good job and then financially help your parents.”
It was during those days Tarun’s mother was under treatment with a psychiatrist and Tarun himself was struggling with his own mental demons. Tarun also reveals that by nature he is very sensitive. This time was no exception either. The words of his grandfather had a severe impact on Tarun. During the entire trip back home he had cried though he hid his tears from his parents. Upon returning to Mumbai, he again tried to commit suicide but this time instead of the rope he chose phenyl.
What makes Tarun more vulnerable is when he says he has no friends. On explaining to him that we do not need a thousand friends but just one friend who will stick to us through thick and thin, Tarun says he did have a close friend. But Tarun seemed suspicious that friends would betray him. And he said his fears came true when he noticed his friend getting closer to another boy. In Tarun’s mind, he felt he had been abandoned by this friend whom he loved dearly.
In all my interviews, I have never seen a boy as handsome as Tarun, and I asked him how about dating a girl. Tarun who is now in his second-year commerce replied he was eight years old when he was friendly with a little girl. They studied together and at times both of them hugged each other and had kissed.
Later, Tarun’s obsession with becoming a girl forced him to quit this friendship but the girl still proposed to him when he was in his first year of college. Although Tarun initially agreed, he later completely lost interest in that girl as well.
Tarun wants to play cricket, football and all the other games a boy plays, though of course times have changed and these games are no more restricted for the masculine gender. Sadly no one plays with him. To combat that loneliness, he had once cut his fingers as he knew he will faint as soon as the blood started trickling. But he also confessed that he did not lose consciousness; he had laid on the bathroom floor and watched the blood streaming down his hands. Later, he got up and bandaged himself. He claimed his parents had not bothered to ask why he had a bandaged hand. Tarun still indulges in self-harm and has lost all interest in life. He has been to several psychiatrists until he walked into our office for treatment.
So here is the heart-tugging case of a young boy with gender dysphoria, dealing with depression and living with the pressure that he is the only child, and thus he needs to support his parents. Little does he realize he needs support more than anyone else. It’s been a blessing that Tarun realised he was unwell and reached out for help on time. He has been put on medication and is receiving counselling simultaneously so that the boy can come out of the dungeons of his dark mind. Tarun’s case also is a nudge to parents that parenting comes with responsibilities. There will be challenges and it’s parents and nobody else who can sort out the same.
Disclaimer: Based on a case study. Name changed to protect identities.