Megan McInnis - India
Internship location: Chennai, India
Career goal: To help run/manage a woman’s health clinic in an underserved area
I explored how stigma and gender identity affect and/or are correlated with three major mental health problems (anxiety, depression and post traumatic stress disorder) within the homosexual and transgendered women’s community. I was the primary investigator of this study and hired four field workers to recruit and interview the participants in their native language. I hope to disseminate the results in a manner that will influence future policy decisions in favor of promoting equal rights within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) communities.
Value of experience:
I was challenged as the principle investigator to oversee the training, implementation and progress of the study, and encouraged by my preceptors to solve any and all problems that arose along the way. I was also exposed to a culture that reminded me of my own humanity and taught me to be humble in the face of diversity. During my study I became friends with many of my participants and members of the men-who-have sex-with-men and transgendered communities. People shared their lives with me and put a face on the suffering and injustice I had read so much about. Although India proved to be a tough place to live, I am eternally thankful for everything it taught me.
That’s a hard one. On June 25, I dressed in a sari that a study collaborator and one of the first openly gay and HIV-positive men in India bought for me. Together, along with about 75 other members and supporters of the LGBT community, we marched down the main street of Marina Beach, one of the world’s longest beaches, and demanded basic human rights and acceptance. It was a powerful experience and I will always remember chanting and singing with some of the most motivated people I’ve ever met.
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Two of my colleagues, Sundar and Seenu, practice proper interview techniques.
India Rudhra in front of a rainbow flag set up for the movie screening of I Am during a gay pride month event.
India Rudhra and Naveen work together on interview techniques at C-SHaRP (the Center for Sexuality & Health Research and Policy) during an all-day training event.
Rudhra and I pose for a picture outside C-SHaRP’s office after a day of training.
The owner of a drop-in center for transgenders, Priya Babu (second from left), myself (second from right), and others outside the drop-in center. The center offers a safe home, food and occupational skills training for transgender women in Chennai who are trying to earn money in ways other than prostitution.
With Rose outside the Morgan Temple in Parani, a village that is about a 10-hour drive south of Chennai. The temple is an important pilgrimage destination for Hindus who worship the Morgan God.
Celebrating my 27th birthday with Saryina (feeding me) and Sophie (in the background). The tradition is to feed each other pieces of cake and share in the fraternity and celebration of life.
The front desk of Sahodaran, one of the community-based organizations that collaborated on the project.
Jaya, the director of Sahodaran, prepares for a gay pride parade.
Sundar, one of my interviewers, and I marched at the pride parade on June 25, 2011.
One of the many signs expressing the humanity of India’s LGBT population.
Family members walked with purpose in support of the pride march.
Rudhra and I in Marina Beach, Chennai, marching for freedom and human rights for India’s LGBT community.
Signs used in the demonstration were piled up immediately following the march.
Observing a study interview at SWAM on the back patio.
A study interview at Sahodaran with Sundar.
Women enjoy the evening breeze at Marina beach, one of the largest beaches in the world.
Playing volleyball with friends, volunteers and children at a home for children touched by HIV. Every Sunday evening there is a large volleyball game that lasts until dusk.
Naveen demonstrating his artistic abilities by drawing traditional mahindi (henna) on my hand and forearm.
With Chrissie (my roommate at Yale) on an amazing adventure to the Taj Mahal. Chrissie was also working in India for the summer to develop a counseling training module for tuberculosis patients with mental health issues.