Debunking Myths and Supporting the LGBTQ+ Community in Sri Lanka 

Written by: Thrishala Gunathunga

Photo by NurPhoto on iStock

As we celebrate Pride Month 2024 in June, it is important to recognise that the LGBTQ+ community faces various challenges and is affected by several myths in many parts of the world, including Sri Lanka. 

Therefore, today’s post is all about debunking myths about the LGBTQ+ community. We also discuss ways to support the LGBTQ+ community in Sri Lanka and provide resources as needed, so that we can contribute to the development of a more inclusive society for all.

Myths associated with the LGBTQ+ community in Sri Lanka

Myth 1: LGBTQ+ is a choice/phase. 

One of the most widespread myths is that being LGBTQ+ is something you choose or a phase. In truth, sexual orientation and gender are integral parts of one’s identity. Sexual orientation refers to who an individual is emotionally, physically, and sexually attracted to. Gender identity refers to an individual’s perception of their gender, which may or may not correlate to the sex assigned at birth. Even scientific investigations support the theory that these identities are a normal part of human diversity rather than something that is “chosen”. 

Myth 2: LGBTQ+ is a mental illness. 

Non-heterosexual relationships and diverse gender identities have historically been considered abnormal. However, we’ve come a long way since! Both the American Psychological Association (APA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) now publicly acknowledge that LGBTQ+ identities are not mental illnesses. However, it should be highlighted that those who identify as LGBTQ+ face more discrimination and stigma than others. This increases their susceptibility to mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and even suicidal ideation.

Myth 3: LGBTQ+ was adopted from Western countries. 

Another one of the most widespread myths is that LGBTQ+ identities were adopted from Western countries. However, many different types of sexual orientations and gender identities have been reported throughout history. For example, ancient Indian literature such as the Kama Sutra acknowledges a wide range of sexual behaviours, including homosexual partnerships. 

Supporting the LGBTQ+ community in Sri Lanka

• Promoting decriminalisation and advocacy.

Homosexuality was criminalised under Sections 365 and 365A of the Sri Lankan Penal Code, which prohibits “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” and “any act of gross indecency with another person,” though the specifics are not defined. Because of this, it still causes social exclusion, rejection from families, and limited access to necessary resources. Such challenges can also have a major negative influence on the community’s mental health and well-being. Therefore, as a society, we must keep pushing for legislative changes to Sri Lankan laws related to the rights of those who identify as LGBTQ+ individuals.

• Helping to educate and raise awareness.

Education and raising awareness about LGBTQ+ issues play an important role in debunking the associated myths in Sri Lanka, as traditional beliefs often marginalise those who identify as LGBTQ+. This can begin at a young age in schools, for example, by introducing workshops about LGBTQ+ history and issues, as well as forming support groups where students who identify as LGBTQ+ and their friends can come together, exchange experiences, and get mutual support. Furthermore, by training teachers about LGBTQ+ experiences, they will be better ready to deal with incidents of prejudicial thinking or bullying.

• Establishing safe spaces.

Those who identify as LGBTQ+ benefit greatly from safe spaces, both in person and online. For example, organisations like EQUAL GROUND in Colombo offer counselling, legal representation, and advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights. People can also come together and share similar experiences here to encourage a sense of belonging. Furthermore, it is important to create social media groups, forums, and LGBTQ+-specific websites that can provide anonymity and reach people outside of cities.

• Offering inclusive healthcare services.

Currently, many members of the LGBTQ+ community in Sri Lanka experience serious barriers in healthcare, mainly due to a lack of understanding from clinicians. Therefore, offering specific services within existing healthcare facilities to those who identify as LGBTQ+ might help them feel understood. These clinics should be staffed by healthcare providers who have obtained LGBTQ+ health education, including cultural and sensitivity training. This should also cover mental health counselling, HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, hormone replacement therapy, sexual and reproductive health services, and other health services.

Available mental health resources for the LGBTQ+ community in Sri Lanka

Several organisations in Sri Lanka are working towards providing support to the LGBTQ+ community:

1. Equal Ground

Tel: +94112806184

Helplines: LB Women: +94114334277 / Transgender Persons: +94114334278 / General: +94114334279


2. Sumithrayo

Tel: +94 112696666 / +94112692909 / +94 112683555