Searching for new emotional and professional stability continues to be your mission. This week will be decisive for some to lay the foundations for a future project. It's about choices, but also amazing opportunities that confirm a positive trend. A resolution to a dispute is just around the corner, especially one that concerns family, money or property. Lonely hearts have strong passions: Eros has the better of your heart at the moment.

TEMPO: allegro focoso

This week will be about the new scents of spring and awakening — you can finally breathe more calmly, in a more purposeful atmosphere. Monday and Tuesday are good days to propose or take on a project that has been on hold, with possibly major news for you professionally. In love there's more understanding and dialogue with your partner: This time, work problems or tensions with parents are gone. For lonely hearts there is a passionate encounter around the corner, but this will mean a challenge …

TEMPO: vivace fiducioso

Although Saturn is in opposition — which blocks your ascent and requires caution — there will be a real opportunity to put a project into the pipeline. From March 24-26 it will be possible to close a deal, get a confirmation or see business grow. For some, problems of the heart are silenced by work objectives, but it may be time to face or rekindle the relationship. It's a busy week for lonely hearts, especially if you're looking for part-time emotions.

TEMPO: andante energico

Spring brings your heart more momentum and confidence. Already from Friday, lonely hearts would do well to go out and be seen around: There's romance ahead. We cannot yet speak of certainties, but by overcoming fears a new encounter can go on and become something more. Those recovering from a recent separation can now go back to looking forward to new meetings. At work, the end of the week helps clear your mind on future objectives.

TEMPO: allegretto passionale

This week, the heart beats, in the middle of the lackluster distractions of work and family which require your attention. Nothing really worrying, but until mid-April a sense of nervousness could hang in the background. Finances return to worry you: A recent spending has flattened your bank account. In work, midweek agreements are favored, although some negotiation will soon be revisited.

TEMPO: andante zoppicando

If for some time now you haven't felt butterflies in your stomach, be prepared — because it's now time to rise. All singles of this sign be warned: This is a sky full of knowledge and emotions which forbid you to stay at home. Among the most favored for you are those whose sign is Taurus. It's a beautiful week for those in search of new collaborations or new projects. A small revisit of the balance sheet is advised, mainly because of unforeseen expenses.

TEMPO: vivace progettando

Your focus this week remains on work. There are those who recently accepted a compromise, or who have found a new job that doesn't exactly mirror their expectations. The situation is chaotic, but you go with the flow. These are exciting days, full of events and challenges that will soon define your professional horizons. Love suffers from the pressures of work, but there will be a strong recovery.

TEMPO: marcia animato

I think you're fully aware that at the moment there are hardships, both emotional and professional. But you're also aware that you're working for a more peaceful future, and the path is ever more clearer to you. At this time, it's important to put one foot in front of the other and move on without losing your temper. The second half of the year will bring you rewards. The stories that come into being are sort of "indefinite" ... Seize the best they can offer, by coming to terms with your own intransigence.

TEMPO: adagetto agitato

There could be some tension at work around Wednesday, when a co-worker or your boss could surprisingly turn the tables on a project. At this time it's not a good idea to exacerbate the situation with an out-of-place word — it's better to find middle ground. It's important to sow well today, because there is too much to reap before summer. In love, the stars protect you: There is a possibility of a great turn of events and beautiful surprises. Many "targets" who in the past seemed insensitive to advances are now very much interested. Those who held out will win!

TEMPO: marcia spiccato

For all couples, it's a wonderful time to plan a major event. There is a great desire to return to building things, under a sky that stimulates and helps. Sure, some small organizational tensions may arise but nothing can diminish the excitement and beauty of the moment. So, on to marriage, moving in, or even new babies. The beginning of the week and weekend are passionate and memorable for lonely hearts. At work, incoming offers may leave you speechless.

TEMPO: vivacissimo pizzicato

Work continues to have the edge over your thoughts. Recently a situation has restarted your enthusiasm and creativity. Again this week, especially around Wednesday, a positive trend calls to discuss solutions or new projects. In love, you've probably noticed a certain distance from your partner. For now let it run, but soon you'll need to find a more balanced way to divide your energy between work and affections. Single people must make do with hit-and-run relationships.

TEMPO: andante laborioso

For lonely hearts, now is the time to be seen around. Eros whets your appetite and sets the table for two. For now you're in a "fast-food" mood, let's see if the story will be continued. Stable couples can look beyond recent discussions and come to love again. There are still doubts about the economic future, but all together it's solvable. Around Friday, an amazing opportunity or important choice in your professional field is coming to be seized.

TEMPO: allegro con novità

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Where Lockdowns For LGBTQ Meant Moving Back In With Homophobic Relatives

The confinement experience could turn brutal for those forced to live with relatives who would not tolerate a member of the family living their sexual orientation openly as a young adult. Here are stories from urban and rural India.

At a Rainbow pride walk in Kolkata, India

Sreemanti Sengupta

Abhijith had been working as a radio jockey in the southern Indian city of Thiruvananthapuram when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, 2020. When the government imposed a nationwide lockdown, Abhijith returned to the rural Pathanamthitta district , where his parents live with an extended family, including uncles, cousins and grandparents.

Eighteen months later, he recalled that the experience was "unbearable" because he had to live with homophobic relatives. "Apart from the frequent reference to my sexual 'abnormality', they took me to a guruji to 'cure' me," Abhijith recalled. "He gave me something to eat, which made me throw up. The guru assured me that I was throwing up whatever 'demon' was possessing me and 'making' me gay."

Early in 2021, Abhijith travelled back to Thiruvananthapuram, where he found support from the members of the queer collective.

Inspired by their work, he also decided to work towards uplifting the queer community. "I wish no one else goes through the mental trauma I have endured," said Abhijit.

Abhijith's story of mental distress arising from family abuse turns out to be all too common among members of India's LGBTQ+ community, many of whom were trapped in their homes and removed from peer support groups during the pandemic.

Oppressive home situations

As India continues to reel from a pandemic that has claimed more lives (235,524) in three months of the second wave (April-June 2021) than in the one year before that (162,960 deaths in March 2020-March 2021), the LGBTQ community has faced myriad problems. Sexual minorities have historically suffered from mainstream prejudice and the pandemic has aggravated socio-economic inequalities, instigated family and institutionalized abuse, apart from limiting access to essential care. This has resulted in acute mental distress which has overwhelmed queer support infrastructure across the country.

Speaking to queer collective representatives across India, I learned that the heightened levels of distress in the community was due to longstanding factors that were triggered under lockdown conditions. Family members who are intolerant of marginalized sexual identities, often tagging their orientation as a "disorder" or "just a phase", have always featured among the main perpetrators of subtle and overt forms of violence towards queer, trans and homosexual people.

Calls from lesbians and trans men to prevent forced marriages during lockdowns.

Sappho For Equality, a Kolkata-based feminist organization that works for the rights of sexually marginalized women and trans men, recorded a similar trend. Early in the first wave, the organization realized that the existing helpline number was getting overwhelmed with distress calls. It added a second helpline number. The comparative figures indicate a 13-fold jump in numbers: from 290 calls in April 2019-March 20 to 3,940 calls in April 2020-May 2021.

"Most of the calls we have been getting from lesbians and trans men are urgent appeals to prevent forced marriages during lockdowns," said Shreosi, a Sappho member and peer support provider. "If they happen to resist, they are either evicted or forced to flee home. But where to house them? There aren't so many shelters, and ours is at full capacity."

Shreosi says that the nature of distress calls has also changed. "Earlier people would call in for long-term help, such as professional mental health support. But during the pandemic, it has changed to immediate requests to rescue from oppressive home situations. Often, they will speak in whispers so that the parents can't hear."

Lack of spaces

Like many of his fellow queer community members, life for Sumit P., a 30-year-old gay man from Mumbai, has taken a turn for the worse. The lockdown has led to the loss of safe spaces and prolonged residence at home.

"It has been a really difficult time since the beginning of the lockdown. I am suffering from a lot of mental stress since I cannot freely express myself at home. Even while making a call, I have to check my surroundings to see if anybody is there. If I try to go out, my family demands an explanation. I feel suffocated," he said.

The pandemic has forced some queer people to come out

Sumit is also dealing with a risk that has hit the community harder than others – unemployment and income shortage. He's opened a cafe with two other queer friends, which is now running into losses. For others, pandemic-induced job losses have forced queer persons from all over the country to return to their home states and move in with their families who've turned abusive during this long period of confinement.

Lockdowns force coming out

According to Kolkata-based physician, filmmaker and gay rights activist Tirthankar Guha Thakurata, the pandemic has forced some queer people to come out, succumbing to rising discomfort and pressure exerted by homophobic families.

"In most cases, family relations sour when a person reveals their identity. But many do not flee home. They find a breathing space or 'space out' in their workspaces. In the absence of these spaces, mental problems rose significantly," he said.

Not being able to express themselves freely in front of parents who are hostile, intolerant and often address transgender persons by their deadname or misgender them has created situations of severe distress, suicidal thoughts and self-harm.

Psychiatrist and queer feminist activist Ranjita Biswas (she/they) cites an incident. A gender-nonconforming person died under suspicious circumstances just days after leaving their peer group and going home to their birth parents. The final rites were performed with them dressed in bangles and a saree.

"When a member of our community asked their mother why she chose a saree for someone who had worn androgynous clothes all their life, she plainly said it was natural because after all, the deceased 'was her daughter,'" Biswas recalls.

The Indian queer mental health support infrastructure, already compromised with historical prejudice, is now struggling

David Talukdar/ZUMA

"Correctional" therapy

In India, queer people's access to professional mental healthcare has been "very limited," according to community members such as Ankan Biswas, India's first transgender lawyer who has been working with the Human Rights Law Network in West Bengal.

"A large majority of the psychiatrists still consider homosexuality as a disorder and practice 'correctional therapy'. It's only around the big cities that some queer-friendly psychiatrists can be found," Biswas said. "The pandemic has further widened the inequalities in access to mental health support for India's LGBTQ community."

Biswas is spending anxious days fielding an overwhelming amount of calls and rescue requests from queer members trapped in their homes, undergoing mental, verbal and even physical torture. "We don't have the space, I just tell them to wait and bear it a little longer," he said.

Medical care is dismal

Anuradha Krishnan's story, though not involving birth family, outlines how the lack of physical support spaces have affected India's queer population. Abandoned by her birth family when she came out to them as a trans woman in 2017, Anuradha Krishnan (she/they), founder of Queerythm in Kerala who is studying dentistry, had to move into an accommodation with four other persons.

Isolation triggered my depression

"I am used to talking and hanging around with friends. Isolation triggered my depression and I had to seek psychiatric help." Living in cramped quarters did not help with quarantine requirements and all of them tested positive during the first wave.

What is deeply worrying is that the Indian queer mental health support infrastructure, already compromised with historical prejudice, is now struggling, placing more and more pressure on queer collectives and peer support groups whose resources are wearing thin.

During the 10 months of the first wave of the pandemic in India in 2020, Y'all, a queer collective based in Manipur, received about 1,000 distress calls on their helpline number from LGBTQ+ individuals. In May 2021 alone, they received 450 such calls (including texts and WhatsApp messages) indicating a telling escalation in the number of queer people seeking help during the second wave.

As India's queer-friendly mental health support infrastructure continues to be tested, Y'all founder, Sadam Hanjabam, a gay man, says, "Honestly, we are struggling to handle such a large number of calls, it is so overwhelming. We are also dealing with our own anxieties. We are burning out."

Sreemanti Sengupta is a freelance writer, poet, and media studies lecturer based in Kolkata.

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