Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

16051 Racism, Homophobia, and Body Image Among Ethnoracialized Gay and Bisexual Men

Friday, January 13, 2012: 10:30 AM
Penn Quarter B (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
David J. Brennan, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Kenta Asakura, MSW, LICSW, Doctoral student, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Peter A. Newman, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Andre Ceranto, Portuguese-speaking Men's Outreach Coordinator, AIDS Committee of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Clemon George, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Oshawa, ON, Canada
Trevor A. Hart, PhD, CPsych, Associate Professor, Ryerson University, Toronto, ON, Canada
Ishwar Persad, Education & Training Specialist, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, ON, Canada
Purpose: Past research suggests that ethnoracialized gay and bisexual men (EGBM) may be more vulnerable than white gay bisexual men (GBM) to negative psychosocial outcomes, due to the intersecting structural oppressions of racism and homophobia. Although GBM are more prone to body dissatisfaction and disordered eating attitudes than their heterosexual counterparts, previous studies drawn from predominantly White samples have not adequately captured issues of body image experienced by EGBM. The purpose of the present study was to examine the relationship between racial minority status/identity, sexual identity, and body image among EGBM.

Method: A community advisory committee (CAC) of 9 GBM, representing various ethnoracial communities, helped the research team with development and design of the study, data collection and analysis. Interested CAC members received training in focus group facilitation, data collection and analysis. EGBM participants, representing the four largest ethnoracial populations in Toronto (Black/African/Caribbean, South Asian, East/Southeast Asian, and Latino/Hispanic/Brazilian), were recruited to participate in focus groups through community listserves, referrals from ethnoracial specific agencies, and word of mouth. Eligibility criteria included 1) being 18 years of age or older; 2) identifying as gay or bisexual or having had had sex with another man in the past 12 months; and 3) identifying with at least one of the four ethnoracial communities. Two to three focus groups for each ethnoracial community (n=58) were conducted. Individual interviews (n= 2) were conducted to accommodate particular participants' schedule or preference for privacy. Focus groups and interviews were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. Qualitative data analysis employed grounded theory techniques, including focused coding and constant comparative method, aided by MAXQDA. As member checking, initial findings were presented to the CAC for clarification of interpretation and feedback.

Results: Three major themes included: 1) Negotiating a racialized body image; 2) Specific ways that body image idealization in GBM culture impacts EGBM; and 3) Intersecting influences of body image on health, sexuality and relationships among EGBM. EGBM actively negotiated pressures to conform to idealized body image in the larger GBM community and resisted ways in which they are marginalized, fetishized and exoticized based on racialized body stereotypes. These results highlight the complexity of the relationships between racism, homophobia, and body image, their impact on the overall health and well-being of EGBM, and strategies to promote health and combat prejudice.

Implications: The findings have broad implications for understanding the mechanisms through which racism and homophobia influence health. Practice implications include the need to understand the coping strategies employed by EGBM in navigating multiple community contexts. In addition, our findings emphasize the importance of social workers' ethical responsibility to address racism within GBM communities as well as homophobia in both dominant and ethnoracialized communities. Finally, our findings offer implications for further research, especially the need to build a theoretical framework to better understand the complexities of issues of body image among EGBM.