202690 "Leathermen, twinks, and bears...oh my!": Sexual health behaviors of gay and bisexual men affiliating with social subgroup

Tuesday, November 10, 2009: 10:30 AM

David A. Moskowitz, PhD , Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI
David W. Seal, PhD , Center for AIDS Intervention Research, Dept of Psychiatry & Behavioral Medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI
Research shows the population of gay and bisexual men may be deconstructed into many different subgroups, all of which have different behavioral norms. Individuals affiliating with a subgroup tend to follow the norms of the group, and if those norms prescribe specific behaviors; individuals are more likely to enact such behaviors. The following study examined whether different subgroups of gay and bisexual men (e.g., “twinks,” “bears,” “drag queens,” “military men,” etc.) ultimately showed different sexual health behaviors. A sample of 536 gay and bisexual men completed a questionnaire on which they could select affiliation with any of 34 predetermined gay and bisexual male subgroups. Condom use, HIV disclosure, and HIV/STD testing were also assessed. An exploratory factor analysis with Varimax rotation collapsed the 34 potential groups into 12 categories: Not Gay Men, Fem Men, Sensation Seeking Men, POZ Men, Anti-Establishment Men, Youthful Men, Leather Men, Physical Men, Heavyset Men, Conservative Men, Expressive Men, and Alternative Men. Results indicated that the Fem, Sensation Seeking, POZ, Youthful, Alternative, and Leather Men subgroups used condoms less than those not identifying as such. Sensation Seeking and POZ Men subgroups tended to disclose their serostatus less than those not identifying as such; Conservative and Expressive Men tended more towards HIV disclosure. Finally, Not Gay Men (i.e., straight, closeted men) were least likely to have been HIV/STD tested as compared to gay self-labelers. We concluded some groups of MSM were clearly at a higher risk for contracting HIV/STDs. Also, there might exist the potential for crossover infections between subgroups and to the heterosexual population (e.g., via “straight,” closeted men). Finally, group identity might be an important control variable in future studies on MSM, considering the variability in our findings across subcultures.

Learning Objectives:
Define and differentiate the various different gay and bisexual male social subgroups. Identify which subgroups tend towards more positive or negative sexual health behaviors (e.g., condom use). Discuss why the gay and bisexual male subgroups vary in their behaviors. Discuss the larger implications of accounting for gay and bisexual male subgroups, including tailored interventions, more nuanced sampling techniques, and the need for more cultural sensitivity.

Keywords: Cultural Competency, Gay Men

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am an HIV behavioral researcher with several years of experience in analyzing and presenting quantitative sexual health data. I have had extensive experience performing research on gay and bisexual men. I have also had several sexual health articles published in peer-reviewed journals.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.