A wise man once said that “without your health, you have nothing”. Many of us, or our brothers have nothing, or very close to it. We decided to focus on gay male health, because as gay males in the industry we know the issues, some solutions and the information that needs to get into the hands and heads of gay males all around the world. At GMJ we are willing to discuss the uncomfortable issues that straight led organizations shy away from and are able to dive deep into the real lives of gay males because we are out here living it with you. You are our brothers, lovers, husbands and friends. Gay male health is our focus because it needs to be your’s as well.
Besides the Netherlands and Belgium, few countries address gay male health issues or treat us humanly outside of diagnosing us mentally ill or with AIDS. Homophobia and laws against us keep this in line and many of our greatest assets, our GLBT/HIV organizations, have been hiding the truth from us about #PrEP, #UequalsU and condoms for years and even decades. Their true power is in keeping us powerless and without knowledge. But we let them do it. It is time that gay males start doing the work and creating our own organizations that celebrate our true lives, gives voice to our issues and real life solutions to our problems from a gay male perspective. It is time to grow up and take charge of our lives and healthcare, because obviously, no one else is doing it for us!
As you search the Internet, you will find many guys trying to define what “gay culture” is, but they all miss the most obvious answer; gay culture is HIV/AIDS. Over 40 years, it has defined the lives of at least two (2) generations, dictated our sexual and dating habits and even changed how we speak to and about each other. As many men buried and mourned lovers, friends and brothers, others created stigma around the living. On some level, we are all affected/effected/infected by this illness. It is not just the elephant in the room, it is the room itself. And at its core, it has defined what gay male health is.
Just about everything we know about the gay male body and mind has been viewed through the lens of HIV. The problem with this mode of research and treatment is that it assumes every gay male is infected or will be. It discounts those that are not living with HIV and will never contract this illness. Worst of all, it limits the scope of ideas and ability of the medical community to see us as anything more than our sexual practices. These limitations are compounded by the fact that the American Medical Association does not have a standard in place to ask or discuss homosexuality on forms or empathetically in person. It is unlikely that you will talk about being gay to your dentist or urologist. And even if you did, what would they do with this information? There is no database which records this along with gender or race. And with this current administration, I’m not sure that we would want one to be created.
Being gay is much more than our sexual orientation. It also involves a grouping of intersectionalities like gender, ethnicity, social economics and education. All of which are used when researching and treating straights. We are lacking in education about our male bodies because everyone, including many in our own community, focus solely on our sexual practices. Gay male health must break out of the mold of STD only education and branch over into a method of evaluating and studying our full range of humanity. This includes our general, mental and emotional health as well as our sexual wellbeing. This will take major change on not just the part of our scientific community, but also our HIV/AIDS and GLBT community networks, and our selves. We will need to step up and take greater responsibility for our health and hold others accountable as well.
There are three easy things you can do to assist in the growth of knowledge about the healthcare of gay males:
- Get educated. The Internet is a great tool to find out more information about you male body. Unfortunately, there will not be much about our gay bodies, but there will be enough to help you along and find the right path for you. This can include issues such as prostate and rectal cancer, and even aging and fitness.
- Get tested. Yearly screenings and check-ups catch many illnesses that can be missed over time without doctors’ appointments. This is also an excellent time to get tested for STDs but also get flu shots, physicals and even talk to your doctor about aches and pains that you normally ignore. Don’t forget to stop by your dentist at least twice a year as well. Certain oral cancers have been discovered by dentists that are missed by other doctors.
- Get involved. We have all been to GLBT events where some hospital or research organization is seeking volunteers for a gay healthcare study. SIGN UP! This is our way of being counted. If you are a person of colour your participation is needed most as this demographic is the least studied. The best part in participating in these confidential studies is that they gather information about gay male health practices and make recommendations about our community care, as well as pay you for you time and answers. Win. Win.
Finally, we must also hold our governments and non-profits to a higher standard. Screening just for STDs negates the fact that we are males, as well as homosexuals. Our maleness is an integral part of who we are and what we do. These social constructs influence our mental and emotional well being and how we struggle through a world that seeks to keep us as second-class citizens, or worse. We are more than our sexual orientation, and its time that we act like it.