In This Article Gay Men

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Textbooks
  • History and Culture
  • Contemporary Gay Men's Identities
  • Family and Relationship Issues
  • Mental Health Issues
  • Health Issues
  • Interventions

Social Work Gay Men
James I. Martin
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0118


Gay men are generally considered to be men who have sexual desires for other men, although this is an oversimplification of a complex issue. Although men have had sexual relationships with other men throughout recorded history, “gay” is a socioculturally constructed identity that is only about one hundred years old. Even in the early 21st century, not all men who desire other men, or have sex with them, consider themselves to be gay. In addition there is great diversity among those men who do adopt gay identities. Nevertheless gay men do have many commonalities, including a collective history and elements of a shared culture. Because gay men's identities, experiences, and developmental trajectories continue to change, it is important to use the most current information about them. Thus the majority of the sources listed in this entry were published in the first decade of the 21st century, and nearly all were published after 1997. In addition to using the sources listed here in general undergraduate- and graduate-level courses, all of them are appropriate for use in specialized courses on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues.

General Overviews

There are few general overviews of gay men in the social work or social science literature. Information about them tends to focus on a specific issue, or else it is included in works on sexual minorities in general. As is the case throughout this entry, information about gay men frequently must be extracted from works that also discuss lesbians; works on gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals (GLB); or works on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people. Two exceptions are Martin 2008, which provides greater focus on the history and construction of gay identities, and Shernoff 2008, which has a stronger clinical focus. Both chapters provide a summary of the leading health and mental health challenges facing gay men. GLBTQ is an online resource that provides an introduction to numerous topics about GLBT people, including gay men, that undergraduate and graduate students will find helpful. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force website provides electronic access to its expanding library of research reports and position papers on many policy-oriented topics. It may be especially helpful for upper-level undergraduate and graduate students in policy courses.

  • Summers, C. J.. GLBTQ: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture..

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    An online encyclopedia containing a compendium of informative entries of relevance to GLBT people from the perspective of the social sciences, history, literature, and the arts. Entries provide a good starting point for examination of a wide variety of issues by undergraduate and graduate students.

  • Martin, James I. 2008. Gay men: Overview. In Encyclopedia of social work, vol. 2, 20th ed. Edited by Terry Mizrahi and Larry E. Davis, 247–256. Washington, DC, and New York: National Association of Social Workers Press and Oxford University Press.

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    This chapter discusses the definition and construction of gay men's identities and health and mental health issues that are especially relevant to gay men. It is particularly useful as an introduction for researchers and practitioners wishing to understand gay men's identities and social contexts and the health and mental health problems gay men may present in clinical practice.

  • National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute.

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    Empirical and conceptual reports on policy issues of relevance to theNational Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute. Excellent sources of information for both students and researchers. All reports are available online, as are additional resources, such as issue maps and fact sheets. Most reports include material that is relevant to gay men.

  • Shernoff, Michael. 2008. Social work practice with gay individuals. In Social work practice with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, 2d ed. Edited by Gerald P. Mallon, 141–178. New York: Routledge.

    E-mail Citation »

    This chapter summarizes issues regarding diversity among gay men and provides an overview of the problems and challenges that gay men may present in clinical practice settings. Both practice students and experienced clinicians who wish to strengthen their understanding of gay clients will find this a helpful resource.

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