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Social Work Gay Men
by
James I. Martin

Introduction

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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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    • 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.

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      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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    Textbooks

    There are no general textbooks within social work or the social sciences that focus solely on gay men. However, material on gay men can be found in textbooks that focus on gay, lesbian, and bisexual (GLB) or gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) populations, such as the social work and psychology texts in this section. Appleby and Anastas 1998, Garnets and Kimmel 2003, Mallon 2008, and Morrow and Messinger 2006 are general texts that cover a wide variety of issues. They are appropriate for use in graduate and upper-level undergraduate human diversity courses and courses on human behavior and social work practice. In addition to these uses, Herek 1998, which focuses specifically on prejudice and stigma, may also be useful for social psychology courses. Meezan and Martin 2009 concentrates on research conceptualization and methodology, and it is most applicable for graduate-level research courses.

    • Appleby, George Alan, and Jeane W. Anastas. 1998. Not just a passing phase: Social work with gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. New York: Columbia University Press.

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      An extensively researched and well-written text that examines sexual orientation and sexual identity; homophobia and heterosexism; GLB issues throughout the lifespan; and the sociocultural environments in which GLB people live. This book is particularly oriented toward social work students and practitioners, but it can also serve as a resource for researchers who wish to focus on GLB populations.

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    • Garnets, Linda D., and Douglas C. Kimmel, eds. 2003. Psychological perspectives on lesbian, gay, and bisexual experiences. 2d ed. New York: Columbia University Press.

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      A comprehensive and extremely well-written text containing reviews of empirical research or conceptual chapters on issues related to sexual orientation and GLB people. Although the book is multidisciplinary, it is primarily a psychology text. Only a couple of chapters focus specifically on gay men, but material about gay men is incorporated throughout the text.

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    • Herek, Gregory M., ed. 1998. Stigma and sexual orientation: Understanding prejudice against lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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      An important source of information about research on prejudice based on sexual orientation, including the nature and consequences of antigay stigma. There is material that focuses specifically on gay men throughout the text.

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    • Mallon, Gerald P., ed. 2008. Social work practice with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. 2d ed. New York: Haworth.

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      A readable and comprehensive text from a social work perspective. Most chapters either focus on clinical, community, or organizational interventions or include such material within a broader discussion of issues relevant to particular populations. Although just two chapters specifically focus on gay men, all but four chapters include material relevant to gay men.

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    • Meezan, William, and James I. Martin, eds. 2009. Handbook of research with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender populations. New York: Routledge.

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      The only text devoted to issues related to social work or social science research methods with GLBT populations, including chapters on issues such as definitions and measures of sexual orientation, sampling, and validity of research findings. Although the book does not focus solely on gay men, all but five chapters include material that is relevant to or specifically about them.

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    • Morrow, Deanna F., and Lori Messinger, eds. 2006. Sexual orientation and gender expression in social work practice: Working with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. New York: Columbia University Press.

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      A well-written and readable text that covers similar material as Appleby and Anastas 1998 but with more extensive information about GLBT relationships and with additional material on spirituality and workplace and policy issues.

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    Journals

    There are no professional journals within social work or the social sciences that have a specific focus on gay men. However, several journals that have a general focus on sexuality or gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) issues regularly publish articles on gay men. In addition journals devoted to HIV/AIDS regularly publish articles about gay men and men who do not identify as gay even though they have sex with other men. Some of these journals are listed in this section.

    Journals on Sexuality or Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues

    Although the journals listed in this section are varied in focus, all of them are good sources of information about gay men. Only Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services, Journal of GLBT Family Studies, Journal of Homosexuality, and Journal of LGBT Health Research focus specifically on issues related to sexual orientation or GLBT people; Culture, Health, and Sexuality and Sexualities deal with sexuality issues in general, and Psychology of Men and Masculinity focuses on men and male gender irrespective of sexual orientation. All of these journals are interdisciplinary, but the Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services is more closely associated with social work than the others.

    Journals on HIV/AIDS

    Many of the journals specializing in HIV/AIDS focus on epidemiological and medical aspects of the epidemic. The three journals listed in this section have a focus on psychosocial aspects, and they are essential resources for graduate students and researchers working in this area. While articles in AIDS and behavior may address psychosocial aspects of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, AIDS Education and Prevention has prevention as its specific domain. Both journals are interdisciplinary and international, and they are well regarded in the field of HIV/AIDS research.

    History and Culture

    There are many excellent books on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) history and culture, some of which focus specifically on gay men. The works listed in this section concentrate on the development and diversity of gay identities and communities across history and cultures, with a primary focus on the United States. Aldrich 2006 is an excellent resource for understanding same-sex sexual desires, behaviors, and identities within a global and transhistorical context. Accurate knowledge about the Stonewall riots is essential for an understanding of contemporary GLBT history, identities, and communities, and Carter 2004 is the best source for gaining such knowledge. Chauncey 1994 has become a classic in the literature on development of gay men's identities, using New York City and the first part of the 20th century as its particular focus. Loughery 1998 adds to Chauncey 1994 by examining gay men's changing identities and experiences through the entire 20th century and across the United States. Both Chauncey 1994 and Loughery 1998 situate these developments within a changing social and cultural context. Harris 1997 focuses more specifically on the changing context at the end of the 20th century and describes problematic developments that remain current. All of these sources are appropriate for human behavior and development courses, but Chauncey 1994 and Harris 1997 are more complex and most suitable for graduate students and scholars.

    • Aldrich, Robert, ed. 2006. Gay life and culture: A world history. New York: Universe.

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      Lavishly illustrated, this book describes patterns of same-sex sexual behavior and the construction of identities based on same-sex desires across history and throughout the world. In addition to describing behaviors and identities, the book explains the different meanings of same-sex sexuality across sociohistorical contexts. At least half of the book's material is specifically about men.

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    • Carter, David. 2004. Stonewall: The riots that sparked the gay revolution. New York: St. Martin's.

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      Although there are numerous published accounts of the Stonewall riots, this extremely well-researched and interesting book is the definitive history, describing not only the riots themselves but also the social context in which they occurred and the immediate impact they had on sexual minorities in New York City.

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    • Chauncey, George. 1994. Gay New York: Gender, urban culture, and the making of the gay male world, 1890–1940. New York: Basic Books.

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      This book remains a classic examination of the changing constructions of gay men's identities from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century. Although this is specifically a history of gay men in New York City, the material provides an important illustration of how contemporary gay men's identities developed.

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    • Harris, Daniel. 1997. The rise and fall of gay culture. New York: Hyperion.

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      Provides an analysis of changes in gay men's culture between the 1940s and the 1990s. The main thesis is that gay culture is dying, a victim of gay men's assimilationist aspirations. Although the book is limited to a white, middle-class view of gay culture, it is an important source for understanding the changing socioculture context in which gay men live.

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    • Loughery, John. 1998. The other side of silence: Men's lives and identities; A twentieth century history. New York: Holt.

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      A highly readable book that examines how American gay men's identities and lives changed along with their sociocultural environment during the 20th century. Because Loughery covers virtually the entire century and describes developments in all parts of the United States, the book tends to examine such developments with somewhat less depth than Chauncey.

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    Contemporary Gay Men's Identities

    The literature on gay men has always had a white, middle-class bias, but an expanding literature is beginning to emerge on nonwhite and less affluent men. Gilley 2006 and Johnson 2008 are excellent examples of this emerging literature. Monette 2004 is the memoir of a white, middle-class author that provides insights into identity development among gay men of the baby boomer generation. Nardi 2000 focuses on gender identification and gender roles among gay men, important dimensions of gay men's identities that have been given limited attention in the literature. All of these sources are appropriate for use in human behavior and development courses. Gilley 2006, Johnson 2008, and many of the chapters in Nardi 2000 could also be used as examples of qualitative research in graduate-level courses on research methods.

    • Gilley, Brian Joseph. 2006. Becoming two-spirit: Gay identity and social acceptance in Indian country. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

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      An enthnography based on five years of data collection among two-spirit societies in Colorado and Oklahoma that is one of the few sources of information about “gay” identity among American Indian men. Gilley examines the construction of two-spirit identities and the social and cultural environments of two-spirit men.

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    • Johnson, E. Patrick. 2008. Sweet tea: Black gay men of the South. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

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      A collection of oral histories based on interviews with sixty-three African American gay men who grew up and lived their lives in the South. The book is constructed by themes, such as coming out and dealing with the black church. It is especially notable for showing commonalities and differences among identities and social relationships across multiple age cohorts.

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    • Monette, Paul. 2004. Becoming a man: Half a life story. New York: HarperCollins.

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      Monette's memoir is a classic examination of a gay man's coming of age in the 1970s and 1980s. It may be especially useful for understanding identities of late-middle-aged gay white men who grew up during the Stonewall era, who participated in the development of a gay community, and who saw that community devastated by the AIDS epidemic.

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    • Nardi, Peter, ed. 2000. Gay masculinities. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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      Nardi's book concerns the diversity of ways gay men construct masculine gender identities and carry them out in interpersonal relationships, in various social contexts, and in diverse sociocultural groups. Most of the chapters are based on qualitative studies, though a couple of them are conceptual.

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    Family and Relationship Issues

    There is a large amount of material written about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) couples and families with and without children, including conceptual and polemical works and works based on empirical research. In recent years same-sex marriage has been the most visible GLBT-related issue in the United States. The works in this section include some of the best sources of in-depth information about the marriage issue. Chauncey 2004 shows how the same-sex marriage movement is a logical development within the context of the contemporary gay rights movement and other social changes. Polikoff 2008 examines the legal basis for traditional and same-sex marriage and presents an alternative legal vision that might provide for more equitable distribution of benefits and protection of rights. Cahill and Tobias 2007 focuses more broadly on the impact of policies on American GLBT families, but the authors emphasize the beneficial impact that marriage could have. These sources are most appropriate for scholars and graduate-level policy courses; Cahill and Tobias 2007 could also be used in upper-level undergraduate courses. Mallon 2004 and Tasker and Bigner 2007 concentrate on issues having to do with parenting, with Mallon 2004 providing a specific focus on gay men. These two sources are mostly appropriate for graduate and upper-level undergraduate courses on human behavior and development or direct practice with families.

    • Cahill, Sean, and Sarah Tobias. 2007. Policy issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender families. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

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      A short and readable book that discusses the ways American GLBT families are affected by federal and state policies. A particular strength of the book is the material summarizing the opposing viewpoints on families within gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender communities and on the history of the movement for partner recognition and same-sex marriage.

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    • Chauncey, George. 2004. Why marriage? The history shaping today's debate over gay equality. Cambridge, MA: Basic Books.

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      Chauncey's highly readable and interesting book provides a historical analysis of the same-sex marriage movement, which includes contextual factors such as the lesbian and gay civil rights movement, the evolution of marriage in the United States, and social changes among gay men and lesbians since the 1980s.

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    • Mallon, Gerald P. 2004. Gay men choosing parenthood. New York: Columbia University Press.

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      This interesting book is based on interviews with twenty gay men, mostly white, who intentionally became fathers during the 1980s through adoption and foster or kinship care. It examines their decisions to become fathers, how they prepared for fatherhood, and their experiences in creating a new family.

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    • Polikoff, Nancy D. 2008. Beyond (straight and gay) marriage: Valuing all families under the law. Boston: Beacon.

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      A critical analysis of the same-sex marriage movement, its history, and its sociopolitical context followed by an argument for an alternative vision in which married individuals would have no special legal rights over those who are not married. Although this book is about law reform, it avoids technical language. Nonlawyers will find it accessible and clear.

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    • Tasker, Fiona, and Jerry J. Bigner, eds. 2007. Gay and lesbian parenting: New directions. New York: Haworth.

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      Covers a variety of issues having to do with parenting among gay men and lesbians. Some chapters are reviews of empirical research, others are based on empirical studies, and the rest are conceptual in nature. Although only two chapters focus specifically on gay men, there is material about gay men included throughout much of the book.

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    Mental Health Issues

    For a good part of the 20th century prior to 1973 homosexuality was classified as a mental disorder. During this time many gay men either entered mental health treatment voluntarily in hopes of changing their sexual orientation, or they were coerced into doing so. Thus gay men's mental health issues have a complicated history. There is extensive recent literature on mental health issues among gay men, mostly in journal articles. Omoto and Kurtzman 2006 is a notable exception, consisting of a large number of empirically based chapters on a wide variety of mental health issues of relevance to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people. However, only a couple of chapters focus specifically on gay men. The other sources listed in this section are concerned with the question of what is appropriate mental health treatment for gay men and other sexual minorities. Shidlo, et al. 2001 contains a variety of chapters that examine sexual conversion therapies, which are still promoted by some practitioners even though the major professional organizations (psychiatry, psychology, social work) have strongly criticized them. The other three sources listed in this section are policy statements from these organizations concerning sexual conversion therapies. All of these sources are appropriate for use in graduate-level courses in direct practice. In addition the sources on sexual conversion therapies may be useful in courses that examine mental health policy, and portions of Omoto and Kurtzman 2006 can be used in human behavior and development courses.

    Health Issues

    Several sources in this section are part of a growing literature on health issues other than HIV/AIDS among gay men. Wolitski, et al. 2008 is a comprehensive source of information about health and mental health problems. Loue 2008 focuses more specifically on health issues for ethnic minority men. Meyer and Northridge 2007 includes information about gay men in a text on public health issues among gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) populations. These three sources are most appropriate for scholars and graduate students in courses on human behavior and development or practice in health care. Wolfe 2000 is an excellent source of information about all aspects of gay men's health, including sexual health, which both upper-level undergraduate and graduate students will find highly accessible. The other sources in this section focus on HIV/AIDS. Shilts 1987 is a classic history of the early years of the epidemic in the United States. Turner 1997 provides insight into the complex meanings of, and motivations for, risky sexual behaviors. Díaz 1998 focuses more specifically on the meanings of sexual behavior among Latino gay men. Halkitis, et al. 2005 focuses on HIV-positive urban men. These books are especially useful for scholars and graduate students in courses on practice in health care. Shilts 1987 can also be used in graduate courses on health policy, and Turner 1997 can be used as an examplar in graduate courses on research methods, as can many of the chapters in Loue 2008, Meyer and Northridge 2007, and Wolitski, et al. 2008.

    • Díaz, Rafael M. 1998. Latino gay men and HIV: Culture, sexuality, and risk behavior. New York: Routledge.

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      Critically analyzes the pre-1998 literature on HIV risk behavior and prevention strategies among Latino gay men and presents findings from three studies conducted during the 1990s. This book also describes a psychocultural theory of sexuality and shows how it can be implemented in HIV prevention strategies with Latino gay men.

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    • Halkitis, Perry N., Cynthia A. Gómez, and Richard J. Wolitski, eds. 2005. HIV+ sex: The psychological and interpersonal dynamics of HIV-seropositive gay and bisexual men's relationships. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

      DOI: 10.1037/11109-000Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Reports findings from the Seropositive Urban Men's Study and discusses their implications for HIV prevention. Issues addressed include the importance and dynamics of interpersonal relationships, meanings of sexuality, beliefs about risk and sexual practices, and the relevance of alcohol and drug use to sexual behavior. This book is especially useful for HIV prevention program planners and researchers.

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    • Loue, Sana, ed. 2008. Health issues confronting minority men who have sex with men. New York: Springer.

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      A collection of empirical and conceptual chapters on health issues affecting ethnic minority men who have sex with men, including HIV, childhood sexual abuse, homelessness, substance use and abuse, and violence. An interesting aspect of the book is the inclusion of several personal writings, or “portraits,” that illustrate issues explained in other chapters.

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    • Meyer, Ilan H., and Mary E. Northridge, eds. 2007. The health of sexual minorities: Public health perspectives on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender populations. New York: Springer.

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      Although this text is not solely about gay men, it includes empirical and theoretical chapters addressing various public health issues relevant to gay men. It will be especially helpful for those who are interested in applying current research knowledge to health care practice with gay men and those wishing to conduct health-related research on them.

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    • Shilts, Randy. 1987. And the band played on. New York: St. Martin's.

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      This book remains a classic history of the early years of the HIV epidemic in the United States. While the author's speculations about the origin of the epidemic have since been challenged, much of the criticism of the government's and the gay community's responses to the beginning epidemic is widely accepted.

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    • Turner, Dwayne C. 1997. Risky sex: Gay men and HIV prevention. New York: Columbia University Press.

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      Reports on a qualitative study of sexuality among self-identified HIV-seronegative gay men in West Hollywood, California, and proposes ways to avoid perfectionism and moral absolutism in HIV prevention strategies. Anyone who is interested in understanding the continuing epidemic among gay men will find the author's analysis and recommendations illuminating.

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    • Wolfe, Daniel. 2000. Men like us: The GMHC complete guide to gay men's sexual, physical, and emotional well-being. New York: Ballantine.

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      The most comprehensive guide currently available on health issues among gay men. Because the book is intended as a self-help guide, it is extremely readable. Health care professionals and students learning to work with gay men in health care settings will find it to be an extremely useful resource, especially the chapters covering sexual health.

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    • Wolitski, Richard J., Ron Stall, and Ronald O. Valdiserri, eds. 2008. Unequal opportunity: Health disparities affecting gay and bisexual men in the United States. New York: Oxford University Press.

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      A collection of empirical and conceptual chapters on health disparities among gay men and other men who have sex with men, including such issues as violent victimization and sexual abuse, substance abuse, suicide, sexually transmitted diseases, and HIV. Those wishing to gain greater understanding about the major health problems affecting gay men will find this book to be an important resource.

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    Interventions

    Surprisingly few book-length sources of information about interventions with gay men have been published in recent years, but there is a more extensive literature available in journals. The two sources listed in this section are mainly, but not exclusively, concerned with mental health–related interventions. Greenan and Tunnell 2002 is an excellent source on working with gay couples that draws from an established model of family therapy. This book can be best used in graduate courses on direct practice with couples and families. The other, Perez, et al. 1999, is a more general source with a narrower focus on counseling and psychotherapy. This book does not focus specifically on gay men, but it is appropriate for use in graduate courses on practice with individuals, couples, and families.

    • Greenan, David E., and Gil Tunnell. 2002. Couple therapy with gay men. New York: Guilford.

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      Describes a model based on structural family therapy for clinical work with gay couples. The book discusses attachment and differentiation problems that may be underlying problems gay couples bring to therapy, and it ends with an extended case study. Both experienced clinicians and students learning to conduct couples therapy will find this book helpful.

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    • Perez, Ruperto M., Kurt A. Debord, and Kathleen J. Bieschke, eds. 1999. Handbook of counseling and psychotherapy with lesbian, gay, and bisexual clients. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

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      A comprehensive text on issues relevant to clinical psychology and counseling work with gay, lesbian, and bisexual (GLB) clients. About half of the book examines clinical interventions, but these chapters tend not to discuss material with a specific focus on GLB people. It is nonetheless an excellent resource.

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    LAST MODIFIED: 12/14/2009

    DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195389678-0118

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