In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Gay Men

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

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Social Work Gay Men
James I. Martin
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 July 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2018
  • 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 21st century, not all men who desire or have sex with other men 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, with few exceptions, the sources listed in this entry were published after the mid-1990s, more than a third of them since 2012. 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 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer 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 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people. Two exceptions are Martin 2008, which provides greater focus on the history and construction of gay identities, and LaSala 2018, which has a stronger clinical focus. Both chapters provide a summary of the leading health and mental health challenges facing gay men. The website of the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law provides online access to its expanding library of research reports and position papers on many relevant topics that may be especially helpful for upper-level undergraduate and graduate students in policy, research, and human behavior courses. Although the GLBTQ Encyclopedia Project website is no longer active, undergraduate and graduate students can still access introductory information it collected on number topics about LGBTQ people through its archives.

  • GLBTQ Encyclopedia Project. Edited by C. J. Summers.

    An archived online encyclopedia containing a compendium of informative entries of relevance to LGBTQ 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.

  • LaSala, Michael. 2018. Practice with gay individuals and couples. In Social work practice with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. 3d ed. Edited by Gerald P. Mallon, 90–111. New York: Routledge.

    This chapter provides an overview of terms and major issues practitioners should understand when engaging in clinical practice with gay men. Issues include violence, stigma, minority stress and resilience, and gender roles. Family and couple dynamics are also discussed. Case vignettes illustrate the issues as well as intervention approaches. Both practice students and experienced clinicians who wish to strengthen their understanding of gay clients will find this a helpful resource.

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

    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. Copublished by Oxford University Press.

  • Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.

    Primarily empirical reports on a variety of important issues relevant to gay men and other sexual and gender minority populations. Excellent source of information for students and researchers. All reports are available online.

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