Systemic Challenges, Stigma, and Solutions: Experiences of Black Men Who Have Sex with Men in Tennessee

Sandra L. Barnes

Abstract


Much of the research on black Men Who Have Sex with Men (BMSM) focuses on health disparities in HIV occurrence and retroantiviral medication adherence. Although important, this emphasis is often at the expense of other areas of their lives. This study endeavors to better understand systemic challenges, including stigma, and responses for a group of BMSM who reside in a moderately-sized metropolitan city in Tennessee. Focus group results, black feminism, and content analysis are used to examine their experiences and coping mechanisms. Respondents describe circumstances they associate with inequities linked to race, class, sexual orientation, gender and their intersection. Other themes emerged around: self-help; innovative family forms; and, the need for collective mobilization. Equally important was the desire for group and individual identities that do not reduce BMSM to stereotypes linked to HIV/AIDS. In addition to illustrating the usefulness of black feminism to illumine the lives of historically marginalized groups beyond women, results suggest the need for solutions that attend to the unique challenges and capacities of BMSM.


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/jsr.v11i1.15756

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