Sexual Stigma, Psychological Well-Being and Social Engagement Among Men Who Have Sex with Men in Beirut, Lebanon

Published in: Culture, Health and Sexuality, v. 15, no. 5, June 2013, p. 570-582

Posted on RAND.org on June 01, 2013

by Glenn Wagner, Frances Aunon, Rachel L. Kaplan, Rita Karam, Danielle Khouri, Johnny Tohme, Jacques Mokhbat

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This qualitative study sought to explore sexual identity development among men who have sex with men in Beirut, Lebanon; the stigma experienced by these men; and how their psychological well-being and social engagement are shaped by how they cope with this stigma. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 31 men who have sex with men and content analysis was used to identify emergent themes. While many men reported feeling very comfortable with their sexual orientation and had disclosed their sexual orientation to family, most men struggled at least somewhat with their sexuality, often because of perceived stigma from others and internal religious conflict about the immorality of homosexuality. Most participants described experiencing verbal harassment or ridicule or being treated as different or lesser than in social relationships with friends or family. Mechanisms for coping with stigma included social avoidance (trying to pass as heterosexual and limiting interaction with men who have sex with men to the internet) or withdrawal from relationships in an attempt to limit exposure to stigma. Findings suggest that effective coping with both internal and external sexual stigma is central to the psychological well-being and social engagement of men who have sex with men in Beirut, much as has been found in Western gay communities.

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