- How do GBT young men experience ‘coming in’ to queer social and cultural spaces?
- How are sexual relationships negotiated by young GBT men and what are the potential risks and harms?
- How might formal and informal community support and social policy for young GBT men be improved?
Background and Rationale
GBT youth have higher rates of psychological distress and suicidal thoughts that their peers (McDermott & Roen, 2016). Explanations focus on the impact of shame/stigma attached to ‘coming out’, underpinned by experiences of discrimination including rejection/bullying within the family and schools (Toomey, et al., 2010) and dominance of heteronormativity within institutions of health, criminal justice and social work spheres (Lamble, 2013). Psychological distress is often heightened at earlier stages of identity formation when the risk of rejection is highest and prior to establishing strong community support network of peers (Johnson, 2015), with an assumption that accessing community-based peer support helps build resilience to social stressors and mental health challenges.
This knowledge has been instrumental in recent policy decisions to fund formal peer support groups as part of city-wide initiatives to improve the health outcomes of LGBT populations (e.g. Allsorts, Wise in Brighton & Hove). However, exposed to new sensory and sexual experiences, GBT young men remain potentially vulnerable to harms and risks within the community spaces and groups they rely upon and are at high-risk of other health outcomes (e.g. STIs including HIV, alcohol/drug related problems).
Better understanding of the complex relationship between sex, culture and context (Harper, 2007) is required if policy interventions are to work more effectively to reduce these risks. A focus on how health and mental health risks are related to informal GBT cultures is under-explored within the interdisciplinary social science literature. This project addresses this gap by focusing on the experiences of young GBT men (16-25 years) and the associated risks and harms that may occur within GBT relations as they transition from adolescence into community spaces – a process of that might be called ‘coming in’ to queer spaces.
Drawing on participatory creative-arts based methodologies, and working with YMCA WiSE (Working with young people who have been or who are at risk being of Sexual Exploited), the project aims to:
- Explore young GBT experiences of the risks and harms associated with sex and sexuality as they ‘come in’ to queer spaces.
- Use psychosocial theoretical approaches and queer theoretical concepts to rethink models of sexual identity development in relation to sexual cultures and context.
- Inform social policy and practice in the field of LGBT community support, including community safety and safeguarding of GBT youths.
The project will work with YMCA WiSE who specialise in tackling sexual exploitation and supporting young GBT men. Participatory creative methods are used to increase accessibility for those less used to narrating personal lives stories, particularly given the sensitive nature of the topic.
Student Skills Requirements:
- Aptitude for participatory creative-arts based methods
- Knowledge or experience of LGBT issues
- Ability to communicate with young people