Wednesday, August 29, 2007

False Negatives

MSM? Nope, not “mainstream media.”

America learned from “Larry King Live” this week that there are men who are not gay who have sex with men who are not gay.

MSM—men who have sex with men—is CDC terminology for a bunch of guys: prisoners and others who have opportunistic same-sex sex, men who rape men, men “on the down low,” bi- men, closet gay men, and out gay men.

Clinically it makes sense. “Gay,” ”homosexual,” and bisexual” don’t work well in surveys and treatment settings that depend on self-identifying because they don’t reach men who won’t or don’t identify as gay or bi.

Socio-politically, however, it’s a problem. Words like “gay" and “fairy” have a long history of connoting a despised effeminacy. But in our culture, a phrase that uses “men” twice has other, more acceptable connotations. For that reason, MSM can even further divide and ostracize gay and bisexual men by implying that there’s something even more different about them.

It can also give false “plausible deniability” to politicians, preachers, and others whose careers might tank if they were forced to acknowledge gay identity. Of CouRse we cAn’t thInk of any Glaring examples at the moment.