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    There is more to health than HIV: social capital and health in the gay community

    Goldring, JE (2007) There is more to health than HIV: social capital and health in the gay community. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Salford.


    Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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    The legal climate for gay men in the UK has undergone enormous change since the decriminalisation of ‘homosexuality’ in 1967 with changes in the social climate following. Bringing together concepts of ‘social capital’ and ‘reflexive individualisation’, the research explores how the changes have helped shape the gay experience, especially in terms of health and well-being. In recent history, gay men’s health has been located within the HIV discourse, assuming a homogeneous gay identity and community. Yet gay men have various identities and a full spectrum of health needs, well beyond HIV and AIDS alone. The research pursues ethnography as method to provide ‘thick description’ of gay men’s lives in context. After immersion in the context, access was gained to 24 gay men whose ages ranged from 17 to 73 years old. There were also five non-gay participants and six representatives of gay themed organisations. Participant observation, field notes and Internet data complemented semi-structured and unstructured interviews. The data were analysed using the thematic and grounded theory approach. This identified generational variations within the experience of gay men characterised by how the law defined them. The findings indicated that the social capital framework does not account for the experiences this minority group or the variations within it. Gay men displayed different styles of embeddedness, and ways of developing trust in others. Self-censorship hindered the development of these important skills. It also seemed plausible that these same conditions promoted reflexivity through the need to manage multiple identities in various social settings. With respect to health, it was HIV that structured much of their accounts, although they did vary across generations. Generation also structured the experience and practice in other areas of health. The project demonstrates the importance of both sexual orientation and masculinity in the construction of all men’s health.

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