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LABELS, ACRONYMS, GENDER PRONOUNS, AND SYMBOLS

Men who have sex with men (MSM)

MEN WHO HAVE SEX WITH MEN | MENRUS.CO.UKThe term men who have sex with men means men who have sex with men. It's that straight forward. The acronym or abbreviation is MSM.

This term "...comprises men who identify as gay, those who are bisexual, and others who would define themselves as heterosexual. The one common element is that, to a greater or lesser degree, they have sex with other men."

The term first appeared in the early 1990s in social research and medical literature during the HIV and AIDS epidemic. It's still used today and some LGBT+ and gay men's health projects use it to reflect inclusiveness. Nevertheless, the term didn't come from the LGBT+ community; rather it's a construct, an invention originating from epidemiologists and professionals to help them in their work.

In 1994, the MESMAC Guide said:

"Men who have sex with men comprises men who identify as gay, those who are bisexual, and others who would define themselves as heterosexual. The one common element is that, to a greater or lesser degree, they have sex with other men.

It should be emphasised that the term does not refer solely to men who do not identify as gay, and some projects and workers have chosen instead to describe their group as gay men and other men who have sex with men. The decision to mention gay men specifically is due to a number of factors.

There is a political element in a conscious decision to use the term gay men stop some fellow professionals have difficulty saying the word gay, preferring homosexual. They may then progress to gays or possibly even gay men. Some workers may feel using men who have sex with men on its own as an all-embracing term encourages the denial of our 'out' gay identity.

Finally, men who identify as gay may not be familiar with the term men who have sex with men and maybe alienated it or mystified by it. It is thus advisable to prefix it with gay men and other ...

It should be stressed that there is a clear rationale behind the use of the term men who have sex with men: reference to gay men alone might leave married men, men unsure of their sexual identity, and others who do not find themselves as gay feeling left out or marginalised. These may be precisely the men that it is important to target, due to their lack of access to gay social and support networks."

Source: The MESMAC Guide: A practical resource for community-based HIV prevention with gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men | 1994 | Health Education Authority

While we understand how the term can be very helpful in sexual health and social research fields, gathering and identifying data, for example, it also diminishes our out gay identity, and some gay men resent being reduced to six words or three letters. What do you think?

Men who have sex with men | Wikipedia
The trouble with “MSM” and “WSW”: Erasure of the sexual-minority person in public health discourse | Am J Public Health | Rebecca M. Young, PhD and Ilan H. Meyer, PhD | Jul 2005
Straight men who have sex with other men: in their own words | Psychology Today | 13 Jul 2015

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