Young gay men experience high rates of anti-gay violence and harassment

A UCSF study of gay and bisexual young men in Phoenix, Austin, and Albuquerque found that during a six-month period, over a third reported experiencing anti-gay harassment, 5 percent reported anti-gay violence and 11 percent reported anti-gay discrimination.

“Our study is one of the first to use a large multi-ethnic sample to document experiences of anti-gay mistreatment over a specific time frame. One of the most alarming aspects of our findings is that those who experience violence and harassment reported lower self esteem and were twice as likely to report having thought seriously about suicide,” said the study’s lead author, David M. Huebner, PhD, MPH, psychologist at UCSF’s Center for AIDS Prevention Studies (CAPS).

The study, published in the July 1, 2004 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, examined the six-month cumulative incidence of anti-gay violence, harassment and discrimination among 1,248 gay and bisexual men aged 18 to 27 from the three southwestern cities. Sixty percent were white, 30 percent Latino, and 18 percent were aged 21 or younger.

Study results according to age show incidence rates were higher for younger gay and bisexual men in the study group. Ten percent of those aged 21 or younger had experienced anti-gay violence, while half had experienced anti-gay harassment.  Among all study participants who were HIV-positive, incidence rates in these two categories were similar. In addition, one out of four HIV-positive participants experienced anti-gay discrimination, while 14 percent of younger participants reported discrimination.

“We were distressed to find that those who were already most vulnerable because they were younger or HIV-positive were also most likely to experience discrimination, harassment, or violence. Overall our findings illustrate the need for empowerment and community-building programs to help young men create safe social settings and find support in the face of frequent mistreatment. The data also suggest that anti-gay policy initiatives could have serious negative mental health effects on gay men,” said Huebner.

Co-authors are Gregory M. Rebchook, PhD, assistant research psychologist and Susan M. Kegeles, PhD, professor of medicine and associate director, both at UCSF CAPS. This study was funded by grants from the National Institute for Mental Health.

CAPS is a component of UCSF’s AIDS Research Institute (ARI). UCSF ARI houses hundreds of scientists and dozens of programs throughout UCSF and affiliated labs and institutions, making ARI one of the largest HIV/AIDS research entities in the world.