While the rights of gay men have improved significantly over the past 40 years, the health inequities of this diverse population remain considerable and efforts to reverse the trend have yielded few results. This suggests that a radical shift is warranted into how we theorize, investigate and intervene in this area. Public health researchers have primarily focused on gay men’s behaviours to explain negative health outcomes while social factors have been largely neglected. To change this trend, intersectionality has been proposed as a framework to study gay men’s health inequities. Intersectionality promotes an understanding of humans as being shaped by the interaction of different social locations and structures of power. It is now recognized as an important framework to study health inequities. However, marginalized and multiply oppressed women are still the primary focus of much intersectional scholarship and the literature exploring the relationship between intersectionality and gay men’s health is still underdeveloped. Therefore, more work is needed theoretically, methodologically and empirically to grasp the potential contributions of intersectionality to the understanding of how health inequities of gay men are produced and sustained. In this dissertation I explore how intersectionality can help transform the field of gay men’s health research, and help attend to issues of gay men’s health inequities more effectively. This was accomplished by uniting in one collection three case studies, each looking at how intersectionality can transform a different aspect of research: theorizing, methodology, and data analysis. Together, the three case studies demonstrate that intersectionality can 1) disrupt essentialist assumptions and the false homogenization of gay men in public health research and therefore bring forward issues of diversity more effectively; 2) illuminate interactive power dynamics affecting gay men’s health such as systemic heterosexism, sexism, and racism as well as power differences operating within gay communities such as racism, classism and misogyny; 3) produce new and more accurate knowledge about health inequities due to its attention to multiple and intersecting factors. In light of these results, I conclude that intersectionality is more than a useful framework for gay men’s health research; it is critical to reversing gay men’s health inequities.
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Thesis advisor: Morrow, Marina
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