Dr. Nina Harawa Examines Internalized Homo/Bi-phobia, Gender Role Conflict, and Identity in Black MSMW

On August 6, 2019 Dr. Nina Harawa of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA presented on her work with internalized homophobia and biphobia in Black men who have sex with men and women as part of ISGMH’s Current Issues in LGBTQ Health lecture series. Dr. Harawa began her lecture by discussing labels such as gay, bisexual, same gender loving, men who have sex with men (MSM), men who have sex with men and women (MSMW), on the down low, and the different connotations each label holds. Using these terms and the intersectionality framework coined by Kimberle Williams Crenshaw in 1989, Harawa outlined how Black MSMW and Black bisexual men construct individual and community related identities at the intersections of race and sexuality.

What makes the Black MSM community vulnerable, Harawa explained, are factors such as segregation, racism, white supremacy, and criminalization which shape their lived experiences as they move through the world. Dr. Harawa went on to explain two types of masculinity that are important to the internalized homophobia or biphobia discussion: compensatory masculinity and hypermasculinity.

Compensatory masculinity refers to masculine norms formed “in reaction to blocked access to power and authority.” Hypermasculinity refers to an exaggeration or distortion of traditional masculine traits and stresses physical strength, aggression, dominance, and sexual prowess; a man lacking these characteristics is considered weak and feminine (LaPollo et al 2014; Ward 2005).

Harawa presented research findings from the MAALES study intervention. Prior to her team’s adaptation of the Internalized Homophobia Scale, there were no tailored measures assessing biphobia or homophobia among Black men. In addition to modifying existing measure, Harawa worked in collaboration with community partners serving Black MSMW and Black bisexual men, and their team created and validated the Integrated Race and Sexuality Scale (IRSS). The measures in this study also included the modified Gender Role Conflict Scale (mGRCS)and the Internalized Biphobia/Homophobia Scale (IBHS).

Dr. Harawa closed the lecture by discussing how the position of self in relation to the research topic relates to the conduct, interpretation, and presentation of the research. To learn more about Dr. Harawa’s work, visit the UCLA website or check out her Twitter.

ISGMH’s Current Issues in LGBTQ Health lecture series is generously supported by the Northwestern University Office of the Provost’s Hollister Lecture Fund and by Northwestern Medicine.