“She’s my wife and men are just sex”: Compartmentalisation and wellbeing among married men who have sex with men

Stream: Identities and Relationships among MSM
Date: Friday, 1 April 2016
Time: 11.15 am – 1.00 pm

Abstract

Introduction: Approximately 17, 000 men who have sex with men (MSM) in Australia currently live with a female partner. In particular, little is known about the mental health and wellbeing of married men who have sex with men (MMSM), including their experiences of anxiety and depression related to the internalised and social stigma of homosexuality and mixed-orientation marriages. However, past studies have shown that gay and bisexual men are at a high risk for mental health problems such as depression and anxiety disorders, compared to heterosexual people.

Method: This presentation will report the findings of an interview-based study which aimed to explore how MMSM manage their sexual identities in everyday life and their experiences of stigma, depression and anxiety. Interviews were conducted in 2015 and 2016 with MMSM from NSW and Victoria.

Findings: A thematic analysis identified factors such as social norms and expectations, compulsory heterosexuality, social isolation, coming out later in life, disclosure of homosexuality to wives and children, alcohol use, and stress and coping as significant experiences and milestones for MMSM. The interrelationship of these factors with the development of depression and anxiety in MMSM was complex as the social and cognitive processes of compartmentalisation and integration, which men highlighted, were at once adaptive and destructive to wellbeing.

Conclusion: This study is one of the first to explore mental health and wellbeing in the wider context of MMSM's lives. The findings will contribute to online resources to address issues of stigma, depression and anxiety among MMSM.

Authors

Max Hopwood (Presenter), Centre for Social Research in Health
Dr Max Hopwood is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Social Research in Health.

Carla Treloar, Centre for Social Research in Health
Carla Treloar is Deputy Director of the Centre for Social Research in Health.

John de Wit, Centre for Social Research in Health
John de Wit is Director of the Centre for Social Research in Health.