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Little work, however, has focused on perceived acceptance for subgroups within the gay community or broader society. These differences are linked with the uneven impact of social, political, and institutional changes relevant to gay and bisexual men in Canada. During the past two decades, health and social science researchers have devoted considerable attention to the concept of gay community. Their work has typically focused on urban concentrations of gay and bisexual men, and sometimes lesbian and bisexual women, defined alternately in terms of geographic boundaries Aldrich, ; Nash,sexual networks Peacock et al.

Today, the forces that solidified urban gay communities during the second half of the 20th century e. Recent interventions have suggested that community and gay community specifically are problematic concepts. Both concepts mask contingencies in how individuals relate to others with presumably shared characteristics, or come to feel included or marginalized within identity-based groups and society at large Howarth, ; Dowsett et al. Some studies have also challenged the assumed positive effects of urban gay communities, noting potential associations with riskier behaviors e.

Still others have noted the persistent exclusion of older men, ethno-racial minorities, and HIV-positive individuals in traditional gay scenes Han, ; Fraser, Most quantitative studies that gauge the importance of gay community to gay men, however, employ a model of community attachment based on activities such as spending free time with gay men and attending gay venues, rather than subjective experiences Jin, ; Holt et al.

Meanwhile, the few studies that have purposefully investigated class, race, or age-based divisions in the gay community have produced mixed. Barrett and Pollackfor example, found that primarily White, younger, and middle-class men tended to associate with traditional markers of gay community affiliation, such as coming out early in life, living in a gay neighborhood, and attending mostly gay social functions.

In contrast, Frost and Meyerwho used more flexible measures of community connectedness e. While these types of studies have highlighted potential social cleavages in gay communities, they also have some limitations. First, they tend to describe the symptoms of social division e. Second, they treat gay communities as unitary, static formations that can be accepted or left. However, historical changes such as same-sex marriage rights and broader acceptance of gay identities in mainstream society have changed the structure of community e.

The broader social dynamics of gay communities are thus treated as incidental backdrops to the psychosocial processes of attachment and inclusion in question Lewis, There are also differences in how various forms of urban gay communities have changed over time. Most North American studies have examined large-city gay communities e.

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Understandings of the gay experience in Canada tend to follow this imagined linear trajectory, ending with the successful attainment of equal rights e. These portrayals of gay and lesbian advancement mask the ongoing marginalization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender LGBT people in many settings in Canada. In this study, we ask whether gay communities within this new milieu offer a sense of acceptance among gay and bisexual men, how this differs from the perceived acceptance offered by the mainstream community, how acceptance is perceived both for and by different groups of gay and bisexual men, and the extent to which the experience of men living in a mid-sized city might differ from those in the metropolitan areas studied more commonly.

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This mixed-methods study Yin, seeks to more accurately identify perceptions of acceptance for various age- race- and sexual identity-based segments of the population within the gay and mainstream communities at a pivotal time in the evolution of both urban gay communities and mainstream societal attitudes. We employ the concept of perceived acceptance to gauge how the gay and mainstream communities—as imagined by individuals—are perceived to be oriented toward various groups e. This approach offers several advantages over measuring.

First, measuring perceived acceptance is a more meaningful indicator of the inclusivity of gay and mainstream communities than simple attachment i. Second, asking respondents to identify levels of acceptance toward multiple groups e.

Finally, our mixed-methods approach allowed for interview narratives to inform our survey de and, through triangulation, corroborate and explain the it produced. The HiMMM Project was formed to examine how the forum-identified themes of community, communication, and homophobia influence the lives and health of local gay and bisexual men, specifically.

London is the seat of Middlesex County and the eleventh largest city in Canada, comprising approximatelyresidents and another 70, in the surrounding county Statistics Canada, As of HiMMM Project data were collected in two phases: an initial phase of qualitative semistructured interviews and a second phase of quantitative information gathered using an online questionnaire.

Duringsemistructured interviews were conducted with 15 local gay and bisexual community members and five service providers. Gay and bisexual men, 16 years or older and residing in Middlesex County, were sampled purposively based on age, ethnicity, HIV status, location, and sexual orientation. Service providers, which comprised a physician, an HIV testing provider, and counselors and coordinators from community organizations, were also sampled purposively based on their experiences working with local gay and bisexual men. Community members were asked about gay and bisexual community and identity; access to health and wellness services; and spiritual, emotional, and sexual health.

Service providers were asked about their experiences serving gay and bisexual populations, including coming out counseling and working with other local organizations to meet service user needs. Interviews lasted 30— minutes and were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. No remuneration was offered for participation. After reviewing the transcripts, the HiMMM team deed the survey, which was pretested and pilot-tested by local gay and bisexual volunteers.

The team collected online survey data from gay and bisexual men in — Questionnaire participants were recruited through online Web sites, smartphone apps, and informal referrals between gay and bisexual men. Demographic characteristics of the sample are shown in Table 1. Sociodemographic variables in the survey included age, ethno-racial identity, birth country, educational attainment, household income, employment status, area of residence, marital status, relationship status, and sexual orientation identity, adapted from the Canadian Community Health Survey Statistics Canada, and other community surveys.

The project team developed 10 questions assessing perceptions of acceptance of gay men, bisexual men, men of color sexuality not specifiedtransgender men sexuality not specifiedand transgender women sexuality not specified from within the gay community and the broader Middlesex-London community. Responses to each question asking how accepting the broader and separately gay communities were toward each group were expressed in Likert scales ranging from 1 not at all accepting to 7 completely accepting.

Using NVivo 10, qualitative interview texts were open-coded and grouped into and themes based on team discussions of themes emerging from both the initial forum and the interview data. The team then used coded data reports to outline perceived processes of community development and evolution. Quantitative analyses of the questionnaire data were conducted using SAS version 9. First, frequencies for sociodemographic variables were calculated for both the interview and survey samples. Lewis PhDGreta R.

Paired t -tests were also used to assess whether participants viewed the gay community and the broader community as different in their acceptance of each group. Finally, linear regression was used to model the association between age and the perception of acceptance of each group by the gay community, and again separately by the broader community. A quadratic term for age was used to allow for a nonlinear association.

Following these analyses, the team used an iterative process to triangulate and establish complementarity of information across qualitative and quantitative data sources Yin, ed consent forms were obtained from interview participants. For survey respondents, consent was implied upon reading the letter of information and starting the online survey. Within the broader community, survey respondents perceived distinct hierarchies of acceptance for men of various sexual orientation, genders, and racial identities, with men of color sexuality not specified being seen as most accepted and trans persons as least accepted Table 1.

Racialization thus appeared to be less of a perceived detriment to acceptance than sexual minority or transgender status. We questioned whether this may be the result of optimistic perceptions of racial tolerance within our majority-White sample, but—as shown in Table 3 —perceptions of broader community acceptance for all men of color did not differ ificantly between Aboriginal participants 4. Since we queried perceived acceptance for single-characteristic groups, we cannot comment on acceptance for different intersections of sexual orientation, gender identity, and race.

The high levels of perceived acceptance for gay men in the broader mainstream community align with an emerging narrative of equal rights and greater social acceptance for gay identities in Western countries Weeks, ; Smith, Peter, 51, gay-identified. Mark, 31, gay-identified. At the same time, historical events in London suggest a more mixed attitude toward gay and bisexual men within the broader community. Intwo local men were arrested on child pornography charges following the discovery of bags of videotapes in a nearby river. During the same period, the London police arrested large s of men for cruising in bathrooms and parks Janoff,pp.

Haskett subsequently posted an ad in the London Free Press claiming the decision was incorrect and violated constitutional freedoms. Mainstream public health services in London-Middlesex, for example, have built only limited capacity to address LGBT health needs. Concerns about anonymity of services in a mid-sized city may discourage some from using the limited services available.

Jason, 53, service provider. Another participant reflected that the continued marginalization of gay and bisexual men in mainstream health care settings had made the local HIV clinic and counseling center an important support structure for local gay and bisexual men. Steve, 45, gay-identified. According to one participant, even the higher education sector in London-Middlesex suppressed gay visibilities intermittently: At Kings [College] there was a group of students last year who wanted to do something in the cafeteria in conjunction with Pride activities on main campus at [University of] Western [Ontario] and they were initially refused to do that … they could have a booth and they could educate about sexual orientation but not celebrate … use words that were like too condoning.

Peter, 51, gay-identified, White. Others felt that the inaccessibility of the local media limited the possibility of a more connected, supportive gay community. Although both national-level advances in rights and ongoing, more localized marginalization might be therefore described as issues affecting the Canadian LGBT community at large, they have been experienced differently by the various subgroups of gay and bisexual men, potentially leading to the diverging perceptions of inclusion in both the gay community and broader society.

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Acceptance of gay and bisexual men in the mainstream community, then, may be reserved largely for middle-class community members e. Steve, 45, White. Middle-class participants also tended to deal with perceived exclusion or marginalization in the broader community by seeking services elsewhere or relocating altogether.

Will, 29, gay-identified. Respondents also perceived high acceptance for men of color sexual orientation not specified in the broader London-Middlesex community, even more than for gay and bisexual men. As noted, the mean perceived acceptance for all men of color did not differ statistically for participants from different ethno-racial groups.

Measuring perceived acceptance of various groups within the London gay community elicited responses markedly different from those regarding the broader London community see Table 2. Here, being a man of color or gay was perceived as most acceptable, with bisexuality less acceptable, and being a transgender man or woman even less so. The high perceived acceptance for gay men within the gay community is perhaps an unsurprising finding.

The London-Middlesex gay community is also a transient entity whose shifting dynamics affect the durability of community infrastructures. For gay men who might not fit easily into the remaining gay commercial scene, the ASO is an important support structure. Some felt, however, that RHAC was still perceived primarily as a place for the economically disadvantaged or HIV-positive despite its broadened service umbrella. As in the analysis of the broader community, the high reported perceived acceptance for men of color may mask important differences in how White men and men of color perceive the local gay community.

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Ronald, did not wish to share age or sexual identity. Middle-aged respondents perceived the lowest levels of acceptance for the various identity subgroups in the broader London-Middlesex community see Figure 1. When asked to evaluate acceptance for the same subgroups within the gay community, middle-aged respondents again reported lower levels of acceptance than younger or older respondents see Figure 2.

We found a ificant age effect as indicated by a statistically ificant quadratic term on the assessment of acceptance of all groups other than bisexual men.

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One spoke about experiences of school-based, family-based, and sometimes internalized homophobia among middle-aged men who had grown up in the surrounding rural areas. Younger men, in contrast, were more likely to dismiss discrimination from the mainstream community as a thing of the past. Like maybe it would be useful periodically to chat with some other middle-aged gay men about if there are some issues that come up … sexual activity or … sort of moving into middle age … I realize that all of my close friends in London are heterosexual and I was thinking this is odd because anywhere else … at least a of my close friends were gay men.

Middle-aged participants also commented on the limited of gay-associated activities and venues that they felt were age-appropriate or interesting. Carl, 54, MSM-identified. The comments indicate that while some gay community infrastructure exists in the London region, it is seen as supporting primarily a younger, often transient population. While there was insufficient qualitative evidence to examine why older men demonstrated less pessimism about acceptance than middle-aged men, it is possible that this generation sees the current state of the community as more positive because they have survived the AIDS epidemic, a long-term lack of human rights protections, and the pathologization and criminalization of sexuality.

With regard to both the broader London community and the local gay community, respondents perceived a hierarchy of acceptance, with men of color and gay men perceived as most accepted, bisexual men as somewhat less accepted, and trans men and women as least accepted. At the same time, notable variations emerged. Respondents perceived that in the broader community, men of color were more accepted than gay men and bisexual men who were deemed to be roughly equally accepted.

With regard to the gay community, it was men of color and gay men who were deemed equally accepted, while bisexual men were seen as less accepted. Respondents also perceived overall greater acceptance in the gay community than in the broader London-Middlesex community. In addition, middle-aged respondents perceived less acceptance for all groups than did younger and older respondents. The high level of perceived acceptance for gay men may ify the growing normalization of gay identities and advances in gay rights.

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