MSM stands for ‘men who have sex with men’, and it doesn’t mean the same thing as ‘gay’.
Many people assume that men who have sex with men (MSM) are all gay men, but this isn’t true. It’s a broad term to describe a very diverse group of men. MSM can be gay, bisexual and pansexual, but they can also be heterosexual men who engage in sexual acts with other men for one reason or another. What all MSM have in common is a certain behaviour, and not necessarily a sexual orientation. A man doesn’t have to be homosexual to engage in a homosexual act. Also, many men who have sex with other men do not identify with the terms ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual’, so, it’s important to not use these labels if it would exclude them from gaining access to sexual health resources.
Something that all MSM have in common is that they are more at risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, so it is vital that all MSM have access to healthcare and sexual health resources.
Some MSM are married to women and have families, and occasionally engage in sex with other men (secretly or not), while others identify as ‘gay’ and engage in a lifestyle that reflects what it is they think it means to be ‘gay’.
Some men engage in sexual acts with other men only because they are in an environment where there are no women, such as prison or (in some instances) the army. Whereas, other MSM enjoy sex with both men and women, while other men are exclusive with other men.
MSM can be hypermasculine, masculine or feminine, they can come in all shapes and sizes, and there are as many different types of MSM as there are different types of men.
Stigmatizing, judging or discriminating against another MSM person because he is different from you is bad for us all. It’s not just homophobic heterosexuals that cause these problems in our society. Many gay men discriminate against bisexual men, and some MSM can be homophobic towards men that identify as gay or bisexual. There is more than enough space in this vast universe for all of us to be able to express ourselves and live our lives.
Let’s be open-minded and live and let live so that our fellow MSM brothers will not be afraid to seek out the healthcare and sexual health information that they need to stay strong and healthy. We are all in this together, even if we’re not all the same.
Bruce J. Little is the Content Creator and Social Media Developer at Anova Health Institute.