from Clinical/Therapeutic Issues
The report, "Body Image Concerns of Gay Men: The Roles of Minority Stress and Conformity to Masculine Norms," was published by Sara B. Kimmel (Harvard) and James R. Mahalik (Boston College).
The researchers noted that gay males report greater body dissatisfaction, body-related stress, eating disorders, and poorer body image than heterosexual males.
They posit the "minority stress model" to explain this problem. It is defined as stress related to societal stigma, internalized homophobia, and fear of violence.
To test this model, they recruited 357 gay men, mostly white, from gay web site discussion groups. They gave each interviewee a series of tests: Body Image Ideals Questionnaire; Masculine Body Ideal Distress Scale; The Stigma Scale; The Conformity to Masculine Norms Inventory; and Internalized Homophobia Scale.
The researchers say the results of this study "indicated that all three minority stress factors (i.e., internalized homophobia, stigma, and an anti-gay physical attack) were significantly associated with both body image dissatisfaction and masculine body ideal distress. These findings support previous research documenting that minority stress helps to explain lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals' mental health problems such as suicidal ideation, depression, anxiety, and substance use."
They also observed: "Conformity to masculine norms did not correlate with body image dissatisfaction but was associated with gay men's distress if their body did not meet the physically powerful masculine ideal, as we hypothesized."
Kimmel and Mahalik believe that these findings show the need for clinicians to "explore directly with gay men their range of feelings about being masculine in a heterosexist society. For some gay men, being masculine may be important because it makes them feel more accepted within the dominant heterosexual society."
In their conclusion, the researchers say, "We encourage researchers to continue to examine other presenting concerns for gay men and to develop and evaluate empirically informed remedial and preventive interventions to improve the health of members of the gay community."