New research: gays in Belarus don’t accept themselves. Dangers of internalized homophobia

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The Eurasian Coalition On Male Health has conducted a social research, which has revealed that internalized homophobia increases the risk of infection by HIV. Let’s try to understand why.

Internalized homophobia means negative feelings and attitudes, which an individual has in respect of himself/herself due to his/her sexual orientation. It can be guilt, embarrassment, rejection of own homosexuality or even overt aggression against other homosexuals or yourself.

The ECOM has conducted its research in Belarus and 12 other countries, including Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Estonia.

homophobia interior

Internalaized homophobia

Representatives of the MSM (men who have sex with men) group were asked to fill in an online questionnaire on Hornet dating app, dating site  and other partner web-sites. In total, around 5 000 people filled in the questionnaire, 274 of them were Belarusians.

In order to identify the level of self-acceptance, respondents were asked to assess the level of personal consent with the below-mentioned statements:

  • I feel comfortable in gay bars;
  • I easily discuss my homosexuality;
  • If I could change my sexual orientation, I wouldn’t do that, etc.
homophobia interior

Self-acceptance and testing for HIV

If a respondent completely agreed with a statement, he marked 7 points, if he completely disagreed – 1 point.

According to the results of the research, Belarusians’ average point ranges between 4.7 and 5.8 points, which is considered to be quite a high rate. However, respondents agreed that people with the strongest internalized homophobia refused to fill in the questionnaire at all, that is why there is a certain research error.   

Nevertheless, the collected data have proven a direct dependency of HIV testing on the level of self-acceptance. The higher the level of self-acceptance is, the oftener respondents are tested for HIV. Vice versa, respondents with a high level of internalized homophobia have never been tested for HIV.

*This article is produced and published with the support of the Nordic Council of Ministers, under the project “Sharing Expertise and Fostering LGBT Human Rights in Belarus”.