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Sexual Health: Intersections in politics and society

ucyow3c18 November 2014

pencil-icon Written by Michael Espinoza, PhD candidate, UCL Institute of the Americas

HIV virology testing form“By then, it was too late to hate him [for being gay].” – a self-described ‘former gay-basher’ reveals how he unknowingly befriended a gay man.

This testimonial, part of a research project by Dr Richard Mole (UCL School of Slavonic Studies and Eastern European Studies), shows how a lack of human understanding can dictate how people relate to others whom they perceive as ‘different’. The difference in this instance involved sexuality and its relation to sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

The first presenter was Professor Jonathan Bell (UCL Institute of the Americas), whose paper was titled The Economic Closet: healthcare, sexuality, and the politics of respectability during the AIDS crisis.

Professor Bell discussed how healthcare politics in the 1980s saw gay rights leaders face two difficulties – one was the struggle against private health insurance companies and the other was the attempt to “adapt the socially-regressive and gendered New Deal safety net to their needs”.

Not only did they have to accept that HIV positive gay men “had to be classified as disabled and unable to work to be entitled to welfare”, they also had to fight against profit-driven private health insurance companies who sought to portray HIV positive gay men as unproductive citizens who have “sexually promiscuous lifestyles” in order to deny their claims.

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Have we won the fight against homophobia?

news editor21 May 2012

International day against homophobia and transphobia (IDAHO) is held annually on the 17 May. It commemorates the World Health Organisation’s decision to remove homosexuality from the list of mental disorders.

To mark the day, Out@UCL asked the university’s Chair of Council and LGBT Equality Champion, Sir Stephen Wall, to give an informal talk about his past experiences.

Stephen opened the discussion by describing how he denied his sexuality to himself for 20 years. It then took him another 20 years to do something about what he called the “cork in the bottle”. Two years ago, he came out to his family.

Stephen began his career working for the Foreign Office where you simply weren’t allowed to be gay. This wasn’t the only inequality. Women had to resign once married and, incredibly, men had to ask for permission to marry!

The format of the event itself was intended as a brief talk by Stephen followed by discussion with the attendees. All of the participants were very open about their own experiences and views. One person commented that when he was a teenager the only gay person he knew of was Boy George – not really the ideal role model!

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