EDITORIAL | Why we’re not using MSM as substitute for gay or bisexual
There’s been an increase in the usage of the initialism MSM and I’m stamping it out.
The rise of the term MSM or Men Who Have Sex With Men is a fairly new trend and one I’m, as the editor of THEGAYUK is keen to stamp out.
My first encounter with the term was in 2014, when a medical press release landed on my desk. At first, I didn’t really take much notice of it and we reported on the news as it was an important story about sexual health – something I’m very keen that THEGAYUK keeps its readers aware of (well the current government response seems woefully inadequate).
However, the term stuck in my mind and the more I thought about it the more I hated it and felt it had to be dealt with – so I wrote back to the PR agency who sent the original press release and questioned them about it.
The response was that the terms “gay” and “bisexual” weren’t reaching all the clients that they were hoping to reach – that “MSM” was more inclusive.
I was told that there are many men, who have sex with men, who don’t consider themselves gay – or bisexual.
To my mind, this is allowing closets and hiding spaces again after we have fought so hard to break these down. I’m passionate about living openly, honestly and being your true self and defining ourselves as a community. I appreciate that coming out as gay or bisexual can still be hard even in 2016, rebranding an entire community as MSM isn’t going to help it.
If a man who is having sex with men, but doesn’t want to label himself as gay or bisexual, I doubt that he’ll gladly attach MSM as a label to himself. I’d argue that MSM actually is alienating those who have come out as gay or bisexual. It’s clunky, it’s purely sexual and it’s already a messaging service from Microsoft.
I went to the readership and our writers to find out what they thought about the term – over 70 per cent of the readership who responded to our flash poll thought it was wrong to use and would prefer just plain old simple “gay” or “bisexual”.
The word “gay” is under attack – it is being used in playgrounds, schools and workplaces as a pejorative term. People who are describing something stupid or dumb are calling it “gay” – and I’ve heard the argument that a word’s meaning can change over time, but when the word is a description of an entire community of people, who have, throughout history, been marginalised, criticised, ostracized and are in some part of the world still being criminalised for being gay or bisexual – I will not stand for the reduction, changing or erasure of the word gay. If you’re writing a press release to gay and bisexual men then write it.
Use the words proudly.
Being gay or bisexual is more than just sex. MSM makes it all about sex.
Wouldn’t it be odd to start describing heterosexual people as an MWSWTOS (men and women who have sex with the opposite sex)? No, it isn’t happening and I feel that people would, quite rightly, have a problem with that term branded based solely on the type of sex you have?
If the healthcare community wants to start engaging with the gay and bisexual community, I suggest they start treating us as humans.
Stop assigning more letters and connect on a more human level. Being gay or bisexual isn’t offensive nor are those terms – so keep using them.
This article has been updated since it was first published.
Opinions expressed in this article may not reflect those of THEGAYUK, its management or editorial teams. If you’d like to comment or write a comment, opinion or blog piece, please click here.
Opinions expressed in this article may not reflect those of THEGAYUK, its management or editorial teams. If you'd like to comment or write a comment, opinion or blog piece, please click here.