Altogether Stronger - Engaging African MSM

Publish Date: 13/10/2011

The work is a CHAPS and NAHIP commissioned project and is being undertaken by Terrence Liboma who works for Yorkshire MESMAC as a Community Development Worker, supporting African men who have sex with men (MSM) around sexual health and HIV prevention.
 
Details of the workshops can be found at the end of this article, and to help promote the event we wanted to ask Terrence a few questions about his work and what he thinks needs to be done to better support gay and bisexual men from black and minority ethnic communities.
 
How difficult would you say it is for men of African heritage to come out as gay or bisexual in the UK ?

Lack of protection against LGBT discrimination in most African countries where they grew up, instils fears associated with coming out or being outed even if they migrate. Homophobia in many African countries is a form of social justice or citizens arrest, and the fact that most of these crimes go unpunished dissuades anyone from coming out.
 
Is it more of a challenge to promote sexual health and HIV awareness to these men ?

The challenge is around convincing people brought up not to talk about sex or sexuality, to access services that put them in a situation to talk about this culturally or religiously taboo issue, without feeling vulnerable or going against norms.
 
We sometimes hear that racism is experienced by these men in the LGBT community, how common do you think this is?

Most LGBT communities are very welcoming of other ethnic groups. However, some myths and beliefs about such groups tend to feed into the objectification and fetishizing of minorities within a minority and can become racism.

A comment like “ black men have big dicks” is a good example, there is no malice or ill intention in the statement, but stereotypical intrigue has an effect on the ability of minority group members to fully feel part of a community.
 
What are some of the other barriers  that may prevent BME men from feeling comfortable within the gay community?

BME men may feel uncomfortable within the gay community because of:

* one night stand culture which could mean continual coming out to lots of different people for those looking for love or a longer term relationships.

* lack of entertainment varieties to cater for BME men’s preferred music types, shows and events

* lack of education about the UK gay culture.

* most BME men come from countries that prohibit LGBT activities and to suddenly be free and be left to figure it all out on your own can be overwhelming

* being unable to speak English impacts on confidence to meet and socialize with other guys

What in particular do you think is needed to ensure that these men don’t slip through the net?

People tend to slip through the net when they are unsupported. Stigma and discrimination are real challenges that hinder progressive dialogue to enable BME communities to support their LGBT populations.

So addressing LGBT awareness and education within BME communities nationally, would facilitate greater acceptance of LGBT rights as well as pave the way for the setting up of these support structures.
 
Many gay men from the BME community would not feel confident enough to be visible, how have you dealt with being open about your own sexual orientation?

Coming out to my friends and family made it easier for me to live my life for me. And because my loved ones are supportive of my life, I am able to just be myself and not hide the very essence of Terry by pretending to be someone I am not. Coming out is not easy, but if it’s done in the right way, the rewards are endless.
 
Altogether Stronger -The Workshops

Terrence is working to develop a Toolkit to help Sexual Health Organisations, BME, LGBT and HIV Support agencies to meet the needs of African MSM around HIV Prevention care and support and access to Sexual Health services.

As well as working in Leeds and London, he is holding three workshops in Manchester to support the development of the toolkit.
 
Manchester Workshops at The Lesbian & Gay Foundation
19th October – BME / HIV Organisations
26th October – LGBT Organisations
workshops will run from 12pm-2pm

Manchester Workshops at Black Health Agency

27th October – HIV Healthcare professionals and Counsellors
workshop will run from 10am-1pm
 
To book a place or for further details contact:

Terrence Liboma: 0113 2444209 or  E-mail : t.liboma@mesmac.co.uk

For more around LGB&T Rights read the LGF's "I Exist" Guide, here.