Stigma, time to address the issues: a literature review

Stuart Roberts
Manchester Metropolitan University

The gay community have lived with being externally stigmatised for generations and it is a growing issue in areas such as HIV [1]. Goffman describes stigma as the ‘situation of the individual who is disqualified from full social acceptance’, also identifying homosexuality as one of the categories of stigma [2]. The World Health Organization suggests that stigma is far-reaching and can affect health in numerous ways including mental health, access to health care, human interaction, housing and employment and ultimately contribute to the abuse of human rights [3]. The effects on health can lead to inequality and, indeed, Public Health England (PHE) have identified this in their report ‘Promoting the health and well-being of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men’ [4].
While there has been a noticeable increase in HIV stigma, this is not the solitary focus of stigma in the gay community, many others exist both externally and internally. External stigma refers to actual experiences of discrimination or unfair treatment, whereas internal stigma refers to personal shame or expected discrimination, either of which potentially lead to withdrawal and restriction of social support [5]. Within the gay community stigma exists between gay ‘cliques’, between generations, and between those of differing social backgrounds. It almost appears inherent and while there are reasons to stigmatise others within the gay community, it will continue. Read more…