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Year: 2007 Type: Article Language:

Many names are given to identities and practices that suggest or involve sexual activity between men: queer, gay, homosexual, dandy, batty man, queen, bachelor, fag, etc. In international development, however, ‘men who have sex with men’ (MSM) has fast become the preferred descriptor for the myriad expressions of same sex desire by men. This term was originally proposed as an alternative to ‘gay’ or ‘bisexual’ by grassroots activists and healthcare workers concerned about the impact of sexually transmitted diseases in their communities. This was a radical gesture at the time, a sharp refusal of the dominant narratives about sexual orientation and sexual behaviour that were being relayed by organisations led by white, gay-identified men. However, the term has now been appropriated by the machinery of development, and its implications and effects have altered. MSM is now used as a catch-all category for non-Western and non-white men with same sex practices. It mimics Orientalist strategies of collapsing cultural differences between ‘third world’ people and marking them as ‘other’. The focus is placed on physical interactions and potential for spreading disease, while love, emotions and desires are ignored.

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