Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches and Lectures

Title

Prevalence of Within-group Sizeism Among Gay Men at the Intersection of Race/ethnicity, Weight, and Age

Event Title

Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT) 2021 Virtual Convention

Event Location

Virtual

Document Type

Symposium

Presentation Date

11-20-2021

Date Range

2021-11-16 to 2021-11-21

Description

Size discrimination, or sizeism, targets people based on body size and shape (e.g., weight, height, muscularity) and contributes to mental health disparities, including higher rates of depression, anxiety, suicidality, and eating disorders. Defined as the prejudicial or unjust treatment between members within the same group or community, within-group discrimination (e.g., racism and ageism in the gay community) has been shown to adversely affect mental health outcomes. Yet, little is known about whether and how sizeism contributes to gay men’s experiences of within-group discrimination. Grounded in intersectionality theory, the present study examined the prevalence of within-group sizeism experiences in a large sample of gay men and how it varies by race/ethnicity, self-perceived weight, and age.

2,149 gay men between the ages of 19 and 79 were recruited via social media advertisements and completed measures of within-group sizeism (Maki, 2017). Participants reported how frequently they experienced within-group size discrimination. A majority of participants were White (72%); 9% were Hispanic, 5% were Black, 4% were Biracial, 4% were Asian, 2% were Indian, < 1% were Hawaiian, and 3% identified as another race/ethnicity. For weight, 11% perceived their weight as below average, 34% perceived their weight as average, and 55% perceived their weight as above average.

Within-group sizeism was commonly reported by participants: 70% were told they should gain or lose weight from members of the gay community, 52% were criticized for their body’s level of muscularity, 43% were physically touched while being told they should change something about their appearance or body size, and 22% were criticized for their height. Univariate tests revealed that experiences of within-group sizeism differed by race/ethnicity, self-perceived weight, and age. Specifically, gay men who were Hispanic/Latino, Asian, above average weight, or younger reported the highest rates of within-group sizeism, whereas gay men who were White, Black, average weight, or older reported the lowest rates.

Findings suggest within-group sizeism is a prevalent concern among gay men and that certain subgroups of gay men are targeted more than others, threatening their sense of safety and belonging in their own community. Given the consequences of sizeism and within-group discrimination for mental health, future research should explore the health effects and mechanisms of within-group sizeism among specific subgroups of gay men to better understand pathways of risk and resilience.

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