Racial Discrimination, Sexual Partner Race/Ethnicity, and Depressive Symptoms Among Black Sexual Minority Men

Abstract

Although racial sexual exclusivity among Black gay, bisexual, and other sexual minority men (SMM) is frequently framed as a cause of HIV inequities, little research has examined how these sexual relationships may be driven by and protective against racism. This study examined associations between general racial discrimination, Black sexual exclusivity, sexual racial discrimination, and depressive symptoms among Black SMM. We conducted analyses on cross-sectional self-report data from 312 cisgender Black SMM in the U.S. Deep South who participated in the MARI study. Measures included general racial and sexual identity discrimination, race/ethnicity of sexual partners, sexual racial discrimination, and depressive symptoms. We estimated a moderated-mediation model with associations from discrimination to Black sexual exclusivity, moderated by discrimination target, from Black sexual exclusivity to sexual racial discrimination, and from sexual racial discrimination to depressive symptoms. We tested an indirect effect from racial discrimination to depressive symptoms to examine whether Black sexual exclusivity functioned as an intervening variable in the associations between racial discrimination and depressive symptoms. Results indicated that participants who experienced racial discrimination were more likely to exclusively have sex with Black men. Men with higher Black sexual exclusivity were less likely to experience sexual racial discrimination and, in turn, reported lower depressive symptoms. The indirect pathway from racial discrimination to depressive symptoms through Black sexual exclusivity and sexual racial discrimination was significant. Our results suggest that one of the drivers of sexual exclusivity among Black SMM may be that it helps to protect against the caustic psychological effects of racial discrimination.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the participants who gave their time and energy to support this project. We hope that this manuscript does justice by your contributions and faithfully represents your experiences. We would like to thank all of the MARI Study staff who were integral to the execution of the study. This project was supported by a research grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (K01-MH118091, PI: English) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U01PS003315). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Correspondence to Devin English.

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English, D., Hickson, D.A., Callander, D. et al. Racial Discrimination, Sexual Partner Race/Ethnicity, and Depressive Symptoms Among Black Sexual Minority Men. Arch Sex Behav 49, 1799–1809 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-020-01647-5

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Keywords

  • Black/African American
  • Sexual minority men
  • Racial discrimination
  • Minority stress
  • U.S. Deep South
  • Sexual orientation