New Study Offers Insight on Impact of Masculinity on the Mental Health of Gay Black Men

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A recent study conducted by University of Kentucky College of Social Work researcher Keith J. Watts, Ph.D., discusses the social construction of masculinity and the implications it has on the mental health of gay Black men.

The study published in the Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health found that masculine identity is associated with both positive and negative mental health outcomes among gay Black men.

For some, being perceived as masculine enables them to navigate and manage the societal challenges related to being both Black and gay. Others feel that perceptions of masculinity exacerbate their existing trauma resulting from experiencing the world as Black men.

“Among the most fascinating findings that emerged from this study were the participants’ simultaneous understanding of masculinity as both a fictional social construction affixed to all individuals assigned male at birth, and as a very real social identity that has had tangible positive and negative impacts on their lived experiences,” said Dr. Watts “This contradiction illustrates the highly contextualized and complex nature of social identities.”

“A glimpse into the everyday challenges of navigating such complexities helps us understand the explicitly expressed need for community spaces that center the unique experiences of gay Black men, and for mental health practitioners who are familiar with and prepared to engage these intersectional experiences,” Dr. Watts said.

Watt’s study was conducted in collaboration with Kia J. Bentley, Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Social Work.

About the College of Social Work

For over 80 years, the University of Kentucky College of Social Work has been a leader in social work education. Our mission is clear: Through rigorous research, excellence in instruction, and steadfast service, the College works to improve the human condition. Always, in all ways. To learn more about the College of Social Work, visit

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For 85 years, the University of Kentucky College of Social Work (CoSW) has been a leader in social work education. As a college, we promote community and individual well-being through translational research and scholarship, exemplary teaching, and vital community engagement. We are committed to the people and social institutions throughout Kentucky, the nation, and the world. Like the University, CoSW is an organization that cultivates a diverse academic community characterized by interpersonal fairness and social justice. We are fiercely committed to developing outstanding social work professionals — leaders who will serve individuals, families, and communities through innovative and effective practices that are guided by cultural competency, systematic ethical analysis, and a keen and pragmatic understanding of the human condition.