When somebody asks what we are researching and we say gay bereavement nearly everyone who we have spoken to stops and briefly ponders the topic. Being a man and experiencing the loss of male partner, a soul mate and friend never gets a mention. Why is this? The focus in British society is on husband and wife bereavement, and it is even rare for LGBT organisations to offer specialised support tailored to gay men following the loss of a same sex partner, or indeed for lesbians or bisexual bereaved partners.
We have just begun to interview gay bereaved men throughout the UK. We are interested in their experiences but we are also curious about why this is such an under-researched and little-talked about area. We are asking a number of questions. Is the experience of male gay bereavement similar or different to those of heterosexual couples? How do social and familial relationships change as a consequence of bereavement? How are societal expectations of bereavement challenged by gay bereavement. And what support can we provide for those who need support at this difficult time? Will changes around civil partnerships and gay marriage change society’s attitudes to gay partner loss? Our approach to this research is ‘we are the novices and you have the experience’
What has been astonishing is the speed in which news of our research has travelled and the distance. In little over two months we have recruited more than 20 men, from the UK, North America and Australia. The men who have contacted us want to be heard and are happy to share their experiences to help others in the same position as they themselves. Research exists examining the experiences of heterosexual men following the loss of their wives yet little is still known about the experiences of gay partner loss outside of an HIV/AIDS context.
Although recruitment has been successful we still need more men to come forward to speak to us. There is still much to be done. We are interested from hearing from gay men themselves and from organisations that support gay men both within and without an HIV/AIDS context. If you are able to help us spread the word, please do so.
As we wrote this blog we received an email from a prospective participant who said ‘I’m just pleased this research is being done…It’s a subject so taboo it never gets a mention’.
So if you are able to help us, please do. Or if you want to comment please do.
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