Pre-Empting Stigma and Complicating Trauma: Narratives of Gay and Bisexual Men who Inject Drugs in Australia

Sophia E. Schroeder, Carla Treloar, Adam Bourne, Mark Stoové, Joseph Doyle, Margaret Hellard, Alisa Pedrana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Gay and bisexual men (GBM) report higher rates of sexualised and injecting drug use (IDU) than heterosexual men. Injecting-related stigma is linked to negative health outcomes among people who inject drugs (PWID). This paper describes the ways in which stigmatisation manifests in the narratives of GBM who inject drugs. We conducted in-depth interviews with Australian GBM with IDU histories, exploring drug use, pleasure, risk, and relationality. Data were analysed using discourse analytical approaches. Interviewees (n = 19), aged 24–60 years, narrated their experiences of IDU practice over 2–32 years. Most (n = 18) injected methamphetamine, and used other (non-injected) drugs, in sexual contexts. From participants’ narratives, we developed two themes related to stigmatisation of PWID that illustrate the limitations of conventional drug discourses to narrate GBM’s experiences. The first theme captures participants’ attempts to pre-empt stigmatisation, outlining the layering of stigma faced by GBM who inject drugs. Linguistically, participants transformed injecting stigma by distinguishing their personal practice from that of more discreditable drug users. Practically, they mitigated stigmatisation by keeping discrediting information from others. The second theme illustrates how by complicating the stereotypes of IDU, participants took up prominent discursive practices linking IDU with trauma and pathology. Participants exerted agency by broadening available interpretive repertoires for understanding IDU among GBM, thus creating a counter-discourse. We argue that mainstream discursive practices reverberate through gay communities, perpetuating stigmatisation of PWID and inhibiting care-seeking. More narration of unconventional experiences, beyond insular social groups and critical scholarship, is needed in public discourse to effect destigmatisation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)688-700
Number of pages13
JournalQualitative Health Research
Issue number8-9
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023


  • discourse analysis
  • people who inject drugs
  • sexual minority men
  • stigma

Cite this