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Mind the Gaps: The Need for Inclusion of Male-Identified Voices in Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health.

Adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH) inequities are well documented for historically excluded youth (i.e., youth of color, LGBTQIA+ youth, youth with disabilities, recently im/migrated youth) living in the U.S. Northeast. However, the lived experience of male-identifying young people from historically excluded backgrounds in ASRH remains largely unexamined. The purpose of this paper is to present findings related to male-identified perspectives on social constructions of sexuality, sexual and reproductive health, and sexuality education. A research team composed of two local youth-serving organizations, eight youth researchers, and university researchers, used Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) methods to examine how structural violence contributes to inequitable ASRH outcomes for historically excluded youth. Photovoice and community mapping were used as YPAR methods. We also completed individual interviews on the same topic with the youth and with 17 key stakeholders that either provide services to youth or are emerging adult service recipients. Community-driven data reveal two major themes around the silencing of male-identified voices in ASRH: lack of culture-centered and gender-expansive approaches for ASRH, and the subsequent toll of sexism and (cis)gendered social and educational norms on young people. Our findings highlight that sexuality education, cisgender hetero culture, and social norms have put the onus of responsibility on people identifying as women for sexual and reproductive health. An unintended consequence of that is that young people identifying as men may feel powerless and uninformed around their own SRH. Our findings illustrate the importance of using culture-centered and gender-transformative approaches to ASRH to address inequity.

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