Perry N. Halkitis, dean of Rutgers University School of Public Health, has been named 2017 Researcher of the Year by the Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity, Division 51 of the American Psychological Association.
The society — which seeks to advance knowledge in the new psychology of men through research, education, training, public policy and improved clinical services — recognized Halkitis for his scholarship in the psychological study of men and masculinity, his advocacy for the health of gay men and policy work.
Halkitis began his position at Rutgers on August 1, 2017 and is known as an advocate for the rights and health of LGBT individuals. His research concerning the study of masculinities among gay men — such as “Steroid use in gay, bisexual, and non-identified men who have sex with men: relations to masculinity, physical and mental health” in Psychology of Men and Masculinity and “An Exploration of Perceptions of Masculinity Among Gay Men Living with HIV” — broke the mold of a traditionally heterosexual conversation concerning men and masculinities by introducing critical scholarship concerning the multiple masculinities present within the gay and bisexual community in the era of HIV/AIDS.
“This recognition exemplifies Dr. Halkitis’ experience as an academic leader in public health and as a leader in bio-behavioral, psychological and public health research,” says Brian Strom, chancellor, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences. “His expertise, skills and dedication to public education, research and instruction will contribute significantly to the School of Public Health’s progress in becoming one of the nation’s strongest public health schools.”
For more than twenty years, Halkitis’ research has focused on the health of gay men, the multitude of health disparities they experience and the public health of that population. He explores this theme in his upcoming book, Out In Time, to be published by Oxford University Press, which examines the experiences of coming out across time and generations and what it means to individuals and to the health of the population.
Prior to the Stonewall Rebellion in 1969, Halkitis says, conceptions of masculinity were reserved for heterosexual men and sexual minority men were marginalized as non-masculine; popular media in the mid-20th century perpetuated this perception by depicting gay men as effeminate and sickly. “Fast-forward to the 1980s, and this mythology of the non-masculine frailty of gay men is perpetuated by the AIDS epidemic as gay men do become sick, frail and die,” he says. “What followed was an intense rush by gay men to counter this perception by becoming hyper-masculine, which has permeated segments of the gay community for three decades. Conceptions of masculinity are critical elements of public health discussions as they are linked to body image and body dysmorphia, which have been shown to be related to eating disorders and use of substances, such as anabolic steroids, by gay men attempting to attain a hyper-masculine perception.”
Halkitis’ research seeks to illuminate how social inequities – such as HIV criminalization laws fuel health disparities and epidemics. In his new role at the School of Public Health, he will launch an urban health program in Newark that examines how social inequalities in the nation fuel the problems in marginalized populations. “Our goal is to train practitioners and researchers to tackle the problems in urban settings through this lens of social justice and fighting for social equity,” he says.
Previously, Halkitis was awarded the 2016 Hermann M. Briggs Memorial Award from the New York State Public Health Association for his outstanding scholarship in the area of HIV/AIDS among LGBT communities and the 2016 Community-Based Leadership Award from the American Public Health Association’s Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Section.