Gay Bowel Syndrome

From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This is an anus and isn't magic or threatening, merely anatomy. You have them, too! Anyone claiming they don't is then likely to be very full of shit. Get it? Get it?
Style over substance
Icon pseudoscience.svg
Popular pseudosciences
Random examples
Sickle cell anemia is primarily seen in African Americans, but would you call it African American anemia? People would never accept that.

Happy Gay Bowel Syndrome is an obsolete term coined in the 1970s to describe a group of ano-rectal disorders reported primarily in gay men. The term was created by proctologist Henry Kazal, which he used as a catch-all phrase to describe anal related infections resulting from gay sex. The term lost its relevance in the 1990's since the infections it describes are not specific to gay men nor a 'syndrome'. The term is still occasionally used, mostly by anti-homosexual organizations.[1][2]


No single definition exists, nor is there a specific diagnostic code for the syndrome. Some definitions are more useful than others, but the term "gay bowel syndrome" was originally coined by a large proctology practice in New York City in 1976. Their list of included diseases and conditions grew to unwieldy proportions:

The clinical diagnoses in decreasing order of frequency include condyloma acuminata, hemorrhoids, nonspecific proctitis, anal fistula, perirectal abscess, anal fissure, amebiasis, benign polyps, viral hepatitis, gonorrhea, syphilis, anorectal trauma and foreign bodies, shigellosis, rectal ulcers and lymphogranuloma venereum.[3]

No official definition exists today because the term has fallen out of favor.

Why the term is worse than useless[edit]

The above list exemplifies the problems with the term "GBS" (not to be confused with Group B Streptococcus, Guillain-Barré Syndrome, or George Bernard Shaw, all also called GBS). It refers to a protean group of problems, some infectious, some mechanical, some less easy to classify. Aside from the initial epidemiologic considerations (it having been noticed in gay men), there is nothing inherently "gay" about the individual problems that make up GBS. They can occur in anyone engaged in sexual activity involving the anus.

Persistent use of the term GBS may lead to ignoring potential problems in other patients. For instance, if a female patient presents with anorectal complaints, failure to take a proper sexual history can lead to missing a life-threatening cancer. Of note, the Gardasil vaccine can prevent many anal cancers, as can latex condoms.

Even in the mid-1980s, professional groups were distancing themselves from the term. The following is from Gut, a well-respected, peer-reviewed journal of gastroenterology published by the British Medical Journal:[4]

The "gay bowel syndrome" was first used to describe not a syndrome, but a list of conditions. The term hides the problems facing the gastroenterologist. Firstly, the sexual orientation of a patient may not be easily ascertainable in the setting of a general outpatient clinic. Secondly, many infections of the gay bowel are asymptomatic and are missed without full microbiological screening. Thirdly, coinfection is common and the organism isolated may not be causing the symptoms and signs. Finally, the bowel has limited and non-specific clinical and histopathological responses to many infections.

The term Gay Bowel Syndrome is no longer in wide use in the medical community, except as a historical curiosity. The most recent MedLine reference for it is 1997, and that is an article about the history of the term. If you are bat-shit insane, this could be seen as the success of the "homosexual lobby."

One of the single best examples of this is from the so-called conservative wiki Conservapedia where entire pages are devoted to the topic.[5]

Its persistence is more reflective of ignorance and hate than science.

Why it is even less than worse than useless[edit]

Ladies also engage in anal sex with men.[6] HIV is also spread through other modalities (vaginal sex, blood transfusions, contaminated needles, mother to child via the womb).


  1. The gay bowel syndrome: a common problem of homosexual patients in the emergency department by M. Heller. Ann. Emerg. Med. 1980 Sep;9(9):487-93.
  2. Gay bowel syndrome. The broadened spectrum of nongenital infection by T. C. Quinn Postgrad. Med. 1984 Aug;76(2):197-8, 201-10.
  3. The gay bowel syndrome: clinico-pathologic correlation in 260 cases by H. L. Kazal et al. Annals of Clinical and Laboratory Science, Vol 6, Issue 2, 184-192
  4. The gay bowel by I. V. Weller Gut, 1985, 26, 869-875
  5. Conservapedia's version
  6. See "pegging."