Noted psychotherapist and writer Michael Shernoff, who authored numerous books on gay culture and HIV/AIDS, has died of pancreatic cancer at 57.
In his practice and in his writing, Mr. Shernoff confronted the realities of homosexual life with bluntness and compassion. In essays and books and as a mental health columnist for the Web site TheBody.com, he cast a sympathetic but analytical eye on individual behavior that was both common and potentially injurious, taking on subjects like gay promiscuity, gay Internet cruising, gay body image and the muscle culture.
He wrote about losing a partner to AIDS and edited a book on the subject, “Gay Widowers: Life After the Death of a Partner” (Harrington Park Press, 1997). In his latest book, “Without Condoms: Unprotected Sex, Gay Men and Barebacking” (Routledge, 2005), he examined the growing phenomenon of gay men returning to the pre-AIDS practice of unprotected sex.
“As H.I.V. ravaged the gay community in the 1980s, people with AIDS wasted away and frequently looked gravely ill,” he wrote in a 2001 essay for The Gay and Lesbian Review called “Steroids and the Pursuit of Bigness.” “It’s no coincidence that the interest in pumping-up by gay men began during the early days of the epidemic, at least in part as a response to what was happening in our community.”
Mr. Shernoff, whose eldest brother died of AIDS, learned in 1982 that he himself was H.I.V.-positive (he lived symptom-free for a quarter of a century), and in his practice was a proponent of the idea that the specter of AIDS need not curtail anyone’s sex life.
Shernoff was one of the earliest advocates of safer sex in mid-80s and toured a workshop around the country for many years.