A GROUP for young gay men from Arabic-speaking and Middle Eastern backgrounds is being established in NSW to support them in their sexuality.

ACON is seeking expressions of interest from same-sex attracted men who are under 30 and come from an Arabic-speaking or Middle Eastern cultural background to join Young Gay Men’s Project, which will see them involved in a workshop about cultural identity, sexuality, coming out, sexual health, HIV and the LGBTI community.

“Based on our long running workshop, Start Making Sense, we have developed this new version by working with young same-sex attracted guys and community members from Arabic and Middle Eastern backgrounds,” said Jack Freestone, ACON’s Community Health Promotion Officer. He is running the project alongside Tim Wark.

“What is unique about our workshops is the fact that they are run by peer facilitators who are volunteering their time to give back to the community,” Freestone continued.

“This creates a really social and welcoming environment where the participants are able to learn from each other by sharing their own experiences and perspectives.”

Wark said they had felt the need to create the workshop when one of their volunteers approached them with the idea of developing a program that looked at the specific cultural issues faced by same-sex attracted Arabic and Middle Eastern men.

“As an Arabic gay man that had been through Start Making Sense previously, he felt that whilst the workshop was really helpful, it didn’t provide enough opportunity to talk about some of the challenges he had faced being gay and growing up in an Arabic community,” Wark said.

“He felt that many of his Arabic and Middle Eastern peers were often more isolated than other members of the LGBTI community and he was keen to work with us to address these issues.

“We feel that it is important that all members of our community have access to community based and culturally relevant information.”

The 2012 We’re Family Too report published by ACON in conjunction with Arab Council Australia looked at the lived experience of gay and lesbian people from Arabic-speaking backgrounds. It also identified specific cultural issues around isolation and talking about being same-sex attracted.

“We then collaborated with young same-sex attracted guys from Arabic and Middle Eastern backgrounds and other members of those communities to develop the program,” Freestone said.

“We are excited to start our first pilot workshop very soon and we look forward to providing a space for guys who have gone through similar experiences to share their stories and learn from each other.”

When enough people have registered their interest the workshop will begin and Freestone estimates it will run weekly for six consecutive weeks. The workshops are open to anyone under 30, regardless of where they are at in their coming out journeys.

To get involved, email youth@acon.org.au or contact ACON directly on (02) 9206 2077.

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