One of the first Australian youth programs for gay men comes of age this month as Fun and Esteem turns 21.
Since 1988, when ACON first introduced its Fun and Esteem Extreme Pleasure Company peer-education workshops for young men, more than 10,000 men have benefited from the experience.
“Nobody had ever offered a program to young gay men. It was a first, a place where young people could go, and they loved it,” co-founder Greg Millan told Sydney Star Observer.
“Of course we covered HIV transmission, but we covered what it’s like to be gay, coming out, relationships, safe-sex stuff, sensible use of drugs — we went wherever they wanted to go.
“What we were doing was building up support among the young men who were there. We’d say to them, ‘When this finishes, if you want to keep in touch with each other, then you’ll have some friends.’ Hopefully there are people who have managed to stay in touch for 21 years.”
Fun and Esteem has left many men with enduring relationships and fond memories. Some stayed involved with the program, evolving from participant to facilitator. Brad Gray made that transition in the mid-’90s.
“When we did the workshop as participants, it was ’92, and the HIV epidemic was in full swing,” he said.
“When you went out you would see people who were physically sick and dying, and it was a really scary period.
“Safe-sex is obviously a really important element of what we did, and that’s why we existed, but the stuff the guys responded to was the social stuff.
“It was the acceptance they would get that they often weren’t getting when they went home.”
info: Fun and Esteem’s 21st anniversary celebration will be held on October 29 at Slide.
For info visit: www.acon.org.au/youth