Coming out can be a long and difficult process. Most of us have experienced feelings of confusion, self-doubt and denial when we first realised that we are attracted to members of the same sex. For some people, their coming-out journey is short and sweet. They are able to come to terms with their sexuality early in life, find a supportive network, and celebrate their sexual identity at a young age. The work of many dedicated youth workers, school counsellors, teachers, parents and community activists have made it possible for younger generations to embrace sexual diversity.
For others, the coming out journey can be long, difficult and complex. Irrespective of much our society has progressed, homophobia is still lingering in the background. This is especially relevant for people who grew up in conservative and religious environments. We still hear religious doctrines that equate homosexuality with sin, and sadly this can result in self-hate amongst those who are same-sex attracted. Moreover, social attitudes that condemn homosexuality and perceive gays and lesbians as ‘immoral’ and ‘deviants’ can further add to self loathing and self doubt.
Encountering various forms of homophobia can prevent people from embracing their sexuality and some wait for many years before they can finally admit to themselves that they are gay/lesbian/bisexual. It is rather common for people to come out later in life after going through years of struggling with their sexuality and some have been heterosexually married with children, which add to the complexity in their coming-out journey.
For these individuals, finding support may not be as straightforward as for their younger peers and years of self-resentment can prevent them from accessing available services. Moreover, there is a genuine concern for confidentiality. Some people fear that involuntary disclosure could damage their career and social life. Yet, at the same time, they also know that they can’t go through the coming-out journey on their own.
All of the above are part of the reason behind providing a safe, welcoming and confidential environment for men who come out later in life. The Momentum workshop provides an opportunity for men to meet others who are going through the same coming-out journey as themselves. Social connectedness can help to counter isolation, while information on sexuality and sexual health can help maintain health and wellbeing.
The power of peer support cannot be undermined.
For some, the coming-out journey can be a rather lengthy process. However, support is always available and no one needs to be on this journey along. Remember: there is much to be gained in celebrating our sexuality.
To find out more about Momentum, visit www.vicaids.asn.au/momentum.
By BUDI SUDARTO
Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre