The refurbishment of the basement at ACON has led to the creation of a new Asian-only meeting space for gay men. Asian Tea Room is a monthly meeting in a non-threatening, informal “soft space” at ACON, fitted out with cushions like a tea house.

“The idea is for Asian guys to get together and chat about life and get inspired about each other’s stories, how different people address similar issues,” John Wang, ACON’s Asian Gay Men’s Peer Educator and Community Development Officer, said.

Asian Tea Room is a replacement for the Asian Support Group, which Wang said was faltering because “some guys don’t want to be seen as losers who need a support group”.

Instead they are encouraged to come on the third Tuesday of each month, kick off their shoes, enjoy a cup of tea, listen to guest speakers and connect with other gay Asian men over shared experiences. Wang said that discussion topics ranged from coming out, to community and family pressures, to racism on the gay scene.

“I can confidently say in this role and in my personal experience I have not come across a single Asian man who has not come across prejudice in the gay community,” Wang said.

The role of Asian Tea Room then is to provide another space of understanding, where gay Asian men can feel totally accepted and at ease in their surroundings.

“At the end of the meeting we like to spend some time reflecting on something we’re grateful for, so it’s a bit more balanced, and it’s not just talking about our challenges for the whole time,” said Wang.

The inaugural Asian Tea Room was on 19 February, and Wang recalled one particular man who came along and, while his English wasn’t fluent, really enjoyed being around other gay Asian men in a relaxed space with no pressure to talk.

The next Asian Tea Room is on 18 March, with award-winning Sri Lankan playwright Vissa Chandrasekaram as guest speaker and Sri Lankan ginger tea as the tea of the month. Ring 9206 2080 or visit www.acon.org.au/asian.

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