I was given a gift the other day; it wasn’t a belated Christmas gift, it was completely unexpected, came from people I barely knew, and I only noticed it after I had left the givers to go home. The gift was from a group of people, some of whom I had met once before, some of whom were almost strangers.
We were attending a course together, a day workshop for therapists working with clients of diverse gender and sexuality. We had some experiential learning about different kinds of intimacy, some discussion around current models of sexual functioning, and a presentation of the tutor’s research findings amongst people who might describe themselves as asexual (those who don’t experience sexual attraction). We had some laughter, some serious moments, some thought provoking ones, and we ended the day with a ‘fishbowl’ role-played therapy session as participants and observers.
The gift was this… There are parts of me that I keep under wraps, perhaps not hidden, but I am definitely choosy about who I let in. These co-learners with whom I spent the day gave me the space to be me – all of me – at least all of the part of me that I normally keep to myself, the asexual part of me. I came out slowly, one step at a time, testing the waters cautiously, and then with more courage. By the end of the day without noticing it I was ‘running around the room’ with gay abandon. I didn’t any longer have to be careful, or watchful to see how others were reacting to me. If I was angry I said so respectfully, if I was upset I let others see it, if I felt understood I whooped excitedly.
I cannot remember a time when I could be me with quite so much freedom. I felt affirmed, held, contained, allowed, validated, and not because I conformed, but because there was space and acceptance for difference.
I don’t know when I will meet those same people again. I doubt we will all be together again in the same place, ever. But for those few brief hours I could be me, all of me, and it was wonderful.