So how was the first day? Now I have had a chance to sleep on it, to process things a little it is time to write, while heading south once more on the 8.51 train for Day 2.
Well, it was almost overwhelming. 12 participants from 11 nations (now why does that feel so familiar?) identifying as almost every diversity of sexuality and gender under the sun: asexual, bisexual, lesbian, gay, men who love men (but don’t identify as gay), polyamorous, transgender (female to male), kinky, queer, oh yes, and one straight woman. I am so grateful for this opportunity to meet and become friends with, to learn from such fabulous individuals.
For the obligatory and necessarily useful ‘introduce yourself to us’ half hour at the start of the day, we wrote our name on the board since a great deal of what we are processing this week has to do with identity, and then we shared as much or as little as we wanted of the meaning or origin of our name. It afforded the chance to see and hear each individual as a person, as an assortment of identities, rather than merely sharing information.
Most of the remainder of the morning was given over to small group discussions with a plenary report back based on these questions: What do I want for my ‘self’ from this week? What do I want for me as a therapist? What do i want for society this week? Anything else? Rich discussion followed.
In the afternoon we had a lecture from Dominic Davies the founder of Pink Therapy, on the origins of what started out as gay affirmative therapy, developed into LGBT therapy, then Gender and Sexual Minority Therapy, and is now becoming known as Gender and Sexual Diversity Therapy. We learned that linking together the vast array of sexualities and genders that can be identified, there are two common themes that emerge: hypervigilance to others’ reactions and prejudices; internalised shame and anger about being different in a hetero-normative world.
The teaching finished at 5pm and we had a optional ‘social’ programme, which yesterday was a visit to 56 Dean Street, an LGBT sexual health clinic run by the NHS in Soho, and a chance to experience gay and lesbian bars in the area, and to note their differences. I was intrigued that one lesbian bar has the usual loud music playing, but upstairs was a quieter lounge for women to sit and chat and get to know one another more.
I realised just how cloistered I have been and in some ways how naive and inexperienced I am. But during the course of the day I noticed a subtle change in myself, reminiscent of my first trip to Central Asia. “They” went from being labels, categories, types to being “thou” in the old use of the word, someone I know, respect, and identify with, a fellow human being with a whole lifetime of a story to tell, and with whom I have far more in common than I have different.
I feel rich.