Creating Space for Self-Exploration and Self-Care within the LGBTQ+ Community.
Back in June, at the height of lockdown, a new ‘virtual retreat’ programme was launched to try and help support gay men on their personal growth and wellbeing journey. The ‘Who am I?’ virtual retreat programme by Create Space Retreats has now had around 100 participants and received plenty of glowing public reviews from the grateful community.
The programme itself has been thoughtfully designed around tried and tested psychological and holistic practices. Each retreat brings together a team of six global industry professionals. The programme aims to empower LGBTQ+ individuals with the tools they need to focus on their own health and wellbeing. It does this by helping them understand how their past experiences may be influencing their present-day behaviours, thoughts and beliefs.
“Self-exploration is such an important aspect of self-care and personal growth, especially for gay men, many of whom have most likely struggled at times with their identity. Once we understand why we behave a certain way, we can use that knowledge to make healthier decisions and fundamentally lead a happier life. We take an active role in shaping our own future, and hopefully pave the way forward for others too.”
Michael is on a mission to recruit a wave of LGBTQ leaders, activists and change makers to help him resolve some of these issues within the community. The programme now has around 100 global ambassadors and this number is growing every month. Each retreat, a different ‘guest speaker’ joins the team to offer a new perspective. Michael hopes that by creating a space for these brave men to share their personal stories more openly it will encourage others to do the same.
Special guest speakers
Daniel Pillai is a gay writer, producer and media host based out of Toronto, Canada. He will be joining the Create Space team for the month of September. Whether it be through his own social channels or on mainstream media as a tv host, Daniel is always using his platform to tell his personal story of trials and triumph as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. He understands the importance of sharing, supporting and guiding others struggling with their identities and sexualities.
Daniel explains, “Accepting my sexuality, and all the other parts of what make me unique came from radical acts of self-love. From learning that I have the power and ability to be who I am despite the conditioning of my ethnic background, my religion, my society and my family. If I can encourage someone to love themselves and believe they are worth it, that small feeling can lead to something greater later on. And that’s pretty amazing!”
– Daniel Pillai, gay writer, producer, media host and guest speaker for Create Space during September 2020
How to book a slot
With places limited to fourteen participants on each monthly ‘virtual retreat’, it is a very intimate and confidential space. The programme offers the unique opportunity for participants to openly share and learn from each other’s past experiences without judgement, building resilience together in the face of their collective adversity.
Create Space will host a free workshop with Daniel Pillai on Saturday 5th September. The two day virtual retreat will take place on the weekend 19th and 20thSeptember.
As a homosexual male I’m victimised to some horrible outdated stereotypes on a daily basis. You are supposed to play into the different gender roles in society. The way you should act, dress, should talk and how you present yourself. Your whole demeanour is a target for abuse just because of who you are.
For men especially, gender roles are highly conflated with sexuality stereotypes (Lehavot & Lambert, 2007). These set of ideas and judgements can really damage somebody’s mental health. Homosexual males judged to possess hyperfeminity qualities because of their sexual identity. Nobody should have the fear of being judged because of your identity and your beliefs. Judging somebody because of their sexuality is discrimination and sadly it is still common amongst bigoted individuals.
This isn’t acceptable and here are a few ways to take notice and make a stand. Firstly you need to point it out, speak up and be an example. You cannot sit in silence, if you spot somebody who is being discriminative by making sexist comments please challenge their beliefs and try and educate them. Some people might make Ill judged comments unnoticeably and have no intention of harm playing it off as a joke but they also need to be put on alert that in todays culture it is unacceptable.
We should be comfortable in our own skin and have the freedom to express ourselves without the fear off being judged. Sadly that isn’t the reality we live in and people still are homophobic based off their exaggerated perceptions of these stereotypes. This is why Famous protests like Stonewall had to fight against discrimination back in 1969 which lead to the beginning of gay pride. In todays culture LGBT+ pride is the promotion of the self-affirmation, dignity, equality, and increased visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT+) people as a social group’ (Gay Pride wikipedia 2020).
You should never be judged based on perceptions or stereotypes because of your sexuality and this is why I wanted to finally address this and talk about how it has affected my life. So here we go.
My experiences battling stereotypes
Growing up I was raised to play and love sports where my keen interests were mostly in football. Even in todays culture it is very rare to see an open homosexual male make it professionally because they fear it can damage their reputation and make them an easy target for abuse.
This began in 22nd October 1990 when Justin Fashanu became the first professional footballer to come out as gay. This was a huge shocking the footballing world and even his brother fellow professional footballer described Justin as an ‘outcast’ and even Justin’s manager footballing legend Brian Clough described Justin as “bloodypoof”. Justin was the cover story for the July 1991 editor of Gay Times where he revealed that no club offered him a contract since coming out as gay.
This is astonishing considering just ten years earlier he was the first black footballer to have been bought for £1,000,000 when he moved to Nottingham Forest. Sadly after his career plummeted due to being gay Justin moved to America where he was accused of sexual assault and he feared due to his homosexuality he would be unfairly sentenced so instead decide to move back to England and hang himself. Justin was found hanged in a deserted lock-up garage he had broken into, in Shoreditch, London. In his suicide note, he stated: “I realised that I had already been presumed guilty. I do not want to give any more embarrassment to my friends and family.” Justin was wrongly accused saying in the suicide note the sex was consensual and today we honour the first homosexual male footballer who had to suffer to help others openly be who they are. Finally in 2020, Fashanu was honoured with being inducted into National Football Museum Hall of Fame, a truly deserving recipient.
I thankfully have grown up in a different time where people in our community from all walks of life can openly express themselves and be who they are. Although we are by no means equal, we still get insulted, tormented and threatened on a daily basis just because of who we fancy. In football even on the 1st February 2020, two West Ham United fans were arrested in London Stadium by the police for directing homophobic chants towards Brighton & Hove Albion fans during a Premier League Match.
This is why people struggle to come out in the public eye or even to their friendships group. I was judged in school for the way I acted so badly I spent hours at home trying to walk straight and how I should talk to people making sure I lowered the tone in my voice not to sound too ‘camp’. I was judged for being who I am first and my ability second, which reminds me of when a guy I played football with told my friend ‘he is a gayboy but he is a class goalkeeper’. My sexuality has no affect on my performances or who I am as an individual so Ill mannered comments like that really can be hurtful to somebody. Especially as I was only 13 years of age, I was still discovering things and certainly was not aware of what I liked, what my sexuality was or who I was.
Judged for being ‘different’
Nobody should live in fear of being a target of abuse and bullying just because of their sexuality. I can guarantee that if the people who have judged me, if given the chance got to have an open conversation with me they would realise their ideologies they have of what a typical gay man is like is completely wrong.
Every person on this earth has their own individuality, their own talents, own passions and own personality all of which makes them who they are. It is extremely unfair to put somebody into a category based on stereotypes of what perception you may have towards a certain race, gender, beliefs or sexuality.
My favourite hobby is gaming and football, my favourite music artist is Jon Bellion, my favourite drink is a Budweiser and not all my friends are girls. I shouldn’t have to list facts about my life to warrant a reason for you not to judge me, but I just want to make it clear. Stereotyping somebody because of their sexuality is completely unfair and will only reflect badly on the type of person you are.
‘I always knew’
The last stereotype I would like to address is the passive comments that people may make but play it off as a joke. I just wanted to let people know before making this comments have a think about your delivery and if this comment may be taken in the wrong way. We know you mean no harm and just want to ‘lighten the mood’ but there are some situations in which you may just need to listen and be supportive rather than trying to prove a point.
One statement that sticks out to me is ‘I always knew’. I can assure you majority of people reading this can relate to the annoyance of this comment. To clarify I’m talking about if one of your friends have ever reacted to your coming out story with ‘don’t worry I always knew’.
Despite not meaning any menace from it, these sort of comments really gets to me because what they are tying to actually say is judging from my personality they think I match the stereotypes. The standard ‘my gaydar was going off’ can come off judgmental too. This is a mechanism called “stereotype threat” which refers to a fear of doing something that would confirm negative perceptions of a stigmatised group that we are members of.
We are currently living in 2020 where masculinity isn’t judged by social roles anymore. This is why we need to move past these sort of stereotypes because they should no longer exist. We live in a world where you should be able to be what you want and who you want without the fear of being judged.
Please for anybody reading this if your friend decides to finally confined with you and open up about his sexuality please just listen. Please deal with the situation carefully and just support them as they are incredible vulnerable and looking to you to seek encouragement.
Please do not make comments that can knock them down, as when I got told ‘I always knew’ it made me overthink about occasions they may have spoke about this behind my back for the whole time and what else they may be saying. It may sound stupid and over exaggerated indeed but trust me speaking from experience your mind is already overthinking about how others who might not take kindly to the news may react, they don’t need added worries.
The daily struggles of stereotyping somebody
Stereotypes are something of the past as we try and step away from being stigmatised. All I ask if you are reading this is just think before you speak because a remark you think nothing off can seriously harm somebody and stick with them.
I just wanted to be a normal teenager and restated equally like the other boys playing sports but I was always judged from the off. I was always the outcast and it really knocked my social skills which still affects me today suffering from high anxiety when I meet somebody new.
Please just be aware of these situations because people like me endure these sorts of abuse on the daily basis. When we confide in you please just be supportive, it isn’t the time to pass judgment all you have to do is listen.
Stereotypes within sexuality is a very sensitive subject for many people and I hope I have addressed it correctly. This was just my experiences, everybody else is different so please bear that in mind. Talk to your friends, support them and please don’t stereotype.