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Being Gay at this Time of Year

We hope you enjoy the The QuestConflab. What is a Conflab? Its pretty simple really, Conflab is another term for an ‘informal discussion’.

The theme of this Conflab is – What does this Time of Year mean to gay men?

We would welcome your thoughts, reflections and feedback on the discussion.

Ade: So what are we conflabbing about today?
Darren: Christmas?

Ade: Not keen on that as it is a Christian holiday and potentially excludes so many people. Maybe something broader, like ‘What does this Time of Year mean to gay men?’
Darren: Good idea. This time of year for me has usually led to me feeling very much an outsider – like the uninvited guest looking through the window at the party inside.

Ade: I think many gay men will be able to relate to that. I remember spending Xmas day with a bunch of gay friends in my late 20s and it felt like we were the outsiders, shunned by family – actually what was interesting was that my biological family had invited me round, but I had told my aunt that I wanted to spend the day with my new family. I had just come out and did not want to spend the day with people who were struggling to accept me.
Darren: Yes! Many years ago we used to talk about having a ‘Gay’ Christmas and people had to choose whether to break tradition and not go to the family but stay with their gay friends. I know that many people dreaded going home to their biological families.

Ade: When I think of this time of year, I think of family and togetherness. Do you think that for some gay men, this time of year might trigger them into remembering moments where they were not accepted, affirmed and validated by their families?
Darren: Yes and for some they still feel like that today too. For me I just felt like it wasn’t for me and I felt like a refugee trying to find a place and very often just ended up as a guest with a friend’s family. Then I decided to go abroad to escape. So I have spent many years traveling to get away from the feeling of being different. How is it for you personally?

Ade: I love this time of year. During my single days, I would shop and get really lovely food and on Xmas day make a nice meal, have some bubbly, watch a few movies on TV and simply celebrate the day with myself. As part of the season, I would also get out my journal and do a year review – what the year brought, what it was taking away and what it was leaving. So, a bit of fluffy and a bit of depth! Was not always that way, I used to be really depressed during this time of year, when I was much younger, and then somehow I simply thought I’d make the most of the season and enjoy myself. Last year we had my partner’s family round to dinner on Xmas day, which was really great and this year we are going to his family. So do you have any tips for gay men on how to survive this season?
Darren: Well I suppose it depends on where they are with themselves and their family. For anyone isolated or alone I would say reach out to people who will accept them for who they are – make an effort to connect. I know that I have made a virtue out of spending time alone and while I enjoy my own company I think that some times it would have been healthier for me to be amongst accepting friends for some of the time. I think I normalised spending large amounts of time alone, especially during public holidays and I think this has contributed to me feeling depressed in the past.

Ade: I actually found that I needed to be truly alone with myself in order to be fully present with others. So for me, during those times I spent time alone, it was not coming from a place of sadness, shame, rejection or aloneness or longing for something better or different. It came from a place of I really want to be with me this season. I was also always open about it with others, and many did not understand why I was so happy about it…. I believe that its all a matter of perception… and that’s what I now love about this time of year, I can choose to respond to it in whichever way I choose, and for many years I have now chosen to relax and enjoy it, my past experience no longer influences how I see it.
Darren: That’s wonderful. I think I still have a way to go. I feel I’m still navigating my way through Xmas. It is compounded by the fact that my father died on Boxing Day when I was 8 and that was a trauma that made this time of year weird for me growing up. But I’m getting there. I’m staying put this year, not going away and I’m actually quite enjoying the sense of celebration. I do have occasional stomach dropping moments where I think ‘oh no! I’m going to be lonely!’ but it only lasts for a moment and then passes. What tips would you give by the way?

Ade: Yes, it sounds like there is still some ‘unfinished business’ in the form of an old wound there… and the fact that you are aware of the wound I think is the first step to healing. The fact is those feelings might always be there and so the question could be ‘how will you respond to the hurt going forward’, rather than ‘when will those feelings leave’. And as you say ‘it passes’.
Darren: I love the way you describe that – ‘how will I respond to the hurt going forward…’ as it relieves me of the feeling that I have to get rid of the feeling! I think that just by recognizing it and being aware of when it flares up helps me to pass through. I’ve realized these feelings don’t get stuck, they pass. In the past I have been very busy trying to avoid or distract myself from them that I’ve done some quite extreme things. Now I’m calming down although I do have my moments! And when I have those moments I can just sit with it and not always act out. It feels calmer and my life is steadier as a consequence.

Ade: Great, look forward to hearing how you get on. Our earlier comments about time alone makes me remember that this time of year can potentially be challenging for single gay men (actually all single people), with some maybe revisiting old patterns and behaviors, when deep down what many might really want is intimacy and connection…
Darren: Yes, I agree. Being single at this time of year can be difficult. Sometimes I have to watch Eastenders to remind myself that relationships are not always all they are cracked up to be! LOL. The idea that we can be with someone special at this time can sometimes feel like a place of rescue.

Ade: Yes, Eastenders is pretty good for that! 🙂 I guess what comes up for me during this conflab is that I’d love everyone to know that whilst this time of year can hold so many memories and old wounds for each one of us, that is the past and we have a choice on how we respond to the season this year – regardless of whether we are single or in coupledom.
Darren: Yes. And yet the past often has us ‘spellbound’ and it dominates our thinking and behavior. If I had a magic ‘winter’ wand I’d love to break that spell so that people felt like they were at choice. In the meantime it takes a certain amount of curiosity and willingness to dig beneath the surface to get there.

Ade: And we can break that spell with self-awareness and self-knowledge, combined with an ongoing self-inquiry. Well, on that note I have to go… look forward to our next conflab…. Any final thoughts?
Darren: Just to wish everyone a peaceful and safe holiday xxx
Ade: Yes, may it be a season full of self-compassion, self love and release… xxx

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