I signed up to do the NWTA weekend in July 2007 in Perth, Western Australia, after a friend of mine had participated and came back raving about it. I wasn’t convinced by his sales talk, but more by how he changed over the next 6 months. He seemed to grow taller, he was more assured, he was less fearful and more loving, his king and warrior were evident. I wanted some of that.
The weekend was powerful for me. I was challenged, frightened and initially resistant. Like the other participants, it required me to summon a lot of courage.
Was I the only gay man amongst 32 straight men?
Although I was “out”, was it safe to disclose my sexuality to a room full of male strangers? Being a gay man I had been selective about whom I disclosed this to - I felt somewhat marginalised (and carried some residual shame from my childhood about this).
I would often check out that I was going to be safe to disclose my sexuality, my otherness.
By the Saturday afternoon of my the weekend, after witnessing others explore their issues, I was ready to look at some of mine. It was principally about my father’s difficulty with my sexuality and hence my own difficulty with it.
The 20 minute exercise was very personal and very powerful. It did not fix my father’s attitude but helped me to a new level of acceptance for myself.
During another process on Sunday we all had the opportunity to talk about our sexuality. Again this was difficult in a room full of straight men (with hindsight I’m sure I wasn’t the only man who’d had sex with another man).
However the process was well led and I felt safe to talk and felt accepted and not judged - by the leaders at least!
It was a relief to come out so quickly with this group of newfound brothers, to feel safe, accepted and not have to hide a large part of myself. Interestingly another participant approached me later and apologized for his behavior to other gay men in the past.
He acknowledged his homophobia and abusive treatment of gay men. He realized that I was just another normal man like him.
Later on the weekend, one of the leaders, when he heard that I was gay, approached me and welcomed me and told me that he was glad I was participating and encouraged me to be more present with who I really am.
It was a very powerful moment - an older straight man in a position of power, accepting and welcoming me for being gay!
My journey with MKP has continued since then.
As I said earlier, it can be difficult to have to come out again and again (in new work settings, new social settings and meeting new people) while straight people don’t have to declare their otherness on an ongoing basis.
However I have found MKP to be one of the safer organisations in which to be able to drop my guard about my sexuality.
While MKP draws men from all sections of the community, it is often those who are open to learning and growth who join. MKP also encourages men to embrace diversity and acceptance and men are encouraged to challenge themselves around their prejudices.
Participating in MKP has helped me on my journey as I can do my “work” without my sexuality being too much of an issue (for me or others).
Since my weekend in 2007 I have staffed the weekend for others on several occasions. I’m glad to report that more and more gay and bi men are participating and MKP is adjusting its work to incorporate and welcome these men.
MKP strives to “walk the walk” around diversity and this is a relief. While it has further work to do (like all of us), it is a safer place to stand, be seen and grow.