Com­ing out is no easy jour­ney

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JESS LEE

She told ev­ery­one she was at yoga, but in­stead she was tak­ing a class that changed her life.

At­tend­ing ‘‘Ques­tion­ing?’’, a pro­gramme for women who are ques­tion­ing their sex­u­al­ity or strug­gling to come out as a les­bian, is the hard­est thing many par­tic­i­pants have ever done, co-fa­cil­i­ta­tor Cissy Rock says.

The six-week pro­gramme is now in its fourth year and will run at the Auck­land Women’s Cen­tre in Grey Lynn from next Tues­day.

Sit­ting down with the group for the first time two years ago was a lifechang­ing mo­ment for one North Shore woman.

‘‘I was ter­ri­fied and the funny thing was we were all ly­ing to our fam­ily about where we went,’’ she says.

‘‘It’s not easy. You have to have a lot of courage but be­ing true to your­self is an amaz­ing re­lease.’’

She is a teacher in her late 30s and does not want to be named in this story. She came out to friends and fam­ily two years ago, but has not re­vealed this to her stu­dents or their par­ents.

‘‘There is still a neg­a­tive at­ti­tude to­wards be­ing a teacher and be­ing gay. I ac­tu­ally thought if I came out I would have to leave teach­ing,’’ she says.

But the prin­ci­pal of her school, col­leagues and her fam­ily have been re­ally sup­port­ive.

‘‘If the course hadn’t given me the strate­gies I would never have done it – I would still be here not know­ing who or where I was.’’

Women of all ages and back­grounds travel from across Auck­land to at­tend the pro­gramme.

Rock says it can be hard for women in sub­urbs out­side of cen­tral Auck­land to find support.

‘‘Liv­ing in the heart of West Auck­land as a les­bian is quite dif­fer­ent from Grey Lynn for ex­am­ple.’’

The New Lynn mother-ofthree came out in her early 30s.

‘‘I was in this re­la­tion­ship with this man and then it came to the point where I wasn’t com­fort­able in my own skin.

‘‘Now I’m re­ally happy and I un­der­stand who I am but it was re­ally hard mak­ing that tran­si­tion from liv­ing this life where all your friends have hus­bands.’’

Rock and co-fa­cil­i­ta­tor El­lie Lim share their own sto­ries as part of the group.

Women can share their ex­pe­ri­ences and ask ques­tions or they are free to sit back and lis­ten.

Dis­cus­sions range from learn­ing how to tell your chil­dren, col­leagues and friends to re­li­gion and what to wear on a first date.

‘‘It’s fun, we want peo­ple to laugh, to feel com­fort­able, to find out more about them­selves,’’ Lim says.

Some peo­ple ques­tion why there is still a need for this group, she says.

‘‘We have so much stuff hap­pen­ing in the me­dia, we’ve got gay mar­riage, les­bians on Short­land St but there is still so much pres­sure from so­ci­ety in be­ing some­thing other than het­ero­sex­ual – it’s still an iden­ti­fier.’’

The Pt Che­va­lier res­i­dent came out when she was 25 after her fa­ther died. She says she had not felt able to tell her fam­ily be­fore that be­cause of her Chi­nese Catholic up­bring­ing – and be­cause her fa­ther was bat­tling leukaemia.

‘‘I just knew that my dad wouldn’t cope with it – it just wasn’t a con­ver­sa­tion topic plus in Chi­nese cul­ture we don’t tend to talk about touchy-feely stuff.’’

Rock says they are not out to con­vert peo­ple.

‘‘A lot of the women stay in their re­la­tion­ships with their hus­bands be­cause they’ve had an op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore and say this isn’t right, that the ques­tions are an­swered,’’ she says.

‘‘Prob­a­bly about a third of women stay in their re­la­tion­ships with their male part­ners and that’s OK with us.’’

The pro­gramme will run each Tues­day from Septem­ber 16 till Oc­to­ber 21 from 7pm to 9pm. It is free to at­tend. Book­ings es­sen­tial.

Photo: JESS LEE

Help­ing oth­ers: Cissy Rock, left, and El­lie Lim run a six-week pro­gramme at the Auck­land Women’s Cen­tre for women who are ques­tion­ing their sex­u­al­ity.

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