A SMALL GAY SUPPORT GROUP, 1982
At the 1982 Doing It conference Michael Riordon took part in a panel discussion on "meeting the needs of people coming out." We were all continually coming out to some degree throughout our lives he said, and he wished there were some way to deal with the needs of people like himself. Though he'd been out for years there were still personal things he'd like to be able to talk over with other gay men at a similar stage of life. After the panel I asked him if he really meant it. If so was he interested in trying to start something with me? We worked out an announcement for a workshop on "Small Support Groups & Gay Liberation".
Among those who dropped by the conference lounge to ask about the workshop was Dennis Altman. It seemed he was going to speak about something similar on the weekend, along the lines of putting the personal of gay liberation back into the movement. His talk probably happened at the same time as our workshop since I don't remember going to it. (Seeing Altman was a bit of a nostalgia trip. For whatever reason, an image of him from 1972 walking into the CHAT centre on Cecil St. led by Jerry Moldenhauer immediately came to mind. The leather jacket he'd worn had a fringe at least a foot long and had permanently imprinted on my brain.)
Michael and I seemed agreed in our aim. We wanted an opportunity to talk with other gay men about our doubts and fears in regards to gay aspects of our lives. We were looking to air some of our less than politically correct thoughts on these things in an effort to move ourselves forward. For myself, I was hoping we could come up with something that could be copied by other gay men interested in this sort of thing. Beyond that at the back of my mind was the thought it would be good to be in a group that was not totally static, which would occasionally wander out into action of some sort. That thought never really developed and certainly wasn't incorporated into what we were about.
About a dozen people came to the workshop and out of that an initial group of three was formed. We agreed to try to attract another person each. There were objections to both of my nominations so that was a dead end for me. In the end a total of five people made a committment to meet for a year. One other person joined later for a short while. We had both free ranging and topic-oriented discussions, went over all areas of our lives, sometimes sharing meals as we talked. There were certainly many heated discussions and meetings more than once went well past midnight. While I tried to be sensitive to the people around me I was blunt when, in other circumstances, it might have been better to keep my mouth shut. It seemed to me those were the terms agreed to. Nevertheless you can't be frank without ruffling feathers. And that certainly happened all around.
In any case the experience was neither here nor there. Without some aim beyond discussion itself the group had to struggle to last the full twelve months. All in all, disappointing considering the amount of time and effort we put into it.
Out of this I lost one old friend, Danny Gerrard, for several years. Eventually we did smooth it over.