I wanted to start my own support group here in South Africa, because as a bisexual man, married to a heterosexual woman, I only truly found liberation when I started communicating and interacting with other bisexual people. This interaction has actually helped my wife a great deal as well. I found it hard to find likeminded people in South Africa, so I searched abroad and found great support networks in the USA and Canada. Therefore I have decided to start my own South African bisexual support group. The intention is to provide a South African bisexual community where bisexuals, pansexuals, fluid and questioning people can share diverse perspectives and experiences. The group is open to any gender!! The group will offer support and a social network. Friends, partners and allies are also welcome. You don’t have to be married or in a relationship to be part of the group. I want this group to create non-judgemental spaces to share feelings, experiences and fears. The affirmation of different ways of developing identity and the diversity of people’s life experiences are extremely important. This is NOT a group for hooking up!
Please take note of the following:
What is the purpose of the support group?
Support groups are groups of people who gather to share commonalities and experiences associated with a particular personal circumstance. It creates a safe, non-judgmental and confidential environment. In the case of this support group, the common bond between group members is their self-identification as bisexual or questioning. In a support group, people are able to talk with other folks who are like themselves - people who truly understand what they're going through and can share the type of practical insights that can only come from first-hand experience.
What are the benefits of a support group?
Social isolation is a serious concern among the LGBTQ community. When someone doesn't know many - or any - other people who are going through what they are coping with, the person can feel isolated and stigmatized. Support groups help people feel less alone and more understood.
Support groups empower people to work to solve their own problems.
Members can share information, keeping one another up to date on news of interest to them.
Among people who are experiencing similar problems, there is a unique emotional identification that is different from the type of support that can be obtained from professionals.
Members act as role models for each other. Seeing others who are contending with the same adversity and making progress in their lives is inspiring and encouraging.
A support group is a safe, non-judgemental space, where confidentiality will be upheld, for someone who needs to talk about intensely personal issues, experiences, struggles, and thoughts.
In a support group, members are equals; this can make people feel much more comfortable opening up about their problems.
Talking to others in support groups reduces anxiety, improves self-esteem, and helps members' sense of well-being overall.
What are some general guidelines for the support group?
- Maintain confidentiality
Information that is discussed in the group is not repeated. In order for members to feel safe enough in the support group to self-disclose and work through problems, they need to feel sure that nobody is going to be telling people outside of the group about the group's discussions. Participants may be asked not to return to a group when it was discovered they broke confidentiality. *Note: Confidentiality may be broken if the individual or another person is at-risk of harm.
- To speak from the "I" and refrain from giving advice
Group members focus on their own experience and use “I” statements, as opposed to talking about what you should do or how "people" should be. Telling people what to do is not the purpose or responsibility of a support group. It takes away a person's feeling that they can handle their own problems and can make people feel attacked and uncomfortable. Try asking members to tell what's worked well for them in similar situations.
- Avoid confrontation
This is not group therapy and group members generally do not question each other about what is shared. Also, South Africa is diverse, and the group will comprise of people from many demographics (race, gender, religion, creed etc.), so you need to be open minded and accepting of other people.
- The support group is a safe space before, during and after this group. Aggressive and inappropriate behaviour will not be tolerated
People come to the support group for many different reasons, including meeting new people; however the support group is not a place for “cruising” or “pick-ups”. No one should be put in a situation in which they feel uncomfortable, especially if they are new to the support group. We must reiterate that “no” means “no” to maintain our safe space policy.
I have also sought support through therapy, and I will be able to recommend at least three therapists, whom I know personally, and other whom shall be recommended by the therapists I know. All of these will be LGBT affirming therapists.
See you soon!!