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Whilst sexual orientation and gender identity are very personal and individual, many people have similar experiences which they can share and learn from when exploring sexuality.

That’s where self-help groups can help!

What are self-help groups?

Self-help groups bring together like-minded people to talk and find ways to understand and express their sexuality.

You could be struggling to understand your sexuality or concerned about how to come out to your friends and family. You might have had a negative experience you wish to overcome or simply hope to help others and make friends.

A self-help group is made up of people who have a first-hand understanding of sexuality and issues surrounding it. This may be from personal experience or as a parent, family member, friend or carer.

Many groups are also arranged or led by a trained professional or organisation which can offer professional support and understanding.

What can I expect?

Self-help groups are a safe, welcoming and friendly space.

As everyone has had similar experiences – or is facing similar challenges – they are typically very understanding and keen to listen and help.

Those who attend self-help groups can be at differing stages of their journey. For example, some may still have questions about their sexuality and be seeking to understand it better. Others may be more comfortable with how they define themselves and continue coming to the group to maintain their happiness, discuss new challenges or help others.

As a new person, you’ll have an opportunity to speak and contribute – but you’ll be under no pressure to do so.

You can simply sit back, listen and observe until such time that you feel you want to get involved. There’s no pressure.

One of the biggest benefits of self-help groups is friendship – finding like minded people who share your hopes, fears and have something strong in common.

What types of groups are there?

There are many different self-help groups related to sexuality and gender, both in Essex and other regions of the UK.

Many are organised by charities or NHS service provides. Others may be run by youth groups or simply like-minded people.

Some groups are quite broad and welcome anyone who wants to be part of a group which discusses and explores challenges around sexuality.

Others may be more specific such as groups for gay men, gay women or lesbians, bisexual, transgender, non-binary or asexual (ace).

You can always try a group and see if it’s right for you.

Find your group in Essex

The following links provide details of self-help groups, events, training and other support service in Essex and beyond:

Essex Pride – https://www.essexpride.org/support/

Mid Essex NHS – https://www.midessexccg.nhs.uk/livewell/lgbt

Outhouse East – https://theouthouse.org.uk/