LESBIAN INFORMATION SERVICE
ANNUAL REPORT 1988


Lesbian Information Service was set up with the aim of facilitating communication between Lesbians and promoting understanding of Lesbian experience in order to combat discrimination. Our objectives are:

* to generate discussion about Lesbian experience;

* to generate positive activities to combat oppression;

* to increase the visibility of Lesbians - our struggles and successes;

* to identify and expose anti-Lesbianism;

* and to encourage an awareness of the needs of Black Lesbians, Lesbians of Colour, Disabled Lesbians, Irish Lesbians, Jewish Lesbians, Lesbian Mothers, Old Lesbians, Radical Lesbian Feminists, Working Class Lesbians, and Young Lesbians.

We hope to achieve this in a number of ways: by working with Lesbians and producing materials for working with Lesbians; conducting research; organising conferences and courses; and by producing a national Lesbian newsletter.

INTRODUCTION

It is important to recognise the connections between Lesbians and other oppressed groups:

Black people are oppressed by Racism;
Disabled people are oppressed by Ableism;
Old and young people are oppressed by Ageism;
Women are oppressed by Sexism;
Working Class people are oppressed by Classism; Lesbians are oppressed by Heterosexism.

All of these people are oppressed under the white, hetero-patriarchal, system in which we live.

HOW LESBIANS ARE OPPRESSED BY HETERO/PATRIARCHAL SOCIETY

Sexism

Because of Sexism all men, including gay men, have power over women. Lesbians face discrimination because we are women and because we are Lesbian. Like heterosexual women, we are more likely to be poorer than men; we are more likely to be in poorly paid jobs, doing childcare, or looking after an elderly parent (perhaps as the sole 'unmarried' daughter). With a lower standard of living, Lesbians have less access to each other and to entertainment and leisure, and are less likely to own transport (especially isolated in outer-city or country areas). Lesbians are attacked, and experience sexual harassment, whether or not our sexuality is known.

Heterosexism

Women are told how to behave: our laws, procedures, institutions all tell us that it is 'normal[ to get married, have children and fit into the 'normal[ family role (Heterosexism). To be an 'open[ Lesbian means that you are going against all the things that you have been told you should be. So it is not surprising that most Lesbians lead a double life, they pretend that they are heterosexual so that they will not lose their jobs, children, homes, family, friends, etc.

There are no laws against discriminating against Lesbians. Lesbians are sacked because of their sexuality - because they work with children/young people despite the fact that it is men who rape, commit
incest, sexual abuse, etc. Lesbians are beaten up, harassed and verbally abused. It is a function of the system to oppress Lesbians.

The results of a unique national survey in the USA, published in "Final Report of the National Lesbian Health Care Survey," by Judith Bradford and Caitlin Ryan showed that the most common health problem experienced by Lesbians in the past had been a long period of depression or sadness. In fact, the survey indicates that mental health problems and stress related illnesses are what most distinguishes Lesbian health from that of the female population as a whole. It also suggests that these problems are largely societally induced. Twenty-one percent of the paticipants had thought about suicide and 18% had actually attempted it at sometime in their lives. These figures are comparable to suicide rates among doctors, long recognised as one of the most high stress groups in society. The authors conclude:

"Key research implications relate to the effects of discrimination, physical and sexual abuse and substance abuse, and the interactions among them, on the need for mental health service and the training of providers; the impact of outness/closetedness on mental health and access to non-discriminatory and informed services; and the positive effects of acceptance and integration of Lesbian identity."

In a pilot study Lesbian Information Service carried out in Leicester in late 1987/early 1988, regarding the needs for a Lesbian Hostel, 86% of the participants had suffered from depression and 43% had attempted
suicide.

Black Lesbians

The society in which we live is Racist. Therefore the experience of Black Lesbians will be more complex and problematic. The fear of being 'out[ for Black Lesbians will be greater as the loss of support from
family and friends has far greater consequences because a white society can offer Black Lesbians no comfort.

Most established Lesbian and Gay Organisations are predominantly white, male and Racist. The opportunities for Black Lesbians to organise to fight their oppression are, therefore, considerably less. The level of support, for such organisation, is very minimal and can only be found in a few areas - usually large, well-resourced cities, e.g. London - The Camden Lesbian Centre and Black Lesbian Group.

Because of white Racism, Black Lesbians are more likely to receive poor education resulting in unemployment or low paid jobs; to have low self esteem; to have bad housing; to be dependent on a Racist state system; are less likely to know their rights and are more likely to be picked on
by the police and end up in prison.

Disabled Lesbians

Disabled Lesbians are in a particularly distressing situation for a number of reasons. Firstly, the society we live in is cruelly Ableist with little, if any, awareness or understanding of the reality or the
concept of Disability. Secondly, Disabled Lesbians are often reliant upon a wide range of support and assistance to be able to function on a day to day basis. Both of these facts make it extremely hazardous for a Disabled Lesbian to try to assert her sexuality without risking the loss of her support system.

Lesbians with hidden disabilities (e.g. epilepsy, cancer, sight loss, agoraphobia, hearing loss, etc) need the courage to verbalise their Disability in a society which is generally unreceptive and unsympathetic to Lesbians and Disability.

Asserting your Lesbianism in such circumstances is a daunting task. In an environment of Lesbian hatred Disabled Lesbians risk losing vital support within the heterosexual community which goes some way to
catering for the needs of the Disabled. Most local authority venues are not Accessible. And even where there is Access, unenlightened attitudes prevent the proper use of the facilities. For example, the most likely venue for Lesbians in Leicester, the Women's Centre, failed, on enquiry by a Disabled Lesbian, to offer any suggestions concerning transport to the Centre. This Lesbian subsequently had to use premises that involved her climbing up at least twelve steps to the local Gayline Coffee Bar, having been transported there by an able-bodied member of the group.

Lesbian Mothers

There are many older Lesbians who, after years of marriage and bringing up a family, come out as Lesbian. These women, in particular, are frightened to be openly Lesbian because the courts say that, as
Lesbians, they are unfit to bring up their children and mostly give custody to the father (even though the father may be violent, drink, etc). If Lesbians do get custody of their children, they live in constant fear that they will be removed at anytime if they do not adhere strictly to the conditions of the court. This serves to terribly restrict the lives of Lesbian Mothers.

Some Lesbians remain in their marriages until their children have grown up before leaving their matrimonial homes. Others are forced, through economic dependence and societal pressure to remain with their husbands.

Old Lesbians

Older Lesbians are less likely than their gay male counterparts to have money, therefore, they have less choice if they become physically/mentally frail in old age. The ratio of old women far exceeds men
and it increases with age. Old Lesbians, especially when they become dependent on others, are particularly vulnerable in a Heterosexist society. All Old women are hated and those who refuse to conform, i.e. Lesbians, will experience terrible ostracism and abuse if they do not 'appreciate' the services provided for the elderly which are notoriously conservative (status quo).

While the successes of the Women's Liberation Movement and some of the Lesbian projects, such as Lesbian Lines, have enabled more and more Lesbians to find - albeit limited - safe places to be themselves, there are many Lesbians of middle years (40 +) and Old Lesbians (60 +) who
have been passed by, and left very isolated. Ageism and Sexism have decreed that middle-aged and older women are both sexually unattractive and socially boring, and as a result such women are often less confident than young women: such oppressive attitudes redouble the pressure in middle aged and older Lesbians, leaving them excluded from social networks. Noisy, smokey discos and packed venues are, in any case, less likely to appeal to the aged group of women not attuned to huge levels of amplification, or for women with mobility Disabilities.

Young Lesbians

We live in an Ageist society which dis-empowers young and old people. As females, Young Lesbians are particularly vulnerable in a hostile society. It is not uncommon for Young Lesbians to be disbelieved about
their Lesbian sexuality. Lack of power and prevailing stereotypes of females make it easy for adults to disbelieve and intimidate Young Lesbians from expressing their sexuality.

Research and experience (Lesbians and Housing in Leicester; Young Lesbian Group) shows that Young Lesbians are thrown out of their parental homes and suffer harassment from their parents because of
their sexuality. This is happening at a time when Young Lesbians are coming to terms with their sexuality and most in need of support. Often Young Lesbians are introduced to the 'gay scene[ via the local gay pub
or club which makes them immediately vulnerable to alcohol and other drug abuse, and, added to the problems of living in a Heterosexist society, in turn often leads to depression and suicide attempts.
In America (there are no similar studies in Britain) it has been estimated that 2,000 Lesbian/gay teenagers kill themselves each year. The London Gay Teenage Group's "Something To Tell You," (1984) revealed
that one in five of the teenagers who took part in the survey had attempted suicide.

Working Class Lesbians

Working Class Lesbians are educated (by parents, peer group, school and society) to have low opinions about themselves, not to have any confidence and not to be ambitious. Although more books about Lesbianism are being written and becoming available in some libraries, if these books are academic then they would not be accessible to many Working Class Lesbians: being able to understand that you are oppressed because of the Lesbian hating society in which you live can give you confidence and self respect whereas believing that 'there is something wrong with you' does little for self esteem. This means that Working Class Lesbians are more likely to be stressed and, in turn, be more susceptible to stress related illnesses, depression, drink and drug problems. This is especially the case because whilst many middle class Lesbians socialise at dinner parties, often Working Class Lesbians find their support and meet other Lesbians in gay pubs and clubs.

Like all women, Working Class Lesbians are brought up to be mothers and wives and are, therefore, not encouraged to develop skills which would enable self-sufficiency. Invariably, therefore, Working Class Lesbians are unemployed and are more likely to be poor, have bad housing and rely on the state stystem; they are more likely to be intimidated in 'official' situations and less likely to know their rights; they are
more likely to end up in prison. Because of their situation, bad diet, and often smoking, Working Class Lesbians are more likely to be ill and become Disabled. There are fewer escape routes (from their oppression as Lesbians) for Working Class Lesbians who are, therefore, more likely to turn their oppression inwards and abuse themselves, particularly as they have little self respect.

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The disclosures in this report illustrate the ways in which Lesbians suffer as a result of living in a Heterosexist society - a society which regards heterosexuality as normal and Lesbianism as abnormal. Such disclosures are not meant to reinforce the negative stereotypes which prevail about Lesbians, although we recognise the risks involved. However, it is our belief that until the details of Lesbian experience are made visible to the authorities, the plight of Lesbians will not improve.

There is wholesale ignorance by authorities regarding Lesbian oppression and how this manifests itself in the lack of services they provide for Lesbians. This omission represents discrimination against Lesbians on a huge scale.

BACKGROUND

In Leicester alone there are approximately 14,000 Lesbians (1988 Hite Report - one of a number of sources - suggests that 11% of the population are Lesbian). The main problem facing Lesbians is one of
isolation: we are made invisible by society and by ourselves. Lesbian Information Service was created out of this recognition and through a variety of needs and experiences.

LEICESTER CITY COUNCIL CONSULTATIONS WITH LESBIAN AND GAY COMMUNITY

Along with other members of the Lesbian Group at the Women's Centre the founders of L.I.S., namely Jan Foster and Sandra Lucille, were extensively involved in the consultations between Leicester City Council and the Lesbian and Gay Community in 1986/87. As part of the L.C.C. consultations we put forward various recommendations, e.g. Heterosexism awareness training for all LCC staff, freedom for Lesbians and gays to be out at work, procedures for cases of discrimination on grounds of sexuality.

Funding for various activities including social events, music sessions, self-defence courses, assertion training, residential courses, books, videos, etc; and two full-time counsellors were argued for in Lesbian-
only meetings. We submitted a paper outlining the need for Lesbian counsellors to the Chair of the Equal Opportunities Committee. None of this was implemented.

INVOLVEMENT WITH LESBIAN GROUP AT LEICESTER WOMEN'S CENTRE

The founder members of L.I.S. were involved in the Lesbian Group at Leicester Women's Centre for some nine months, 1986-1987, during which time the need for an alternative venue to the local 'gay scene', i.e. pubs and clubs, was confirmed: when the group had been established and
before its demise, there were, on average, an attendance of over twenty Lesbians per week. The monthly disco, run by the Lesbian Group, attracted about 150 women, most of whom were Lesbian and came from
Leicester. Whilst the local Lesbian Newsletter, which was set up in January 1987, was distributed freely (from funding raised by the Lesbian Group disco), some 80 copies were being sent to Lesbians in and around Leicester, and the number was increasing. The Lesbian Group at the Women's Centre was the only activity in Leicester specifically for Lesbians. However, due to anti-Lesbianism at the Women's Centre the founder members of L.I.S. left the Lesbian Group (and set up a Lesbian Coffee Bar at Gayline).

The anti-Lesbianism experienced at the Women's Centre is documented in a twenty-page report. The form it took included: lack of support for the Lesbian Group, i.e. lack of access and limited access both to the Centre and to equipment as well as the Lesbian Group being rubbished by members of the collective at various collective meetings. In particular a special meeting, which had been called on January 10th 1987, not only refused to discuss Homophobia (which had been identified as a problem) but it was alleged, by a white, middle-class Lesbian, that the Lesbian Group only consisted of "white middle class Lesbians" and, as such, was invalid. This was not, in fact, the case. Although in common with most
activities in our Racist society few Black Lesbians were involved , of the twenty or so members, only about three were "middle class.") A Lesbian member of the collective, vehemently opposed to the Lesbian
Group, had taken the trouble to analyse the attendance numbers as a means of discrediting the Lesbian Group on the basis of low attendance, i.e. the regular attendance was 20.7 and only 8.5 average in December 1986. It is important to clarify that most of the complaints about the Lesbian Group came from white, "middle-class" Lesbians who do not campaign around their sexuality in a Lesbian-only context.

At this meeting the subject of the criteria for funding for the Women's Centre was raised during which the City Council Project Officer said that when the Centre was assessed for refunding, as far as the authority
was concerned, "Lesbians don't count!" This was despite the fact that Leicester City Council had, at that time, an equal opportunities policy which included Lesbians. The careless interpretation of funding crite-
ria at this stage compounded the attack on the Lesbian Group and exposed the anti-Lesbianism both of Leicester City Council and the Women's Centre.

The Lesbian Group at the Women's Centre collapsed not long after this, as did the regular discos, which meant that the Lesbian Newsletter could no longer be distributed free. Subsequently the only activities
specifically for Lesbians in Leicester, at this time, were those set up by Lesbian Information Service, partly assisted by a L.C.C. Community Fund grant, at Gayline coffee bar.

Imagine what the situation might have been like if both the Women's Centre and Leicester City Council had supported the Lesbian Group and built on its success?

ACTIVITIES

LESBIAN COFFEE BAR

Gayline opened its coffee bar in June 1987, which had been decorated by Lesbians from the Women's Centre Lesbian Group. L.I.S. proposed to run this on Tuesday evenings to coincide with the line being run by Lesbians. The Lesbian Coffee Bar was open every Tuesday from then onwards and attracted a constant attendance of around ten Lesbians; on occasions there were over twenty Lesbians. Two Disabled Lesbians
regularly attended the coffee bar, despite the poor access. The Lesbian Coffee Bar was used by some Lesbian gayliners to bring Lesbian befriendings to; it was intended that the new Lesbian Line would use it for this purpose also.

One of the facilities provided by L.I.S. at the Coffee Bar was a Lesbian Library. There were about forty books available, most of which belong to L.I.S., both fiction and non-fiction. This facility was very
popular.

The Lesbian Coffee Bar went some way to meeting its objectives, namely,

- providing a focal point for communication;

- increasing the visibility of Lesbians;

- providing an alternative to the gay scene;

- providing a place which is open to all Lesbians; (this was not fully met due to bad access of the venue.)

- generating discussion and dialogue;

- generating positive activity to combat oppression; and

- promoting understanding between Lesbians.

The Lesbian Coffee Bar also served to make visible the multiple problems Lesbians experience. For example, loneliness, isolation, abuse, alcohol related problems, homelessness, depression, suicide attempts, harassment from neighbours, anxiety about being a 'deviant', tension and fear in relation to family and work i.e. the constant need to tell family about sexuality but fearing rejection, attitudes of colleagues at work, Ableism and abuse which Disabled Lesbians are subjected to, poor services provided by the local authority, agencies, institutions, G.P.'s, etc. All problems created by the Heterosexist society in which we live. The anti-feminist and anti-autonomous-Lesbian attitudes prevalent at Gayline eventually destroyed the Lesbian Coffee Bar.

YOUNG LESBIAN GROUP

This group had been running at Gayline on Thursday evenings since L.I.S. set it up in September 1987 until January 1988, after which we met at the office of L.I.S. and then the Castle Rooms (local authority
neighbourhood centre).

Briefly, the activities included getting to know each other; building up trust; music; deciding what the group wants; publicity; challenging the myths about Lesbianism; a trip to the opening of the Nottingham
Lesbian Centre; looking at the need for a Young Lesbian Group; watching the video 'the Colour Purple'; examining discrimination; and informal discussions based on The Lesbian Relationship Handbook. The group was a forum for the discussion of Young Lesbians' personal experiences and provided a permanent and regular method of support. A residential was held at the end of March for four days.

The group met its objectives, namely,

- to have the opportunity of making new friendships;

- to have the opportunity of experiencing an alternative to the commercial gay scene;

- to examine Lesbian relationships;

- to improve communication skills;

- to improve self confidence and self respect;

- to improve decision-making skills;

- to be better able to deal with harassment and discrimination; and

- to provide an opportunity for relieving anxiety built up due to daily harassment at work and at home.

The following are some of the responses made by members about the Young Lesbian Group: "You don't have to drink!" "Lesbian experiences are different to gay men, also, I would't feel able to talk about some
things in a mixed group." "Safe - can say things in this group couldn't say in others." "Enjoy coming here - something to do and meeting and getting to know other women - wouldn't know as many in an ordinary youth club." "Not a good atmosphere at Dover - feel safe here." "It's good for women to be on their own." "Men are domineering." "We can talk about how we have handled similar problems." "We have friendship and support of group members outside of the group, i.e. you can phone if you
have problems." "Safety in numbers when out." "We can be open about being a Lesbian."

Members of the group received support outside of the meeting. In particular, in relation to homelessness and parental harassment. After visiting hostels to ascertain their suitability we tried to get one member a place in the women only hostel but our attempts were not successful. This young woman has since had to leave Leicester to live in Leeds where she was offered accommodation. We liaised with Women's Aid in order to provide safe housing for another member of the group who was forced to leave home because of systematic verbal and physical abuse from her parents due to her sexuality. We have since been able to
help this young Lesbian to acquire a flat and are currently supporting her through this extremely traumatic time.

An article by the Young Lesbian Group, about the needs for a Young Lesbian Group, appeared in the Leicester City Council Play Leaders' newsletter which goes to all Leicester City Council play leader
sessional workers. The Young Lesbian Group was dogged by anti-Feminist and anti-Lesbian-only attitudes and the Young Lesbians involved did well to resist the taunts and accusations of "divisiveness."

LESBIANS AND PHOBIAS GROUP

The group met from August to December 1987. There had been five members (plus facilitator) and the age range was from 16 years to 51 years. The aims of the group were:

- to support each other;

- to get ourselves better;

- to be positive;

- to meet other phobics and make new friends.

The meetings were divided into two parts, half to share experiences and problems, the other half to look at the structure of the group, the idea being that the facilitator would be able to leave the group after
enabling it to facilitate itself. Sessions included:

. getting to know each other and building up trust;
. agreeing a contract;
. looking at what the group wants;
. defining self-help groups;
. discussing the advantages of self-help groups;
. exploring our different experiences and thereby gaining insight into our anxiety.

The group ran for ten weeks and achieved some of the aims for the duration of its existence. Due to the pressure of work this group had to cease. It was felt that being in an all Lesbian group enabled the
members to freely discuss their sexuality and the problems of living in a Heterosexist society. Eighty per cent of the participants had suffered sexual and physical abuse when they were children by male
members of the family. Using structured exercises enabled members to examine their lives and phobias in depth in a friendly and safe environment.

The most important aspect of this group is that because it was an all Lesbian group, members were able to get beyond seeing Lesbianism as the problem - traditional medical opinions still regard Lesbianism as an
illness in itself.

LESBIAN LINE

Lesbians are different from gay men. We might share the oppression of living in a Heterosexist society and are categorised as "the same" by the authorities but there our similarities end. We also live in a
Sexist society: there are many social groups and activities for gay men in Leicester whilst there are none/very few for Lesbians. Even when services are provided for the 'gay community[ in effect this means men. Gayline is no exception. Evidence shows that Lesbians are more likely to contact a Lesbian Line than a Gayline. Indeed, one of our befriendings said that although she knew about Gayline it was not until she saw the Lesbian Line advertised in the Leicester Link that she felt able to telephone. Furthermore, our experience of working with the different groups showed that a Lesbian Line was a crucial link in any attempt to provide facilities for Lesbians.

The Line was open on Wednesdays 7.30 - 9.30 p.m. There were five volunteers. It was acknowledged that it would take time for women to get to know about and utilise the Line. However, we had hoped to
support new Lesbians with one-to-one befriendings followed by introduction to the support group (Coffee Bar) and, where appropriate, other groups, e.g. the Young Lesbian Group. We had planned to establish
separate self-help groups, e.g. Lesbians and Alcohol, when there were sufficient women interested. The Line was forced to close, just as it was becoming established, because the funding application to Leicester
City Council was refused on the grounds that the Line was not recreational. Refusal to publicise the Line in the Leicester City Council free paper "Link" for four months meant that the Line was slow taking off.

LESBIANS AND HOUSING

As our involvement with Lesbians had shown, housing/homelessness was a big problem facing Lesbians. Because of this we became involved with the Lesbian and Gay Housing Group but it was apparent that the needs of Lesbians were, yet again, being ignored. We decided to try and set up a separate Lesbian Housing Group and were very pleased when we were approached by the Women and Homelessness Project Worker. The worker had identified, through research, the need for a Lesbian hostel but required more evidence. She asked L.I.S. to produce a report on the needs of Lesbians and housing. L.I.S. conducted a pilot study involving eighteen Lesbians and produced a 45-page report, which examines some of
the effects of living in a Heterosexist society which makes Lesbians especially vulnerable and in need of supported accommodation. It contains the complete findings of a survey as well as five case studies,
recordings of visits to local hostels to ascertain their suitability for Lesbians, and a list of ecommendations.

There are examples of harassment, ranging from one Lesbian having her house daubed with the word "Lesbian"; to neighbours cross-questioning one Lesbian's children about their "sleeping arrangements;" to examples of Heterosexism facing Lesbians who live in hostel accommodation. Perhaps the most shocking example of Homophobia to be found in the report relates to a Disabled Lesbian who was forced to leave her partner's house where she had lived for twelve years because the Disablement Officer "neglected" to tell her about certain grants available to adapt the house. (How many heterosexual couples would be
forced to live separately because one of them was Disabled?)

The Report has received attention in various Housing Publications and a review has appeared in "Inside Housing". There have been requests for copies from "Care Weekly" and CHAR, as well as from over fourty housing agencies up and down the country. The Report was submitted to Leicester City Council Housing Department, the Women's Equality Unit, and to "our" MP. However, we never received any response.

We applied to Leicester City Council for funding, in December 1987, to produce an awareness pack for all housing organisations in Leicester but had no response whatsoever, not even an acknowledgement of our
application.

We have taken part in a video on Women and Homelessness produced by the Leicester Urban Studies Centre.

AMENDMENT 28 (now Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1986)

In December 1987 L.I.S. contacted the Women's Equality Unit and the Women's Centre to enquire what they were doing about Clause 28. They were doing nothing. When we had compiled information about the Clause to send out to Lesbians in Leicester we were refused permission to photocopy this at the City Council. We eventually photocopied the material at the Women's Centre and distributed it to about 80 Lesbians in Leicester. After the first meeting at Gayline a group of Lesbians from the Lesbian Coffee Bar lobbied the Labour Group and delivered information.

At the second meeting at Gayline, which was attended by about eight Lesbians, most of the time was taken up discussing the demonstration in London. We talked about whether the campaign should be women-only. Although quite a few of the women present wanted a women only coach, one woman, who said she was organising a coach for the Labour Lesbian and Gay Group, said we should consider a mixed coach if there were not enough women to fill one coach. Somehow it was agreed that we would book two coaches, only one of which would be women-only!

Fifteen Lesbians attended the third meeting at Gayline (this was meant to be at the Town Hall but, due to anti-Lesbianism, we had problems booking it). After discussing the London demonstration, the lack of
take up of tickets for the coaches, and the City Council refusing to underwrite losses, there was discussion about the campaign being women-only and it was unanimously agreed that the campaign would be Lesbian-only. It was agreed that information about a fourth meeting, to be held in the Town Hall, would be circulated to as many Lesbians as possible.

Thirty Lesbians attended the meeting in the Town Hall, but only a handful of these had attended the previous meetings. This meeting was sabotaged by a Lesbian worker from the Women's Centre, a Gayline Lesbian collective member and a member of the Labour Campaign for Lesbian and
Gay Rights, who took over the meeting and criticised those Lesbians who wanted a Lesbian-only campaign as being divisive. They set up a mixed co-ordinating group and asked for volunteers. The meeting ended in disruption.

A group of Lesbians later met to look at the future possibility of a Lesbian-only campaign. It was agreed that information be sent out to interested Lesbians and that the next meeting in the Town Hall should
go ahead as planned. However, only six Lesbians turned up for the meeting and it was cancelled. There is no longer a Lesbian-only campaign in Leicester, only a mixed campaign run from the Women's Centre.

L.I.S. have spoken on Radio Leicester about the possible affects of the Clause and, with a Lesbian couple, have appeared on Central Television, to highlight the plight of Lesbians with children - the focus demanded by the television company.

L.I.S. will continue to oppose the effects of Section 28, as a Lesbian organisation, in whatever way it possibly can.

WOMEN'S EQUALITY UNIT - VISIT AUGUST 1987

L.I.S. visited the Women's Equality Unit to see what it was doing for Lesbians. The head of the Unit told LIS that she had been instructed, by the Leader of the City Council, not to get involved in any Lesbian
issues. The Unit's in-service training did not include Heterosexism awareness although Disability and Racism awareness were covered. The head of the Unit explained that the Unit was tightly controlled by the politicians - men. She appeared completely oblivious of the collusion of the Women's Unit in the oppression of Lesbians.

Following our visit, the Women's Equality Unit subscribed to "LISN", prior to this there was no Lesbian content or visibility in the Unit. They subsequently asked us to compile a Lesbian book list; we do not
know whether any Lesbian books have been added to their library.

We later complained to the Chief Executive about an advert for a new post in the Women's Unit because Lesbians had just been 'tagged on.' We received a reply saying that the Women's Equality Unit would be reassessing their work plan for the coming year. (Does this mean that Lesbians will be on their work programme? - We doubt it very much.)

L.I.S. was involved in some Lesbian awareness training for the Recreation and Arts Department, at a pre-training session for the Council's "Day's Step Forward" training day for all women employees in the
Department. Following our Lesbian imput a number of women employees refused to attend the "Day's Step Forward", because the issue of discrimination against Lesbians had been raised.

PUBLICITY

As well as having articles in the Leicester Mercury, L.I.S. have appeared on both of the local radio stations and articles about L.I.S. and about issues of concern for Lesbians regularly appear in the
Leicester Rights Centre Bulletin, which has a circulation of over 1,000. Posters distributed throughout the city to the local authority Neighbourhood Centres, etc., are taken down or are written on and destroyed.
The local authority free paper "Link" resisted publicising any LIS activities and never did understand that "more than one Lesbian group existed."

PROBLEMS ENCOUNTERED

We have had to face a variety of problems, all of which we consider to be anti-Lesbianism and, in the face of so much opposition, it is amazing that we have achieved so much.

VENUES: The obvious venue for Lesbian activities, namely the Women's Centre, is anti-Lesbian. They made a range of excuses for their victimisation of Lesbians and the Lesbian Group and achieved what they
intended: the destruction of a developing, supportive, visible, Lesbian group.

Gayline: The following are reasons why LIS stopped using these premises: It is anti-feminist and anti- autonomous-Lesbian activities, which revealed itself when we set up the Lesbian-only Coffee Bar and extended to the Young Lesbian Group. No access - indeed two Lesbians who are Disabled, had great difficulties in climbing the stairs. Ineffective heating. It was not appropriate, because of constant interruptions, for the Lesbians and Phobias Group to meet at Gayline so we met in each other's homes - the relaxed, friendly, homely atmosphere helped the group to work.

LIS asked permission to use the unemployed young peoples' centre, B1, for the Young Lesbian Group, after a worker there suggested this, but were refused by the management committee. We also tried to use L.C.C. premises but this did not work out because of major alteration work on the building and inquisitive, drunken, male staff.

TRANSPORT: We needed transport for various activities, for example, collecting and returning home Disabled Lesbians, residentials for the Young Lesbian Group, visits, etc. We, therefore, applied for affiliation to Community Transport on November 10th 1987.

After various refusals by the management committee to affiliate L.I.S. and unsuccessful interventions by the Women's Equality Officer, a local councillor - who is a member of Community Transport's Management Committee - confirmed that the committee was being anti-Lesbian. Four months later we handed the matter over to Leicester City Council but, to our knowledge, nothing was done about the Lesbian-hating attitudes of Community Transport management committee.

FUNDING: L.I.S. was awarded £1,000 which has been used for a variety of activities (see accounts sheet at end of report) although the sum applied for was nearly £5,000. The Young Lesbian Group was awarded £529, despite the fact that we applied for almost double that amount. This has been taken up paying for the workers and transportation with a small amount left for the residential. In our original funding application we asked for funding not only for the on-going group (sessional workers) but also for a residential. Because the grant was insufficient to cover the residential we asked for further funding and were awarded £35.

L.C.C. now have a policy of only funding special projects and not sessions for on-going groups. (n.b. Lesbians are not eligible for Inner Area Programme funding because central government do not regard us as a disadvantaged group).

The problems we have experienced when applying for funding, and the rejection of funding for the Lesbian Line - which is an essential step in providing facilities for Lesbians - have led us to believe that
Leicester City Council do not want to fund separate Lesbian activities.

Indeed, Leicester City Council have recently changed their criteria for funding groups from the Community Fund: at one time Lesbians were named as disadvantaged group; this is no longer the case, although they continue to deny there has been any change!

PUBLICITY/CONTACT: It was crucial that information about all the groups (and the Lesbian Line number) was publicised. Information was sent to different organisations asking them to display/distribute it via their mailing lists. These included Leicester City Council, Leicestershire County Council (Education and Social Services), L.C.V.S., Area Health Authority, Leicester Polytechnic and University. As far as we know the information was circulated by Social Services, Recreation and Arts
Department (some Neighbourhood Centre Managers refused to display it and other Centres have had it torn down), and by LCVS.

Details were circulated to various publications, e.g. "Gay Life", "Spare Rib", "LISN" and local gay publications. Information was also put out on the 'Care Line' of Leicester Sound.

The most important method of publicity is, however, Leicester Link. After various visits to the Link office (the information took four months to be included) we made a complaint to the Chair of the Equal
Opportunities Committee whereupon it appeared in the next issue. Although the Lesbian Line, Coffee Bar and Phobia Group were publicised, the Young Lesbian Group never appeared in the LINK. We also tried outreach work to contact young Lesbians, and visited various agencies, for example, the After-Care Team and a number of hostels but did not have any response from these organisations.

We believe that the above problems are due to anti-Lesbianism. It is surprising that we have been able to achieve so much: imagine what might have been achieved had our work been supported, or even not
actively resisted?

CONCLUSION

ANTI-LESBIANISM

The level of discrimination outlined in this report that we, as individual Lesbians and as a Lesbian organisation, experienced and the discrimination experienced by all those Lesbians that we have been
involved with over the past year or so, is only possible because there are no laws covering the rights of Lesbians. Leicester City Council clearly exploits this situation, as do most local authorities and
voluntary organisations.

Our experience shows that anti-Lesbianism is rife in Leicester, which is political. If Leicester City Council really believes in equal opportunities for all then these incidents must be tackled rather than brushed under the carpet or refered to as "sour grapes" (Councillor Maggie Stagg, Leicester Sound, 18th July 1988). The lack of 'political will' in relation to Lesbian needs made it impossible to establish activities for Lesbians in Leicester. What services are Leicester City Council offering for its 14,000 Lesbians, apart from services which are geared entirely towards heterosexuals?

NEEDS OF LESBIANS

Our experience, as outlined in this Report and in the Lesbians and Housing in Leicester Report, shows, quite clearly, that there are many isolated, lonely, depressed, and some suicidal, Lesbians in Leicester.
We believe, because of our invisibility, that this is only the tip of the iceberg. In our opinion the needs of Lesbians in Leicester are:

1. Recognition by the local authority that Lesbians are oppressed (this is fundamental).

2. A Lesbian hostel and adequately trained workers who are Lesbians and who are aware of the effects of oppression. Plus access to safe housing (see Housing Report).

3. A Lesbian house to accommodate various Lesbian groups mentioned below. Full-time Lesbian development workers to set up and facilitate the different groups.

4. A professional Lesbian counselling service.

5. A Lesbian Line and various groups including a Young Lesbian Group.

6. Adequate funding for the above and courses for Lesbians to include an examination of internalised oppression, self defence, etc.

7. Well publicised, on-going, socials, various social/cultural groups for Lesbians at all Women's Centres and Neighbourhood Centres.

Leicester City Council should, if they are committed to equal opportunities, show their commitment by tackling Heterosexism and implementing the above recommendations.

Finally, it should be remembered that it was Leicester City Council who initiated the consultations with the Lesbian and gay community about the services they provide. Leciester City Council stopped those consultations and have done nothing to improve their services since. Because of the increasing demands of our local activities and because of the conflicts involved in relating to a local authority which is blatantly anti-Lesbian, we decided to withdraw and concentrate solely on the Newsletter as the best means of fighting Lesbian oppression.

JANET B. BRIDGET & SANDRA LUCILLE

L.I.S. (L.C.C. FUNDING) EXPENDITURE AND INCOME FOR THE PERIOD 6TH JULY 1987 TO
6TH JULY 1988.


INCOME   EXPENDITURE

L.C.C. grant (L.I.S.) 987.43   Sessions: Phobia Group 57.12
L.C.C. grant (Y.L.G.) 529.00 Young Lesbian Group 588.08
L.C.C. grant (Res) 35.00   Residential (YLG) 144.03
    Lesbian Line 267.88
    Running costs 139.30
  Stationery 85.29
    Equipment 120.10
    Books 54.28
    Bank Charges 26.88
    Petty Cash 50.00
    Introductory Social Event 17.57
    Unaccountable .90

TOTAL £1551.43 TOTAL   £1551.43

LESBIAN INFORMATION SERVICE
JULY 1988


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