LESBIAN INFORMATION SERVICE
The aim of the organisation is to support Lesbians and combat discrimination.
Our objectives are:-
* to generate understanding and discussion about Lesbian experience;
* to generate positive activities to combat oppression;
* to encourage authorities to fulfill their responsibility in supporting Lesbians;
* to increase the visibility of Lesbians - our struggles and successes;
* to identify and expose the effects of Multi-Oppression; and
* to encourage an awareness of the needs of all Lesbians, especially those who are Multi-Oppressed and isolated, in particular Young Lesbians, but also Working Class Lesbians, Black Lesbians, Minority Ethnic Lesbians, Disabled Lesbians and Old Lesbians.
We will achieve our aim and objectives by various methods, including:
- providing a helpline;
- providing an enquiry and referral service;
- conducting research;
- setting up a research library;
- writing articles;
- producing publications;
- conducting training; and
- working with Young Lesbians.
Lesbian Information Service was established in July 1987 by Jan Bridget and Sandra Lucille. It is run on a full-time voluntary basis with help from other volunteers from time-to-time.
In the first year of operation L.I.S. concentrated on local activities in Leicester. We received a grant of £1,551.43 from Leicester City Council which helped towards setting up and running a Lesbian Line, Young Lesbian Group and Lesbians with Phobias Group. We also ran a Lesbian Coffee Bar, established a local campaign against Clause 28 of the Local Government Bill, as well as expanding a local Lesbian newsletter into a national publication. An article was published about the Young Lesbian Group in a local play-leaders newsletter.
We conducted research and produced a 45-page report, "Lesbians and Housing in Leicester" which has since been sold to over 70 housing agencies throughout Britain. Details of our activities are contained within our first Annual Report which also outlines many of the problems we encountered running a local service for Lesbians.
By July 1988, with the introduction of Section 28 of the Local Government Act, support for our activities by Leicester City Council stopped. Without funding we could not continue our local work. We decided to stop these activities (but, of course, continued to support individual Lesbians) and concentrate on developing the national newsletter (Lesbian Information Service Newsletter - "LISN").
We applied for several grants, in particular to the Equal Opportunities Commission and Account 28 (a specific funding body for Lesbian and Gay organisations) but were unsuccessful. We ran a Lesbian Studies Course at Nottingham Lesbian Centre (unfunded - because of Section 28) and published a short book list, a Lesbian health booklist, and a draft Lesbian Studies Pack. We also ran a Lesbians and Health Workshop in Stoke. Articles were published in the "Leicester Rights Bulletin" and "Lesbian and Gay Socialist." "LISN" became our major source of funding during this period. Further information is available in our second Annual Report.
Due to the pressure of producing a monthly newsletter we decided to make "LISN" bi-monthly but at the same time almost doubled the content. We also changed the title to "Lesbian International," to reflect the contents and our growing international contacts. During this period we moved to Todmorden, West Yorkshire and took L.I.S. with us - at great expense as we still received no funding. "LISN" was still our main source of income for this period. We produced our last issue of "Lesbian International" in June/July 1990, after publishing for three-and-a-half years. We had produced twenty-seven issues of "LISN"/"Lesbian International" and a further six issues of the local newsletter. We continued to provide an Enquiry and Referral Service.
The direction of L.I.S. changed during this period. We began a new research project into the needs of Young Lesbians. Throughout our existence we have been aware of the vulnerability of Young Lesbians, not only through the work with the Young Lesbian Group, and on-going support of individual members, but also from the numerous desperate letters we receive from isolated Young Lesbians up and down the country. We acquired written support for the Project from various national youth agencies, including the following extract from a letter written by the General Secretary of the National Association of Young People's Counselling and Advisory Services:
"The research project you are planning to undertake into the needs of young lesbians is urgently required. Despite the abundance of material referring to the behaviour of young people from many standpoints, there is very little evidence on young lesbians and an almost total absence of any policy and provision to support them."
After months of negotiating, Lancashire County Council agreed to fund Stage I of the Project (to be conducted in a small, Lancashire, town) with the probability of partial-funding for Stage II, to cover the whole of Lancashire. This took the form of employing Jan Bridget as a part-time youth worker on a temporary contract.
Information regarding the research was publicised in a number of relevant journals and an article was published in "Young People Now." We approached Telethon to part-fund Stage II. More details of our activities for this period, as well as the indexes for "LISN"/"Lesbian International," are to be found in our third Annual Report.
The Enquiry and Referral Service continued during this period, many requests falling within four main categories: housing, isolated Lesbians, youth work and students seeking information.
We became more involved with the media: Jan had been negotiating with several television production companies and appeared briefly in a programme on Lesbians and Bereavement, discussing Young Lesbians and Suicide, for the Channel 4 series OUT. Articles about L.I.S. appeared in several journals and details about the organisation were included in various directories, including National Council for Voluntary Organisations, Everywoman's Women's Directory and the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux Directory. Details about the Research Project were included in numerous relevant newsletters.
Our publications for this period included: draft Lesbians and Housing Pack; draft Young Lesbian Pack; draft Young Lesbians: Life at 'Home', Leaving Home and Homelessness. We also published the Working With Young Lesbian Resource List, and an amended version of a U.S. booklet written by Young Lesbians called "i think i might be a lesbian ... now what do i do?" which we send free to Young Lesbians who contact us.
Training included a session for women youth workers from Lancashire on the Need to Work with Young Lesbians and Racism Awareness for Blackburn and District Well Women Centre. An input about the Research Project was given to the National Organisation for Lesbian and Gay Youth Workers.
We approached about 60 funding bodies for Stage II and III (a national survey) of the Research Project but were unsuccessful, even though we had received numerous letters of support for the Project.
Despite a front page attack by the local media and withdrawal of support from Lancashire County Council, Stage I of the Research Project was completed. This included: designing a questionnaire, contacting isolated Lesbians, conducting in-depth interviews with 13 Lesbians (ten aged 25 and below) who grew up in isolated parts of the country, mainly Lancashire, conducting an international and national search of previous research about Young Lesbians, and conducting a survey of support from local agencies.
As part of the Project a Young Lesbian Group was established. The Group ran for six months, most of this time being voluntary as we withdrew from Lancashire Youth & Community Service because of the severe restraints they were imposing. Work with the Group during this period included: establishing what participants wanted from the Group, music, coming out, health, smoking, alcohol, mothers/non-mothers; other issues raised included: housing, suicide, relationships, isolation, transport, discrimination (especially the media attack on the Research Project). Further details of the Research Project, some of the findings, and other activities can be found in our Annual Report for this period.
As a result of the research findings, and numerous calls for help from Young Lesbians, we established LYSIS (Lesbian Youth Support Information Service). This includes a special Helpline and correspondence with Young Lesbians, as well as encouraging statutory and voluntary agencies to provide support for them. Due to publicity our enquiries, both by telephone and by correspondence, increased significantly.
In order to develop LYSIS, and continue our research into the needs of Young Lesbians, we applied to several funding bodies, largely without success. However, the Save The Children Fund awarded us £1,000 to acquire a printer to improve our publications and to publicise LYSIS. We distributed a press release about LYSIS and received a fair amount of publicity.
We campaigned for greater visibility of Lesbian issues, especially around the needs of Young Lesbians, both with professional journals and with the television media but had limited success.
Our publications this year increased significantly: utilising the research documents acquired we produced a series of Resource Lists with the aim of encouraging research and awareness of Lesbian issues. These included: Black & Minority Ethnic Lesbians Resource List, Lesbians, Gays & Social Work Resource List, Parents of Lesbians Resource List, and Lesbians who are Mothers Resource List. We also published the Young Lesbian Coming Out Pack and a booklet on Homophobia.
We had searches carried out on several data-bases to identify world-wide research into Lesbian issues and began to acquire copies of the same. We established an information retrieval system to enable us to access the information and produce Resource Lists.
We conducted a major campaign, during this period, to free Jenny Saunders. Jenny, a Young Lesbian, had been imprisoned for having a relationship, when she was 16 years old, with another Young Woman who was 15 years old. We were delighted that Jenny's Appeal was successful after serving nine months of a six year sentence. For further details see our fifth Annual Report.
1992 - 1993
July 1992 to June 1993 has been a period of consolidation and development for LYSIS through the Helpline and correspondence, supporting individual Young Lesbians, liaising with statutory services and voluntary organisations and taking part in the Anniversary Challenge, the National Youth Agency's Vox Pop, and producing the Working With Lesbian and Gay Youth Resource List.
As well as continuing the enquiry and referral service and research, we have extended our publications to include the Lesbians and Housing Pack and the Young Lesbian Vox Pop Report. We also initiated the Lesbians and Alcohol Project, with funding from the Alcohol Education Research Council. It has become clear, over the years, that apart from small amounts of financial support, we are not likely to obtain substantial funding. We are, therefore, examining ways of becoming self-sufficient and towards this end we have been expanding our training programme.
Looking forward to next year, Jan has been commissioned by Cassell to write a book entitled "Growing Up Lesbian" for their new Lesbian and Gay Studies List and Sandra plans to pursue an Open University degree in psychology to develop her counselling knowledge. We hope to receive further financial support from the Alcohol Education Research Council to complete the Alcohol Project, as well as extending training. Finally, we anticipate up-dating several publications and producing new ones to include Resource Lists on the issues of Health, Education and Therapy.
Despite no funding, we have continued the research into the needs of Young Lesbians. We have now conducted in-depth interviews (lasting from 2 to 8 hours) with 20 Lesbians (all but three aged 25 and below; the majority of whom knew about their sexuality at an early age, one as early as seven years), 15 of whom come from places where there was no support for them (parts of Lancashire, Cumbria, and Yorkshire). Of the 20 Lesbians interviewed, 12 are Working Class, 3 are Black; 4 are Disabled; 8 are, or have been, Fat; 4 are mothers. The findings are shocking:-
* All but one had experienced long periods of depression.
* Fourteen had attempted suicide, 5 had contemplated it (several had tried to kill themselves 5 or 6 times).
* All but 3 used alcohol, 10 having serious problems. The majority had used illegal drugs.
* Ten had experienced sexual abuse or rape (2 experiencing both).
* Ten were unemployed, several worked in factories; only two held a professional qualification.
* The majority left school at 16, two were still at school, only one had a degree.
* Eleven had been homeless.
* Eight had been badly treated by an older Lesbian/Woman.
* One had been a prostitute.
* One had been in prison.
These were VERY ISOLATED, MULTI-OPPRESSED, Young Lesbians. But we believe this situation will be repeated elsewhere in Britain where there is no support.
Because of our research findings, backed up with the numerous letters and telephone calls from isolated Young Lesbians, we established - in early 1992 - a special project which would help us concentrate our efforts on supporting Young Lesbians - LYSIS. The purpose of LYSIS is to support Young Lesbians, make visible their experiences and establish and improve appropriate support services.
In March 1992, with the help of some of the £1,000 grant from the Save The Children Fund, we launched a second press release publicising LYSIS and the new Affiliation Scheme.
The Affiliation Scheme (Appendix A) gives organisations and individuals the opportunity to support our work. Eight adult Lesbians and three Young Lesbians have affiliated, with eighteen organisations. We thank you for your support. Organisations who have affiliated include:
Manchester Girls' Work Project; Plymouth Lesbian Network; Camden Lesbian Centre & Black Lesbian Group; Zami, Manchester Black Young Lesbian Group; Brighton Lesbian Line; Save The Children Fund (Manchester); Shropshire Lesbian & Gay Switchboard; Darwen Outreach Project (Lancashire Youth & Community Service); Swansea Lesbian Line; Doncaster Youth & Community Service; Manchester City Council Equality Group; Birmingham Settlement; East London Housing Association; National Foster Care Association; Single Homeless on Tyneside; NACRO Housing (North West); Birmingham Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Youth Group; Merseyside Youth Association.
As a result of the press release we were contacted by Tricia Kreitman, agony aunt for "Mizz" and "Chat". We sent Tricia more details and she not only donated £50 but has consistently publicised our Service. Because of this kind of publicity we are more able to reach out to isolated Young Lesbians. We would like to thank Tricia for her on-going support.
Helpline & Correspondence
During this period we have responded to 304 telephone calls from Young Lesbians throughout Britain. Most of these calls and letters are from Young Lesbians who are just coming to terms with their sexuality and many haven't spoken about it before. If they are able to receive mail, we send them a free copy of "i think i might be a lesbian ... now what do i do?" Sometimes telephone counselling can last up to an hour and we often ring back Young Lesbians who cannot afford calls. We also give them the local helpline numbers and any contacts for support groups. Unfortunately, Young Lesbian Groups are few and far between.
We received 62 letters from Young Lesbians. The following is an example of the type of letter we receive, although usually we are the first contact point.
I saw your ad about lesbian suicide in the number 10 issue of "Lesbian London" (October). I felt I had to write.
I am 19 years old and am completely new to the lesbian and gay scene. The only connection I have with other lesbians is through "GEMMA"* and as a result now have three lesbian pen-pals in my age group in my situation. I have not yet come out, don't know if I ever will.
I realised I was attracted to my own sex around the age of 9 or 10. Since then, I have been trying to deny my feelings and hoping that they would go away. Needless to say, they didn't.
I have found being a lesbian very very hard to accept. I am feminine and am attracted to feminine women. Nobody would ever guess my sexuality. I am always out at het. clubs with my friends. I have been out with lots of nice boys hoping to fall for them, also as a disguise to protect myself.
Keeping this part of myself a secret is a lot of hidden pressure. The guilt, the feelings of being abnormal, different, trying to feel otherwise etc., etc., not being able to tell anyone is awful!
As I've grown up the feelings have just become stronger. I started going through phases of depression because of my sexuality about three years ago. Although, it wasn't noticeable to others, it became too much for me to handle around August 1992. I lost all interest in going out because I was sick of acting with friends and boys, I was feeling so low all the time. I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep, I was just working and then going to sleep all the time.
As a result, I lost weight, I was so pale, withdrawn; depressed obviously, I was so run-down and washed out I just wanted to die. I wouldn't tell anybody what the problem was, people assumed it was because of a bereavement I had gone through previously. I was very moody, touchy and aggressive.
The doctor put me on anti-depressants once nightly. The week later, once nightly and three times daily. The week after that I was on dothiepen 25 mg tablets three times daily, dothiepen 75 mg tablets once nightly and 20 mg temazepan nightly.
Here I am, a 19 year old girl (18 then) on sleeping tablets and anti-depressants. I didn't know where I was. I was so confused, didn't remember getting up, didn't remember driving to work, didn't know what day it was etc., etc.
I'd had enough, I just couldn't take anymore, this wasn't living. I overdosed in work on paracetomol, anti-depressants and sleeping tablets. The nurse in charge found me in the staff room semi-conscious and I got rushed to hospital and had my stomach pumped, which wasn't a very pleasant experience. I am an auxillary nurse in a nursing home. I still have my job, I am very lucky. The staff in work were brilliant and really supportive. I'd worked there two and a half years and so we were like family.
They still don't know the underlying cause to all of this, as I've said, they think it was losing my best friends the year before. This is not so. What they don't know won't hurt them.
All I want to say is that I have really pulled myself up again thanks to GEMMA and their letters of reassurance and magazines that they have sent me. I find it hard to believe that I got so ill and depressed over this. I must have been so desperate to try and kill myself.
I am usually so full of life, outgoing, always happy and cheerful in work and am so strong usually. I'm usually the one who pulls others up in times of crisis.
This just shows what a strain being homosexual or lesbian really puts on one person. It's a heck of a battle. We really need support and help badly. I expect this is just one letter in many that you must receive daily.
Please could you send me any information or leaflets on coping with being a lesbian or anything at all really.
I would really appreciate it. Also, if you would like to use this letter in any way if it would help anyone else in the same situation. Please do so.
It has comforted me a lot just to know that the problem is recognised.
*GEMMA is an organisation for Disabled and non-Disabled Lesbians and can be contacted at: Gemma, BM Box 5700, London, WC1N 3XX.
The coming out period is a critical time for Young Lesbians when, without appropriate support, access to accurate information and positive role models, they become vulnerable to depression and suicide attempts, alcohol and drug misuse and other harmful behaviours. U.S. research has shown that with appropriate support, Young Lesbians can develop positive self esteem, confidence and skills, reducing their risk of vulnerability. These issues have yet to be taken on board by most statutory and voluntary agencies in Britain.
Working With Lesbian & Gay Youth Resource List
As a means of making important U.S. research available in this country, and to encourage both provision and research, we published the Working With Lesbian and Gay Youth Resource List. Utilising some of the money from The Save The Children grant, we had the Resource List printed at Greater Manchester CVS. In order to maximise publicity, we approached several 'famous' people to send letters of support. We were delighted with the responses which included:-
"The experiences of young lesbians and gay men are usually invisible - and their needs are not met. This resource list will help make lesbians and gay men visible and will give vital information to workers on how to recognise and meet their needs. For the first time important research evidence has been pulled together on the problems which young lesbians and gay men face in a homophobic and often very isolating culture - for many, the result is suicidal feelings and/or alcohol problems. We hope it will be widely read by teachers, youth workers, mental health staff and everyone else concerned with the well-being of young people." Liz Sayce, Policy Director, MIND and Jacky Ward-Panter, Director, North West MIND.
"Thanks for sending me ... a copy of 'Working with Lesbian and Gay Youth - Resource List'. I am sure it will provide a useful source of information for those working with young lesbians and young gay men. It is professionally produced and affordable. I know it will be useful in our own national Information Centre.
Youth work support for young lesbians and young gay men is extremely important..." Janet Paraskeva, Director, National Youth Agency.
"Information is the key to success for everybody, whether gay or straight, male or female, working or unemployed, old or young. That's why I'm so delighted to support this information service and all its publications. Good luck to all of you!" Claire Rayner.
"Working with Lesbian and Gay Youth is an excellent document. The brief introduction alone is both informative and a damning statement on the treatment of young gay men and lesbians in our so-called civilised society. The publication should be compulsory reading for all teachers, social workers, Christian and secular youth workers, counsellors, police officers and all who have any dealings whatsoever with youth.
My optimistic wish and desire is that it will be read, acknowledged and acted upon by all those whose task it is to make our society a less hostile environment for ALL young men and women." Austin Allen, Stonewall Postal Action Network.
"I congratulate the Lesbian Information Service on producing this very professional and informative resource list. Its introduction provides a very clear statement of the needs of Lesbian and Gay Youth. In my opinion this material could be of the greatest use in overcoming the prejudices and difficulties so many of us share. It should help us to be both more realistic and more practically compassionate." David Jenkins, Bishop of Durham.
"It's hard enough for teenagers to find a general counselling service but add the isolation and apprehension of the young homosexual and you've really got problems. Thank heavens for LIS." Tricia Kreitman, (CHAT).
"The biggest obstacles faced by lesbian and gay youths to full participation in society are those created by the attitudes of many members of our society through ignorance. The right to equal opportunity and freedom from prejudice can only be through educating the wider public. That is why I welcome publications such as the Resource List which tackles the problems faced by lesbian and gay youths and helps raise awareness." Paddy Ashdown, MP.
"Lesbian and gay young people must be one of the most neglected groups in need of society's sympathetic attention. When we are young, so many gays and lesbians live in fear of society's disapproval, often in fear of physical and verbal abuse and, of course, in fear of the law. Those in a position to help at school, at church or indeed at home, are far too often guilty of indifference or aggression.
The Lesbian Information Service is to be congratulated on identifying a specific need and providing support exactly where it is needed most. I wish a service of this type had been available when I was young." Ian McKellen.
"Save The Children is opposed to discrimination in all its forms. This Resource List provides essential information for practitioners working with young lesbians and gay men. It deserves widespread circulation." Michael Taylor, United Kingdom Director, Save The Children Fund.
We sent out a press release to over 80 relevant media and organisations but, to our dismay, received little publicity. Whenever publicity has been obtained, for example in "Young People Now" and the "Probation Journal" we have had a good response. Indeed, we recently received a telephone call from a lecturer at Bradford and Ilkley College who had borrowed a copy of the Resource List from a colleague. She said that such a publication was "long awaited" and that there was a "great deal of interest in it." Durham University and De Montfort University, who also run Youth & Community Work courses, have acquired several of our publications.
Many of the 261 telephone calls and 128 letters received from agencies during this period are requests for information or publications from Youth Services, Health Services, Education Services, Probation Services, Housing Services, etc.
We have approached several Youth Services in our area, for example, Manchester, Calderdale and Rochdale, to set up - or extend their support to - Young Lesbian Groups, but none of these have been successful. We have been more successful in Lancashire. As a result of our research a Young Lesbian Group has been set up in Darwen/Blackburn. We have supervised and supported the full-time worker as well as referring Young Lesbians to the group and counselling members of the Group. We are negotiating with Rossendale District to conduct Homophobia Awareness training with full and part-time youth workers. Training is also in the pipeline for Shropshire Youth & Community Service.
Our relationship with MIND developed to include Jan giving a joint input with Austin Allen of Stonewall Postal Action Network (SPAN) at their national conference in Bournemouth on Lesbians, Gays and Mental Health. Because of this contact, MIND included the vulnerability of Lesbian and Gay Youth to suicide in a Government report. Similarly, after initiating a letter writing campaign by SPAN, the Samaritans included information about Lesbian and Gay Youth and Suicide in their 1993 Report. We also gave a workshop on Young Lesbians, Suicide and Alcohol Misuse at the Fourth National Lesbian and Gay Health Conference in Oxford.
We have affiliated to Youth Clubs UK and hope that our relationship with them will mean that they give a higher priority to Lesbian and Gay Youth. Certainly, they have publicised the Young Lesbian Coming Out Pack and, as a result of sending information to the Merseyside Youth Association - MYA - (after reading an article about them in Youth Clubs), MYA have affiliated to LYSIS.
We were not so successful with the Trust for the Study of Adolescence. We contacted them after reading an article in "Youth Clubs" about the conference they were running on Youth Sexuality in May. The programme did not include a workshop on Lesbian and Gay Sexuality, so we offered to run one. We were told that it was too late this year and that these issues would be covered generally in the other workshops. They agreed to circulate information about the "Working With Lesbian and Gay Youth Resource List," but to date, as far as we know, we have not had any enquiries from the 100 delegates.
Our relationship with the National Youth Agency has been up and down. In the past they have published articles about the research, LYSIS and our publications and we were delighted when their features editor, Julie Middleton, came to interview us for an article about our work. We were told that the article would appear in a summer edition of "Young People Now," which would have been an appropriate way to celebrate the sixth anniversary of Lesbian Information Service. However, the article has yet to appear.
We have been critical of the National Youth Agency in relation to their initiative Vox Pop. Despite an equal opportunity statement regarding Vox Pop, the purpose of which was to give young people a voice and meet relevant M.P.s to discuss their concerns, there was no outreach work with Lesbian and Gay Groups. In spite of this we worked with the Darwen Outreach Youth Worker and held a residential when Young Lesbians from across the North West of England met and discussed issues which concerned them. None of the participants felt able to attend the London Conference. Instead, it was agreed that a report of the discussions should be written and sent, along with a questionnaire, to ascertain what support there was in the region for Young Lesbians, to the Principal Youth Officers, the National Youth Agency, Youth Clubs UK, M.P.s (Education, Youth Affairs, Health), and various media. The survey results are included in the "Young Lesbian Vox Pop Report."
In their response to our complaint, because representations by the Gay Youth Group from Liverpool had been madeat the regional conference, the National Youth Agency asserted that Lesbian and Gay issues were not as marginalised as we had suggested. However, the results of the survey suggest different: only four of the seventeen Principal Youth Officers responded and it appears that Young Lesbian Groups only exist in Lancashire and Manchester. We have since written to Janet Paraskeva, Director of the National Youth Agency, with the results of the survey, suggesting that the NYA could conduct a national survey and/or hold a conference on Work With Lesbian and Gay Youth. Ms Paraskeva responded:-
"Your suggestion of a national survey on provision is something that we may well consider in the future. We are certainly looking at whether we could add provision for lesbian and gay young people as one of the issues on which we seek information in building up our data base on youth service practice in the range of surveys we are developing as part of a national management information collection."
The BBC responded by arranging a visit to us by the Head of their Equal Opportunities Unit.
Queen's 40th Anniversary Challenge
We were delighted to be invited to take part in the Queen's 40th Anniversary Challenge, whereby voluntary projects and groups were asked to submit information about their work for evaluation as to their contribution to the community. The result of our participation is that we have been awarded a Bronze Certificate which we now proudly display, in a frame, in our office. The Certificate, signed by H.M. the Queen, states:
"This Certificate is awarded to LYSIS in recognition of the completion of a project of long term benefit to the nation in the Royal Anniversary Trusts' Challenge" and is issued by Lord Younger of Prestwick (Chairman of the Trust) and Robin Gill (Chairman of the Organisation)."
Save The Children Fund awarded us £500 towards the Young Lesbian Vox Pop.
We applied to Children In Need to establish LYSIS as an independent organisation with its own office, staff, legal and management structure but were unsuccessful. We also applied to Barclays Youth Action Awards for funding to install a separate telephone line and to train Young Lesbian volunteers for the Helpline. This was also unsuccessful.
We were also unsuccessful in acquiring financial assistance from the Village Charity who we approached to help us publish the Working With Lesbian and Gay Youth Resource List; they did, however, complement our work. We approached the North West Regional Health Authority for the same purpose but were told that it did not fall within their criteria.
Individual Young Lesbians
We have been supporting five Young Lesbians locally, one - intensely - who has been suicidal, the other is in hospital after a suicide attempt. A third, aged 17 years, contacted us after reading about LYSIS in "Chat." She has visited us several times and we continue to give her support. We have given another Young Lesbian, who lives in Nottingham, a lot of long-distance support.
Two other Young Lesbians, who paid us a visit, wrote to thank us:
"I thought I'd write you a short note just to say thanks very much for having us over last Saturday, it was really good to be able to talk things over with people who understand. We both felt a lot better after talking to you, as if we'd managed to get quite a lot off our chests. I suppose the sooner we can get everything out in the open the better we will feel, it's just a matter of waiting for a good time to do it.
We had a good look through all the stuff you gave us and found it very interesting. ...."
We have added, or up-dated, the following publications during this period:
Working With Lesbian and Gay Youth - A Resource List, 1993, £4.
There has been little research in Britain concerning Lesbian and Gay issues but there has been a lot in the U.S.A. The WORKING WITH LESBIAN AND GAY YOUTH RESOURCE LIST includes over 70 abstracts (short descriptions) of this research, all of which is available in Britain from the Library Service. The purpose of the Resource List, which is the result of work conducted over a period of three years, is to make the issues facing Lesbian and Gay Youth visible, to challenge statutory and voluntary services to stop ignoring an incredibly vulnerable group of Young people, to encourage all those who are interested in finding out more about the issues and to give ideas for appropriate support. If you are interested in reducing suicide and parasuicide, alcohol and drug misuse, homelessness and prostitution, HIV/AIDS, unwanted pregnancies, truancy and school drop out then you should have a copy of this Resource List.
Young Lesbian Vox Pop Report, 1993, £4.
As part of the National Youth Agency's initiative, Vox Pop, a group of Young Lesbians from the North West of England came together to discuss a range of issues. Young Lesbian Vox Pop Report is a record of these discussions and includes comments on: law, family, education, housing, media, social services, health service, the youth service, as well as extracts from youth service and government documents in support of work with Young Lesbians, examples of good practice and the findings of a survey of provision in the North West. We found that, outside of Lancashire and Manchester, there is little interest, and even less support, for working with Young Lesbians.
Black & Minority Ethnic Lesbians Resource List, 1993, £2.00
As well as academic papers the List includes references to articles in books and British publications, a short booklist and Black and Minority Ethnic Lesbian (and Gay) organisations. Extracts are included from papers about growing up Lesbian in a multicultural context, Lesbianism in Hong Kong, Africa, North America, Brazil; Homophobia in Black communities; individual stories; Latina Lesbians; multi-racial relationsips; mothers; Racism; equal opportunities, etc.
i think i might be a lesbian ... now what do i do? 1993, .75p each, five for £3, ten for £6.
This twelve-page pamphlet is aimed at young women who think they are, or know they are, Lesbian and want to know what to do about it. There are quotes from Young Lesbians and sections on: What does it mean to be a Lesbian? How do I know if I'm a Lesbian? Am I normal? What is it like to be Young and Lesbian? Who should I tell? What about sex? Do I have to worry about AIDS? How do we learn to like ourselves? How can I meet other Lesbians? And other useful information like Lesbian Lines, organisations, books to read, bookshops. The pamphlet was written by a Young Lesbian Group in the U.S.A. and has been adapted and reproduced with the permission of the Campaign to End Homophobia.
Lesbians and Alcohol Resource List, 1992, £2
This 32-page booklet includes an article outlining why Lesbians are vulnerable to alcohol misuse and includes 35 research abstracts (mainly U.S.A. but which are available in this country through the British Library), as well as books.
Lesbian Housing Pack, 1992, £5
The purpose of the Pack is to bring together some of the material and experiences of groups of Lesbians and Lesbians and Gays involved in housing, in order that other groups and individuals can benefit from their experiences, and to use the material to substantiate the need for special housing provision for Lesbians. Contains twelve articles, some of which have been previously published but are now difficult to get hold of, dating from 1984 to 1992.
Other publications, which are still available, include:-
Lesbians, Gays, and Social Work Resource List, 1992, £1.28
Social services in the U.S. have been supporting Lesbians and Gays in a variety of settings for years yet this rarely happens in Britain. The List includes an introduction about the need for Social Services to challenge their Homophobia and includes abstracts from research papers dating back to 1977, including: social work intervention models, Lesbian families, Homophobia, Young Lesbians and Gays, Old Lesbians and Gays, Lesbian and Gay couples, alcoholism, health care needs, parents of Lesbians and Gays, Gay Youth and AIDS, training, etc. Invaluable resource for all social work agencies.
Homophobia, 1992, .43P each, 5 for £1.36, 10 for £2.65
Reproduction of a leaflet first produced by the Campaign to End Homophobia, U.S.A. Contains description of Homophobia, including How do you recognize Homophobia in yourself and others? How does Homophobia hurt heterosexuals? What are the causes of Homophobia? Can Homophobia be cured?
Coming Out - Young Lesbian Pack, 1992, £2.50
Coming out to oneself and to other people who are important to us is a distressing and dangerous time for Young Lesbians: It is one of the most vulnerable times in a Lesbian's life when support is usually not available, especially for those Young Lesbians who do not live in cities or areas where there are Lesbian Lines and other support groups. In response to isolated Young Lesbians contacting us we have produced a Pack of information concerning coming out. The 30-page Pack includes various articles about being a Young Lesbian, the pamphlet "i think i might be a lesbian ... now what do i do?'' a booklist and individual stories by Young Lesbians from Britain, the U.S.A. and Nicaragua. Whilst reflecting some of the problems Young Lesbians face, the stories also show how resilient Young Lesbians are.
Parents of Lesbians, A Resource List, 1992, £1.28
There is much ignorance about Lesbianism in Britain. When parents are told about their daughter's Lesbianism they usually react with disgust or shock, and this is at a time when their daughter's are most vulnerable and most in need of their help. Parents, like Lesbians, go through their own process of coming to terms with this knowledge. We have produced the Resource List to help this process along, to counteract the ignorance surrounding Lesbianism, and to help parents/guardians give effective support to their Lesbian daughters. The List includes abstracts and summaries of U.S. research papers; other, less academic, articles; a book list and parents organisations.
Lesbians Who Are Mothers, A Resource List, 1991, £1.28
Hundreds of older women come out as Lesbians later in life, often after having been married and having had children. There has been a great deal of research in the U.S.A. about Lesbians who are mothers and the implications for them and their children. The Resource List makes this research accessible here in Britain and includes abstracts and summaries of research articles which can be obtained through your local library; articles from English publications, books and organisations.
Lesbians and Housing in Leicester, 1988, £5.40
This 45-page report is relevant to all housing agencies, although it deals specifically with Lesbians in Leicester. The report examines what Lesbians face living in a Heterosexist society, the effects of which make us especially vulnerable and, at times, in need of supported accommodation. The report contains the complete findings of a survey as well as five case studies, recordings of visits to local hostels and a list of recommendations.
Lesbian Information Service Annual Report, 1987 - 1988 - Local Activities, 1988, £1.50
Set in the background of our experience of participating in consultations with Leicester City Council and involvement with one of the local Women's Centres, the Report looks at the different groups LIS was involved with during this period. We outline the problems encountered and conclude with a list of recommendations for local authorities.
Our priorities for next year are to up-date the Young Lesbians Coming Out Pack and the following Resource Lists: Lesbians, Gays & Social Work, Lesbians Who Are Mothers, Parents of Lesbians.
We would also like to produce new resource lists on the following issues: education, therapy and health.
We hope to complete the Lesbians and Alcohol Project and publish two booklets, one for Lesbians, the other for alcohol workers. We also hope that the Disabled Lesbians Pack will be ready for publication next year.
ENQUIRIES AND REFERRALS
Many of our letters and telephone enquiries are from isolated Lesbians who live in rural areas, and small towns, where there is no Lesbian visibility, although we do get occasional calls from Lesbians in cities. It is difficult making contact with isolated Lesbians and one way of letting them know about our Service is to get our number publicised in women's magazines. Each time we appear in a woman's magazine we get lots of calls and letters from women who are just beginning to admit that they are Lesbian; some are terrified and we often get several 'silent' calls because the person on the other end is too frightened to talk. Many of these calls are from Young Lesbians - the youngest so far has been 13, but we also get quite a few calls from Older Lesbians, often women who knew about their sexuality when they were young and who got married and had children as a way of trying to suppress it.
During this period, due to increased publicity, telephone counselling, enquiries and correspondence increased significantly.
We received/made 1644 telephone calls, including:
304 - Young Lesbians
261 - Agencies, including Youth Services, Health Service, Education Services, Housing Agencies, Probation Services, Social Services, Voluntary Organisations, etc.
211 - Publicity/Media
162 - Alcohol Project
133 - Older Lesbians
115 - Administration
73 - Silent calls
70 - Housing
58 - Student on Placement
56 - Supervision of Youth Worker
42 - Publications
39 - Vox Pop
37 - Funding
32 - Training
21 - Conferences
20 - Students
14 - Research
3 - Parents of Lesbians
3 - Book
3 - Gay men
1 - Trans-sexual
1 - Husband of Lesbian
We received 348 letters requesting information, support, publications, including:
128 - Agencies
62 - Young Lesbians
45 - Media
32 - Alcohol
29 - Older Lesbians
23 - General, i.e. admin, etc.
11 - Suicide
7 - Conferences
6 - Students
5 - Housing.
Publicity is very important in reaching isolated Lesbians and letting authorities know about our Services. During this period details about LIS/LYSIS have appeared in the following publications:
The Pink Paper
Greater Manchester CVS Bulletin
Social Work Today
Manchester City Council Publication for Education
GLAAS (Greater London Alcohol Advisory Services) Newsletter
North West Alcohol Newsletter
Drugs Alcohol Women Network Newsletter
Young People Now
Association of Metropolitan Authorities Bulletin
Our Publications List has also been circulated to members of:
National Association of Community Volunteer Services;
National Organisation of Lesbian and Gay Youth Workers;
National Organisation of Women who work with Young Women.
Television and Radio
We have had several requests from the media, especially television, for assistance in either contacting Lesbians or for information to make programmes concerning Lesbians including, for example, BBC North West for their programme on Fostering and Adoption, and Kilroy Silk's morning programme on 'Lesbians.'
A difficulty we have with television and radio generally, is that they are very quick to come to us for assistance but when it comes to them helping us, (i.e. with publicity) this seems to be a different matter! For example, there was little response to our press release concerning the Working With Lesbian and Gay Youth Resource List, apart from Radio Leeds.
Jan took part in a Radio Leeds phone-in concerning Homosexuals in the Armed Forces (during the week when this was being hotly debated in the U.S.), Jan having been in the WRAF for six years and experiencing several 'witch-hunts.' This turned out to be a 'mini war' with Jan being subjected to a barrage of Homophobia from other 'guests,' mainly ex-senior military personnel, and callers alike. However, Edwina Curry was very supportive, and Austin Allen of SPAN (Stonewall Postal Action Network) participated towards the end of the programme in his usual positive fashion! Experiences such as these cause us to examine the value of taking part given that they are usually very time-consuming, emotionally demanding and physically exhausting occasions.
Both Jan and Sandra took part in the recording of a programme for Woman's Hour (Radio 4) about Lesbians and the Law, in particular about the Jenny Saunders Case (the young Lesbian who was imprisoned in 1991 for six years and released in June 1992 on Appeal).
Jan had a very good interview on Radio Leeds about the Resource List. In the same week that we launched the Resource List, Terry Sanderson published his "Assertively Gay, how to build gay self esteem" and was interviewed on Radio Leeds. His interview provoked a number of Homophobic responses from the public, especially around christianity; Sandra spoke at length challenging their views.
We have submitted an article about Lesbian and Gay Youth for consideration for "Young People Now."
An article on Lesbians and Alcohol has appeared in "Outlines" the newsletter for Lesbian and Gay Switchboards; and a letter from Jan was published in "Alcohol Concern."
We also submitted an article entitled "An Alternative Response to the Gay Gene Discovery" to "The Independent" but were unsuccessful; it will appear instead in the "Parents' Friend Newsletter."
The media (television, radio, newspapers, magazines, comics, advertisements) - along with education, religion, the family and law - is extremely influential in forming/reinforcing people's attitudes. All too often the only images of Lesbians and Gays in the media are negative stereotypes. Take, for example, the following list of names associated with Homosexuals which we have compiled as a result of 'brainstorming' during training:
"Lead Young People Astray; Perverts; Puff; Sick; Mentally Ill; Dyke; Lezzie; Bender; Opt Out; Not Natural; All Got AIDS; Promiscuous; Immoral; Queer; Brave; No Grandchildren; Mothers Fault; Fathers Fault; Arrested Development; Lesbians Haven't met a Real Man; Hormone Imbalance; Lesbians want to be Men; Lesbians hate children; Lesbians are afraid of childbirth; Lesbians wear male clothing; Lesbians are all truck drivers; It's a phase; Its a crime against nature; It's caused by a genetic defect; Lesbians are Ugly; Gay men are limp-wristed sissies; Obsessed with sex; Child molesters; Insanely jealous and possessive; There are no Black Lesbians and Gays; they don't live here, they only live in cities; it's a western/white disease; it's a capitalist diseases; one of them; lesley; lemon; ginger; effeminate; indecent; that way inclined; hijra; chhaka; battyman; limp-wristed; eccentric; should be shot; artistic; individual; strong; abnormal; all got AIDS; promiscuous; mother's fault; flat-heeled brigade; bent; homo's; one of those; sexual deviant; fairies; queens; dangerous; outrageous; woolly woofters; not to be trusted near children; ass poppers; shirt lifters; sex abusers; carry disease..."
Whilst there has been an increase in visibility of Homosexuals over the past few years, especially on television, it has usually been Gay men. Most of these programmes have been about 'entertainment' rather than examining oppression and issues of importance to Homosexuals. On the rare occasions there have been serious programmes, again they have been about Gay men. (Our attempts at getting a serious programme about Young Lesbians, with both Everyman and Open Space, have been unsuccessful).
The same argument is applicable, we feel, to the majority of the media, including the Gay media. It would seem that there is some sort of moratorium on any articles or programmes which deal with the effects of oppression. We can discuss the effects of oppression as it applies to other minority groups but not to Homosexuals.
Occasionally something slips through. For example "Outlines" publishing the Lesbians and Alcohol article but then "Outlines" is a newsletter for Lesbian and Gay Switchboards who tend to deal with the realities of the lives of isolated Lesbians and Gays. None of the Gay media publicised the "Working With Lesbian and Gay Youth Resource List." Why? Why does Janet Paraskeva, Director of the National Youth Agency, insist - amongst many others - that articles about Lesbian and Gay Youth must be 'positive?' Are articles about child sexual abuse, or about police Racism, or about media images of Disabled people 'positive?' Why is there a double standard?
Until we accept and understand that it is the effect of Homophobia - especially Internalised Homophobia - which makes Lesbian and Gay Youth vulnerable to depression and suicide, alcohol and drug misuse and other, self-destructive, behaviours, then we will not be able to stop this useless waste of Young lives; nor will we be able to challenge the system which perpetuates it.
One final note about the media: With the greater visibility of Homosexuals, alongside the greater pressure for Young people to be sexually active, the age at which Young Lesbians are identifying their sexuality is dropping. We are being contacted more and more by Younger Lesbians for whom support is not available.
We have run workshops/given lectures, at the following:
MIND National Conference, Bournemouth, November 24/25th, 1992
Jan ran two very successful workshops with Austin Allen of SPAN (Stonewall Postal Action Network), on Lesbians and Gays and Mental Health after which they were warmly applauded by the participants!
Fourth National Lesbian and Gay Health Conference, Oxford, November 30th, 1992
Jan ran a workshop on 'Young Lesbians Suicide and Issues of Alcohol', and Sandra ran a very popular LIS bookstall.
North West Regional Women and Health Conference, Manchester, 8th December, 1992
Jan gave the input entitled, 'Lesbians and Alcohol' and we split into two groups for discussion afterwards. Many of the participants expressed appreciation for the opportunity to speak about the usually hidden issue of Lesbians and Alcohol, although one participant attacked Jan for being 'deterministic.' We were very much aware that our presence at the conference meant that Lesbianism was visible.
DAWN A.G.M. January 1993
Jan was invited to talk about Lesbians and Alcohol at the DAWN (Drugs, Alcohol and Women Network) AGM in London. She was very well received and thanked by the Network Development Officer: "Thank you again for your excellent speech, I hope you enjoyed it as well."
We are developing a model of training around Homophobia Awareness which is based within an acknowledgement of Multi-Oppression.
Manchester University, April 1993
We have conducted Homophobia Awareness training at Manchester University - the Community Work Course - and were delighted with the participation and response of the students. Comments included:
"It was very informative."
"I thought it was an enjoyable session."
"Well planned and facilitated."
"I have found the session to be very thorough and educative, very explicit and rewarding."
"I am glad I attended this session. I am more aware of the issue and challenge more of it."
"I enjoyed todays session and got a lot from it."
"Found it really interesting and glad of the opportunity to talk about the issues in a non-threatening environment."
All of the participants said they had a better understanding of what Homophobia means and how better to challenge it in themselves and their work situations.
NACRO Housing (North West), June 1993
The training at NACRO was not as rewarding as the above. Indeed, we found it quite demoralising and discovered that a handful of the participants were particularly Homophobic which, we feel, had a negative effect on the day, and on us! Nevertheless, some of the participants felt able to comment:
"An excellent approach to the challenging of homophobia and the presentation of positive images of lesbians and gay men; thought provoking."
"It has opened up questions I did not know were there."
"Very thought provoking."
"I've enjoyed it."
Furthermore, 11 of the 14 participants said that they had a better understanding of what Homophbia means and how it occurs; 9 said that they felt better able to challenge Homophobia in themselves, (10) in others and (10) in the work situation.
- Schools Out, Wigan, September, 1993
- 5th National Lesbian & Gay Health Conference in Oxford, November 1993
- Manchester University, November 1993
- Lancashire Youth & Community Service, Rossendale, December 1993.
We have interviewed a further four Young Lesbians, bringing the total to 20. Jan is utilising the findings to write a book, commissioned by Cassell, entitled "Growing Up Lesbian." It will be published in 1995 and will take up a substantial percentage of Jan's work in the coming year.
A search was conducted in November, 1992, at the John Rylands University of Manchester Library on six data bases using the word Lesbian-s-ism over the past two years (a search having been carried out in November 1990 for the ten years previous using the words Lesbian-Young-Youth-Teenager-Adolescent, both at Manchester University and at Bradford University).
Most of the articles obtainable from the British Library for both searches have now been acquired and a computer system of retrieval set up. We have also established a system of cataloguing the articles which are contained in 52 boxes under the titles:
AIDS/STDS; Abstracts; Adolescents; Alcohol/Drugs; Attitudes; Battering; Bisexuality; Black & Minority Ethnic Lesbians; Books; Butch/Fem; Class; Community; Culture; Differences (between Lesbians and Gay men); Disability; Discrimination; Education; Employment; Feminism; Forces; Gay; Health; History; Housing; Identity; Incest/Rape; International; Isolation; Law; Local Authorities; Married Lesbians; Media; Mental Health; Mothers; Multi-Culture; Multi-Oppression; Old Lesbians; Out; Parents; Prisons; Projects; Prostitution; Relationshps; Religion; Research; Sex; Size; Social Services; Therapy; Training; Trans-sexuals; Voluntary Organisations; Youth Service.
The idea is not only to have an accessible system of retrieval for research purposes but to produce more Resource Lists to make all this useful information known about in Britain.
The second search came up with 299 titles, 131 of which were Lesbian, the remainder being Lesbian and Gay. This is a large increase over the previous search, suggesting that more Lesbians are conducting research. Virtually all of the papers are from the U.S.A. (6 are from Britain, a few from elsewhere) and include the following topics:
This gives us an idea of what sort of subjects are being researched and what are being left out.
The social work student, on placement with LIS from Lancaster University, also acquired several articles, as well as conducting further searches at Lancaster University. Most of the articles identified in the searches, which are available through the Library Service, have now been acquired and processed.
We have had several telephone and letter enquiries on a number of topics from students (and journalists) involved in research. These requests for information are very time consuming and often the enquirer does not even include a stamped, addressed, envelope. Because of this we have agreed the following charges:
£5 for initial response to enquiry plus 50p per page of any print outs of abstracts/books. We have arrived at this through working out the cost and time it has taken to acquire the information and develop our information system.
Jan wrote an article about Lesbians, Gays and Mental Health for the fourth edition of DOLAGS (Directory of Lesbian and Gay Studies). DOLAGS includes a list of researchers and research topics being pursued in Britain. It is interesting to note that our research is one of a handful which deals with social and welfare issues; most research being conducted in Britain today concern subjects such as literature, the media, etc.
Jan has met with Professor Peter Huxley and Dr Michael Kerfoot of the Department of Psychiatry, at Manchester University, who made her welcome and extended support to pursue a Ph.D. in their Department on Young Lesbians and Suicide and/or Alcohol Misuse.
Sandra is pursuing a psychology degree with the Open University.
See, also, Lesbians and Alcohol Project below.
LIAISON WITH OTHER AGENCIES
As well as the hundreds of requests for information from voluntary and statutory agencies up and down the country, we have also liaised with several agencies. (See, also, LYSIS).
Manchester Young Lesbian Group and ZAMI, Young Black Lesbian Group
We have had a close, and supportive, relationship with one of the workers at Shades City Centre Project, Manchester, who were responsible for setting up these two Groups. Jan visited the Young Lesbian Group several times and, when it seemed like the Group was going to collapse (due to lack of support), we wrote to both Manchester Youth Service and to the Shades Co-ordinator. Unfortuntely, neither Manchester Youth Service nor Shades appear to have taken any notice of our letters and telephone calls and the worker we liaised with has now left Shades.
There can be no doubt that there is a tremendous need for a properly resourced and supported project for Young Lesbians in Manchester. Manchester attracts Young Lesbians from the North West, which results in a higher proportion of the Youth population being Lesbian (and Gay). We do not feel that the appropriate voluntary and statutory agencies in Manchester have taken on the needs of Young Lesbians. There is, however, support for Young Gay men.
Between January and April we had a social work student, from Lancaster University, on placement. Never having had a student on placement before, we were unprepared for the level of work this involved. The student had the opportunity of experiencing a specialist Lesbian agency promoting work with Young Lesbians amongst government, local authority and voluntary services - and all that involves! She worked on a Lesbians and Mental Health Pack as well as doing day-to-day tasks and laying the foundations in Lancaster for a Lesbians and Mental Health Group. It has been an important learning experience for all of us!
We are, however, critical of Lancaster University who were less than helpful: they told us that we needed a qualified social worker to supervise the student but, in fact, CCETSW guidelines make it quite clear that Jan, with her Youth and Community Work Diploma and years of experience, could have done the supervision. Instead we had to find a qualified social worker. We are grateful to Lyn for fulfilling this role and for the support she gave to L.I.S. whilst the student was on placement.
CCETSW were reluctant to pay L.I.S. the monies due for having the student arguing that Lyn had only just become qualified (despite her years of experience!) None of this would have happened if Lancaster had accepted Jan's qualification (and we do not know why they didn't!)
Unfortunately, the Lesbians and Mental Health Pack was not completed; it is hoped that some of the information collected will be utilised in the Lesbians With Disabilities Pack.
In order to try and get Calderdale Youth Service to initiate a Young Lesbian Group we have held several meetings with the Youth Service. We have also contacted the Halifax M.P. and a local councillor and are meeting with the latter. We are not overly optimistic.
North West Regional Health Authority
As part of consultations regarding Health of the Nation, Jan attended a day conference at Prestwich Hospital in relation to Suicide. Information regarding our research and Services was circulated and Jan took part in the discussions. Jan felt that the conference was tokenistic towards the Voluntary Sector and that health professionals from the statutory sector had already decided what was needed and gave little attention to what the Voluntary Sector were saying.
Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM)
Whilst contacting people to support the Working With Lesbian and Gay Youth Resource List, we have built up a good relationship with Richard Kirker of the LGCM who are distributing the Resource List.
We often get requests for information on how Lesbians can get married. Marriage is illegal here but several priests are willing to perform blessing ceremonies. We are now able to refer these requests to Richard.
We have recently made contact with Trainers who have produced LEGEND, a data base of information on Lesbian and Gay trainers, conferences, resources, etc., which includes L.I.S. LEGEND was commissioned by CCETSW (Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work) with the idea to distribute it to social work agencies around the country. We have received some good support from Mike and Sue of Trainers.
We have written to the Home Secretary regarding the age of consent for Gay men. We also wrote about Homosexuals and H.M. Forces and received a reply.
We wrote to Cardinal Hume concerning the Catholic position about Homosexuality. We received a brief letter enclosing a paper by Cardinal Hume entitled "Some Observations on the Catholic Church's Teaching concerning Homosexual People."
We have had several meetings and discussions with Rank Outsiders, a support organisation for Gay ex-service personnel.
Citizens Advice Bureaux
CABs from around the country continue to contact us for information and refer clients to us.
Housing for Young Lesbians who, on coming out, are rejected by their parents, or who find living at home unbearable, is a major problem. We have links with several housing agencies around the country and have referred a number of Young Lesbians to them.
We believe that there is a major role for Social Services to play in supporting families to come to terms with their children being Homosexual.
During this period there have been, apart from Jan and Sandra who are full-time volunteers, two other volunteers: Lyn and Joy. Both have acquired research articles. Lyn acted as practice teacher for the social work student on placement and Joy is producing a Lesbians With Disabilities Pack. It was hoped that a third volunteer would produce a Battered Lesbians Pack but this has not materialised.
We have bought a paper feeder for the bubble jet printer as well as several health and safety items such as a new chair and a foot and arm rest for use with the computer - this is as a result of Jan developing Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) through too much computer work for L.I.S.
We now have a fax machine (0706.817235 - the same as our telephone number).
Funding applications for this period fall into two categories: LYSIS and Lesbians and Alcohol Project (LAP). For details of the former see LYSIS above, and for the latter see Lesbians and Alcohol Project below.
It has become clear, having been unsuccessful in acquiring substantial funding over six years and despite applying to what must now be over 100 funding bodies, that we are wasting our time trying to secure major funding. In any case, many voluntary organisations become dependent on their funding sources and are either tied by the dictates of their funding body or collapse when funding is withdrawn.
We will continue to apply for smaller, one-off, grants as is appropriate but stop applying for major funding. Instead, we must look towards areas of work that generate income to try and make LIS self sufficient. In this regard, training seems to be an appropriate avenue.
LESBIANS AND ALCOHOL PROJECT (LAP)
Our research into the needs of Young Lesbians identified several areas where more research, and support, was needed. These included: housing, depression and suicide, and alcohol and drug misuse. U.S. research confirmed the high level of alcohol misuse among Lesbians. With this information we decided to apply to Alcohol Concern for a grant to set up a Lesbians and Alcohol Project in Manchester. It seemed likely that the grant might be successful but we had to get the local authority to provide 25% of the funding necessary for the Project. Despite various attempts to acquire the support of Manchester City Council, we were unable to acquire their commitment and were forced to withdraw our application.
In July 1992 we applied to the Alcohol Education Research Council for funding (£7,425) to produce two booklets, one aimed at Lesbians, the other at Alcohol Workers. We learnt in September 1992 that our application had been successful.
The aim of the Project is to inform Lesbians, as a specific group of women, why they are vulnerable to alcohol misuse and to inform alcohol workers and projects of the specific needs of Lesbians.
The objectives are:
1. To tackle a problem hitherto being ignored by most mainstream alcohol agencies;
2. To prevent some Lesbians from becoming alcohol misusers;
3. To help some Lesbians to understand why they have become alcohol dependent which may, in turn, assist them in overcoming their dependency;
4. To help existing provision cater for Lesbians.
To achieve the aim and objectives we would produce two, accessible, booklets. The first aimed specifically at Lesbians, the second at alcohol workers. The booklets would explain, in easy language, why Lesbians are a particularly vulnerable group and what can be done to help them. Booklet A would be free to individual Lesbians (but agencies would have to pay for copies); booklet B would be sent free to agencies in the first instance.
The funding was to cover research, printing and distribution expenses, not a salary.
1. Conduct a search on data-bases to find out if any other research (apart from that which we are already aware of) has been conducted.
2. Acquire copies of such research.
3. Contact alcohol agencies who already support Lesbians for any comments on Project.
4. Consult individual Lesbians for their experiences of Alcohol problems.
5. Conduct survey of alcohol projects as to how they support Lesbians.
6. Utilise both our own, and other research, and information acquired from agencies and individual Lesbians in writing a draft version of both booklets.
7. Distribute draft versions to those agencies and individuals for comments.
8. Amend booklets.
9. Arrange for booklets to be printed.
10. Publicise booklets.
11. Distribute booklets.
12. Monitor and evaluate booklets. The booklets would include an evaluation sheet and recipients would be asked to complete and return these sheets. We would also contact both agencies and individual Lesbians after a specified period, e.g. three months, for feedback.
13. Booklets permanently available through L.I.S. publications list.
Data searches were conducted at the John Rylands University Library of Manchester and relevant research articles identified. Using the findings from these searches, and previous searches, copies of the relevant articles available through the Library Service were acquired. Altogether we identified and acquired 29 articles on Lesbians and Alcohol; a further 6 on Gay men and Alcohol and 7 books with relevant chapters about Lesbians and Alcohol. The abstracts and information about the books were computerised and the Lesbians and Alcohol Resource List produced. We have distributed several copies of the List and had some very good feedback from Alcohol Workers. Most of the articles have been read.
The information supplied for the funding application was amended and submitted as an article to Community Care, Social Work Today, British Journal of Addictions, and Alcohol Concern. Social Work Today said they were interested but were then taken over by Community Care who showed no interest. The article was adapted and later published in "Outlines" (see Appendix E).
Several alcohol agencies were contacted for their initial comments on the Project and to enquire if they would act as consultees for the draft booklet B. There was a good response from those agencies who already provide support for Lesbians with alcohol problems.
Contact was made with Elaine, a researcher who is currently working on Lesbians and Alcohol. A researcher from Manchester University has visited us and we have been contacted by another researcher from Dorset.
Several individual Lesbians were contacted at the beginning of the Project but were not interested in taking part in the Project. However, since then, other Lesbians have contacted us and have volunteered to act as consultees for booklet A.
Enquiries were made regarding a suitable printer for the booklets. Printers in Sheffield and Manchester (two) were contacted. We decided to use the Greater Manchester CVS printer for both cost and product.
We ran a workshop on Lesbians and Alcohol at the NW Regional Health Authority's Women and Alcohol Conference on December 8th 1992. Without our presence Lesbian and Alcohol issues would have been invisible. It became apparent that there was no workshop on Black Women and Alcohol; we made several attempts to find a Black Alcohol Worker to run such a workshop but were unsuccessful.
Jan was severely attacked by one of the participants as soon as she had finished giving her input. The participant complained about the 'deterministic' nature of Jan's input. An extended version of the input is available.
Jan was invited to give a speech at the Drugs Alcohol Women Network's AGM in London. This was very well received and reported in Alcohol Concern.
We devised a questionnaire based on a survey of New York Alcohol Agencies. Using the Alcohol Services Directory we telephoned 38 agencies in the North West: Cheshire, Cumbria, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, for the name of a contact person and the number of staff they employed. Altogether 314 questionnaires were distributed. The results of the Survey were computerised and we began the process of writing up the findings.
We did not anticipate the amount of time it would take to complete the Survey, analyse and write-up the results and read the articles. Neither did we expect the attack on Jan at the North West Conference, which demoralising Jan. Because of insufficient support, the Project has been put on hold.
Lancashire Youth & Community Service appointed L.I.S. to counsel Young Lesbians who contacted a newly formed Young Lesbian Group. Sandra counselled four Young Lesbians from Lancashire during the period April - July, some being face-to-face sessions but most over the telephone. Two of the Young Lesbians needed intensive support: one was just coming out and part of the counselling was supporting and enabling her to come out to her parents; the other was depressed and suicidal, having a history of suicide attempts. Another was in her 20's and married with children. She was certain of her identity and merely wanted support for the changes she needed to make in order to take responsibility for her Lesbianism. Counselling provided opportunities for discussion of individual difficulties unlikely to be tackled during the group sessions. The purpose of the counselling was to enable Young Lesbians to exercise more control over their lives. The work is on-going.
Jan Bridget & Sandra Lucille
Lesbian Information Service/
Lesbian Youth Support Information Service
LESBIAN INFORMATION SERVICE have an affiliation scheme so
that agencies and individuals can support our work.
If you want to:
1. support Lesbians, especially Young Lesbians;
2. support this important and unique Service; and
3. be kept up-to-date about our publications and research;
you can do so by joining our Affiliation Scheme. Under the
Scheme you will be entitled to:
* four mailings a year
* a copy of our annual report
* access to our advice and information service.
Local authorities and national organisations: 40.00
Funded regional and local voluntary organisations: 30.00
Unfunded voluntary organisations and individuals: 20.00
A F F I L I A T I O N F O R M
(Please use capital lettters)
NAME OF GROUP/ORGANISATION:.................................
I/we would like to affiliate to LIS and enclose a
cheque/postal order for £.... made payable to LIS. Please
return completed form and affiliation fee to:
L.I.S., P.O. BOX 8, TODMORDEN, LANCASHIRE, OL14 5TZ.
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