LESBIAN INFORMATION SERVICE
ANNUAL REPORT
1993-1994

AIM

The aim of the organisation is to support lesbians and combat discrimination.

OBJECTIVES

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.

METHODS

We will achieve our aim and objectives by various methods, including:

- providing a helpline for young lesbians;

- providing an enquiry and referral service;

- conducting research;

- setting up a research library;

- writing articles;

- producing publications;

- conducting training; and

- working with young lesbians.

BACKGROUND

Lsbian Information Service was established in July 1987 by Jan Foster, with the help of the government's Enterprise Allowance Scheme. Later that year, Sandra Lucille joined as a volunteer. L.I.S. is jointly organised, on a voluntary basis, by Jan Bridget (ex Foster) and Sandra Lucille; other lesbian volunteers are involved with L.I.S. projects from time-to-time.

1987-1988

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.

1988-1989

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.

1989-1990

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.

1990-1991

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 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 and the Working With Young Lesbian Resource List.

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.

1991-1992

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 - we utilised the research documents acquired, to produce 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 interviewed three more young lesbians for the research project and 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.

It was also during this period that we conducted a major campaign 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 and she was allowed out of prison after serving nine months of a six year sentence. For further details see our fifth Annual Report.

1992-1993

July 1992 to June 1993 was a period of consolidation and development for LYSIS through the helpline and correspondence, counselling individual young lesbians, introduction of an affiliation scheme, liaising with statutory services and voluntary organisations and taking part in the Queen's 40th 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 which, due to increased publicy, incurred significantly more enquiries, we extended our publications to include the Lesbians and Housing Pack, the Young Lesbian Vox Pop Report, and a Lesbians and Alcohol Resource List.

We have added a further four, in-depth, interviews to the young lesbian research project, bringing the total to twenty, and had another data-search conducted at the John Rylands University Library and proceeded to acquire copies of research documents.

We also initiated the Lesbians and Alcohol Project (LAP) after acquiring our first, significant, funding (£7,500) from the Alcohol Education and Research Council to produce two booklets about lesbians and alcohol.

Workshops/lectures were given at the national MIND Conference (lesbians, gays and mental health); 4th National Lesbian & Gay Health Conference (young lesbians, suicide and alcohol); North West Regional Women & Alcohol Conference and Drugs, Alcohol and Women Network (lesbians and alcohol). Homophobia awareness training was also conducted at Manchester University and NACRO Housing (North West). For further information see our sixth Annual Report.

1993-1994
OVERVIEW

This was a significant year in many respects, not least because Jan's Repetitive Strain Injury returned, leaving her unable to use the computer or conduct training for several months but also, because of family bereavement, Sandra was away in Leicester a good part of the year. We had a tremendous amount of support from friends and relatives, for which we are extremely grateful. Nevertheless, 1993-94 was a very successful year from the point of view of publicity, which meant we had a major increase in enquiries from young lesbians, older lesbians, agencies, the media and students.

We were able to complete and publish the report "Treatment of Lesbians with Alcohol Problems in Alcohol Services in North West England," and acquired a lot of publicity for the same, including television and radio appearances. Other publications included several Resource Lists (Education; Health Care; Old Lesbians; Coming Out and Identity Development; Mental Health and Therapy; and Relationships) as well as Annual Reports for 1991-92 and 1992-93.

LYSIS was invited to send a representative to join the National Youth Agency's 'Electoral College' for organisations working with girls and young women, a result of which is that we launched a campaign to encourage the NYA to set up a similar College for organisations who work with lesbian and gay youth. We also took part in the campaign to reduce the age of consent for gay men.

LYSIS

Pen-Pal Scheme/Correspondence Service/Helpline

The number of young lesbians we are supporting has increased significantly over the last year (see Enquiries and Referrals).

The Pen-Pal Network is now in full swing to help support isolated young lesbians who contact us. We have already put many young lesbians in contact with each other. Some young lesbians are either too shy to write to another young lesbian straight away, or require 'counselling by correspondence' and Sandra is in regular contact with a number of young lesbians from all over Britain for this purpose. We have found that often young lesbians are very frightened of even speaking on the telephone via the LYSIS HELPLINE and writing is the first step which leads onto speaking on the telephone, to having a pen-friend, to making contact with a local group where she can gain support to eventually attend the group. Sometimes when we know of a young lesbian who is already a member of a group, we ask her if she will befriend a new young lesbian to help her to attend.

Although we want to encourage the development of young lesbian groups there is often a great deal of work to be done before a young lesbian feels able to attend. In order to meet the needs of all young lesbians, whatever stage they are at, this kind of 'distance support' will be an ongoing supplement to any successful group.

Individual Support

We have given, and are giving, more intensive support to a number of young lesbians from around the country, including two Asian young lesbians and a twelve-year old young lesbian. The issues involved include: a violent parental response to their lesbianism; sexual abuse; anorexia; suicide attempts and other mental health problems; discrimination at school and coming out. We are continuing our advocacy role for one young lesbian who has been in prison.

Counselling

We continued to provide face-to-face counselling for a few, local, young lesbians. At one point we were supporting six local young lesbians and met several times as a group. We contacted both Calderdale and Rochdale Youth Services for funding to continue and expand the Group but neither could offer financial support.

Electoral College

LYSIS was invited to apply to join the National Youth Agency's Electoral College for organisations working with girls and young women. At the first meeting Jan attended she recommended the establishment of an Electoral College for organisations working with lesbian and gay youth (see Campaigns) as well as pointing out several instances of homophobia and the omission of young lesbians from the priority work list for the following year (young gay men were included; young lesbians have since been added).

Affiliation Scheme

To encourage affiliations we introduced:
        
        *NEW ADVICE LINE! Please ring 0706.817235 between 9.30 a.m. and 5.30 p.m. Monday to Friday concerning any aspect of the development of your work with young lesbians. When you call, please say you are an Affiliate and ask for the Advice Line.
        
        *ACCESS TO OUR INFORMATION SERVICE which comprises a comprehensive range of information and research material concerning lesbian and gay issues. We have over six years experience working exclusively on lesbian issues.
        
        *DISCOUNT ON ORDERS OF PUBLICATIONS: 10% discount on orders up to £20, 20% on orders over £20. Please state you are an Affiliate.

        *PRIORITY when ordering publications with despatch guaranteed on the same day (subject to availability).

Affiliation Rates
   
Local authorities and national organisations: £40.00        
Funded regional and local voluntary organisations: £30.00 Unfunded voluntary organisations and individuals: £20.00         

New Affiliations

Save The Children Fund; Youthreach Bradford; Out This Week (BBC Radio 5); Shades City Centre Project Manchester; Bolton Young Lesbian and Bi-sexual Womens Group; Rossendale Youth & Community Service; Kirklees Community Development Service. EXCHANGE: with the National Youth Agency 'Young People Now'.

ENQUIRIES AND REFERRALS

Correspondence

We have received a total of 662 letters/items during this period, which is an increase of 314 on 1992-1993. The break-down is as follows:

282 Agencies, including youth service, health service, education service, counselling services, etc. This is up 54 from last year.

229 Young lesbians (a significant rise by 167 over last year).

68 Older lesbians, which is 29 more than 1992-1993.

36 Students

33 Media

13 Other, including administration, etc.

Telephone

We have received/made about 1672 telephone calls during this period which is broken down into the following categories:-

410 Young lesbians (106 more)
368 Agencies (107 more)
181 Older lesbians (48 more)
169 Media
124 Training
116 Administration
96 Silent calls
87 Lesbians and Alcohol Project
23 Students
20 Book
13 Parents of lesbians
12 Young gay men
11 Supervision
10 Funding
9 Rude
9 Publications
6 Vox Pop
6 Transsexuals
1 Student placement
1 Husband of lesbian

PUBLICITY/MEDIA

Information about LIS/LYSIS has appeared in:- Looks, British Youth Council Bulletin, Times Education Supplement, Best, Me, Chat, National Youth Agency Policy Up-Date, Halifax Courier. An article about LIS appeared in Young People Now and LYSIS has been included in several young peoples' information guides around the country, as well as many Information Shops. (See Appendix A)

We have also appeared on Radio Lancashire, Radio GMR, Radio 5 Live, Radio 4 and BBC TV North West.

Through the publicity in popular teenage magazines we are receiving an increasing number of letters and 'phone calls from young lesbians all over the country. We know that the work we are already doing with young lesbians represents the 'tip of the iceberg'. The level of responses we are now getting confirms our belief (see Enquiries and Referrals).

PUBLICATIONS

The following Resource Lists were up-dated: Lesbians, Gays & Social Work; Lesbians Who Are Mothers; and Parents of Lesbians and Gays.

We produced the following new/amended publications during this period:

YOUNG LESBIAN COMING OUT PACK

This pack has been updated and enlarged. It has two prices, one for young lesbians (£2.50) and one for organisations/agencies (£5.00). The Pack now includes an excellent adapted chapter from Terry Sanderson's book "Assertively Gay: how to develop gay self-esteem." Terry has given us permission to include this in the Pack and expressed his support of our work. The Pack is extremely popular with young lesbians and workers alike, providing support and information about the difficult process of coming out for a young lesbian.

LESBIANS, GAYS AND EDUCATION RESOURCE LIST (1994), £5 (plus 64p p&p), 44 pages.

Education is one of the five main institutions which perpetuates homophobia, the other four being religion, law, the media and the family. The effects of homophobia on lesbian and gay youth include a higher risk for depression, suicide, HIV infection (gay men), alcohol & drug abuse, truancy and school drop out, homelessness and prostitution, running away from home, relationship problems, misuse and exploitation by lesbian and gay adults, promiscuity and unwanted pregnancies. The government is sending out mixed messages. On the one hand, under Health of the Nation, they say they want to reduce suicides, teenage pregnancies and HIV infection yet the Department for Education, in particular the Minister for Education, Mr. Patton, insists that children be taught that homosexuality is less than heterosexuality. There has been little research in this country compared to over 20 years of research in the U.S.A. The Resource List makes this research known and highlights several school projects. It also includes book lists and useful addresses.

LESBIANS AND HEALTH CARE: RESOURCE LIST (1994), £2, (plus 31p p&p), 13 pages.

This List includes abstracts, mainly from the U.S.A., concerning lesbians and AIDS/STD'S; lesbians and health care in general including articles which outline the needs and experiences of lesbians and health care, as well as homophobia within the system. There are also references to articles about lesbians who are disabled and a book list.

OLD LESBIANS: RESOURCE LIST (1994), £2, (plus 31p p&p), 13 pages.

Includes Pensioner's Link Report on Old Lesbians featured in the Lesbians and Housing Pack which contrasts sharply with the brief report of the U.S. Old Lesbians Conference, which is also included. There are also abstracts from U.S. research which gives some idea of what the needs of old lesbians are and what sort of projects exist in the U.S.A. There is also a booklist.

LESBIANS, COMING OUT AND IDENTITY DEVELOPMENT - RESOURCE LIST (1993), £3.25, (plus 39p p&p), 25 pages.

Coming out and developing a positive lesbian identity can sometimes take years but is crucial for emotional well-being. There has been much research carried out in the USA which helps us to understand the process and identifies the issues involved. The List contains a brief introduction to the subject and abstracts of 48 articles as well as references to books, and helpful telephone numbers and addresses. The List will be useful for individual lesbians, counsellors and parents of lesbians.

LESBIANS, MENTAL HEALTH AND THERAPY - RESOURCE LIST (1993), £4 (plus 46p p&p), 32 pages.

Mental health has long been used to incarcerate and oppress lesbians: for centuries we have been told that we are mentally ill. Despite the removal of homosexuality from the World Health Organisation classified list of illnesses, (it was de-medicalised by the American Psychiatric Association in 1973) there are still many people who believe lesbianism to be a sickness. Lesbians are oppressed as women and as homosexuals. We experience sexism and homophobia and internalise the negative images which abound about both women and homosexuals. This results in low self esteem and consequently depression or other emotional illnesses or alcohol/drug misuse or both. Lesbians are invisible and isolated which usually results in our concerns being ignored. This List makes these issues visible. It contains references and abstracts of over 100 articles about lesbians and mental health/therapy (most from the USA). The List will be extremely useful for all mental health professionals as well as lesbians.

LESBIAN RELATIONSHIPS RESOURCE LIST (1993), £2.50 (plus 31p p&p), 17 pages.

As lesbians living in a homophobic society we are not taught relationship skills. We do not have the legal back-up of marriage nor - in many cases - the acceptance of families. This puts tremendous strain on our relationships. The Lesbian Relationship Resource List identifies several research articles on this topic as well as a booklist. This List will be useful for lesbians and for counsellors alike.

TREATMENT OF LESBIANS WITH ALCOHOL PROBLEMS IN ALCOHOL SERVICES IN NORTH WEST ENGLAND (1994), £6 (plus 46p p&p), 40 pages.

About one-third of lesbians have serious drink problems; lesbians also have special problems achieving sobriety. This has systematically been ignored and played down by both the Alcohol Field and by the 'Lesbian Community.' Funded by the Alcohol Education and Research Council, "Treatment of Lesbians with Alcohol Problems in Alcohol Services in North West England" gives the results of a ground-breaking survey, and reveals disturbing levels of homophobia and ignorance. Utilising previous research, the author puts forward ideas as to why lesbians are especially vulnerable to alcohol misuse and what can be done to prevent this. It is hoped the document will not only put the issue of lesbians and alcohol firmly on the agenda but that it will help Alcohol Treatment Agencies to make their services accessible to lesbians with drink problems. It is also hoped that the Report will assist lesbians who have drink problems in achieving sobriety.

Judy Davison, a feminist academic researching alcohol, says of the Report: "I think it is an excellent, thorough piece of work with many, many new concepts and thoughts. I think it is a very valuable contribution to alcohol studies - and would be pleased to be quoted on that any time! ... I really enjoy your perspectives on Lesbianism and oppression, socialisation and all that, plus your constant acknowledgement of multi-oppressions which is refreshingly genuine ... I am very impressed by your work, your knowledge and your critical evaluation."

"Treatment of Lesbians with Alcohol Problems in Alcohol Services in North West England" is a must for all those working in the alcohol or drugs field, those who are interested in the effects of oppression and especially those working with young lesbians, as well as lesbians who have a drink problem and want to understand more about it.

L.I.S. ANNUAL REPORT 1991-1992 (1994), £2.50 (plus 39p p&p), 18 pages.

Includes aim and objectives of the organisation, background prior to 1991, enquiry and referral statistics; funding applications; the launch of LYSIS; publicity; publications; research up-date; and a brief outline of the Jenny Saunders Campaign, as well as the accounts for this period and the accounts for the Jenny Saunders Campaign Fund.

L.I.S. ANNUAL REVIEW 1992-1993 (1994), £5.50 (plus 64p p&p), 52 pages.

Gives a more in-depth review of our work over this period. Includes: aim, objectives, methodology; background up to 1992; LYSIS: research findings, affiliation scheme, publicity, enquiries, launch of Working With Lesbian and Gay Youth Resource List and supportive letters, liaison with agencies, Vox Pop, the Queen's 40th Anniversary Challenge, funding; L.I.S.: enquiries and referrals, publicity/media, conferences/training, research up-date, liaison with other agencies, volunteers, equipment, funding, Lesbians and Alcohol Project (LAP), counselling, and several articles on the Youth Service, Lesbian and Gay Youth, Lesbians and Alcohol, and An Alternative Response to the 'Gay Gene' Discovery.

CONFERENCES/TRAINING

TRAINING

We are deeply concerned that groups are being set up and run by people who have had no training in working with lesbian and gay youth and have little/no knowledge about the specific issues involved in this work. All too often groups are set up to fail. The intentions may be good but the results are usually more frustration for young lesbians - because their needs are not being met - and, in some cases, consequences can be disastrous.

Currently there is no professional training for work with lesbian and gay youth; at least none that is sufficiently comprehensive. We consider this is one of our objectives for the future: to develop a training course for all those who work with young people including, youth workers, nurses, doctors, social workers, teachers, probation officers, advice workers, etc.

Schools Out, Wigan

We were approached by one of the participants on the Manchester University course to develop a two-day anti-discriminatory training programme as an introduction to a longer course on out-of-school play care in Wigan. We worked alongside two black colleagues to expand our multi-oppression approach to homophobia to include sexism, racism, classism and ableism. The two days were very successful and rewarding. Comments from participants included:-

"It's been very good and enjoyable and it has educated and brought awareness; Really enjoyed it; I have learnt a lot and enjoyed it immensely; Wonderful! I have really enjoyed and learnt a lot thanks;
(I was able to make) links between oppressions; Thought was aware but learnt more; Opened eyes, looking forward to rest of training; Different views, making you think; Surprised to learn about things not thought about."

Lancashire Youth & Community Service - Rossendale

Despite a poor turn out, and the lack of an overhead projector, a very successful training day was held in Rossendale. Comments from the participants included:-

"Brilliant - all training should be this positive, and informative and personally challenging of the brain - makes you think more and be more aware. Excellent! Thought it was really good - trainers excellent, approachable, given me renewed enthusiasm; Yes, the training was good - moved along did not get bogged down - the participation was good; I hope that I still have this positive feeling on Tuesday when I go into the youth group; Enjoyable - interesting - learnt a lot; Very professional and although not agreeing with every point most enjoyable and instructive. Many thanks; Excellent hand-out pack to take away. Thank you; Wish there was more time; Trainers enthusiastic, safe environment, really enjoyed it; Fast moving/excellent; It should have been made compulsory."

Manchester University/5th Lesbian and Gay Health Conference

Because of Jan's RSI returning we had to cancel the training planned for Manchester University and the Lesbian and Gay Health Conference at Oxford in November.

CONFERENCES

Leeds FFLAG (Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays)

Jan gave a successful input on homophobia awareness at the FFLAG conference in Leeds.

Trust for the Study of Adolescence (TSA)

Jan gave an input entitled "Young, Female and Homosexual" at the first national one-day conference on lesbian and gay youth organised by the TSA in London. The conference seemed to be successful with about 80 people taking part and it is hoped that a similar event will take place next year.

Trust for the Study of Adolescence (TSA)

Having commented to the Trust that there should be a workshop about lesbian and gay youth and suicide at their national one-day conference on youth and suicide, Jan was invited to take part. There was a disappointing number of participants who attended the session but feedback suggested that it was well worthwhile.

RESEARCH

Students and the Media

We receive many requests for information from students and journalists conducting research, usually they do not even include a stamped, addressed, envelope. Because of the growing number of requests, and the time it takes to deal with them, we have agreed the following charges:

£5 basic charge for providing a special subject print-out plus 50p for each page. We have arrived at this amount by working out the time taken and the cost involved in the whole research process. Obviously if the needs of researchers can be met by our Publications List, then charges are as stated.

When we receive enquiries from young people (a growing number) carrying out projects at school and college, we send what information we can free.

We were visited by several researchers concerning issues about lesbians and alcohol and lesbians and housing.

Research Articles

We have almost completed acquisition of research articles identified in the data search conducted at Manchester University. This information is included in the various Resource Lists we publish - the idea being to encourage research and provision in this country - as well as in our own research and other publications.

Book for Cassell

Jan signed a contract with Cassell to write a book, entitled "Growing Up Lesbian," utilising our research. It was due to be published in 1995 as part of Cassell's Lesbian and Gay Studies List. We have now conducted in-depth interviews with 20 lesbians, 17 being aged below 25 years.

As a result of the amount of computer work Jan has done for LIS, she developed Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). After acupuncture this seemed to improve but, in October 1993, it came back with a vengence, making it impossible for Jan to use her right arm for several months. We were forced to cancel several engagements, as well as withdrawing from the contract for the book: it is impossible to be specific about a deadline for writing a book. It is hoped that Jan will be able to write the book in the future. Because of the RSI we made enquiries about health and safety in the office and acquired a book on RSI as well as several new pieces of equipment, e.g. a timer to check the amount of time spent on the computer, a foot rest, a new chair and an ioniser for the office.

See, also, Lesbians and Alcohol Project and Publications.

LIAISON WITH OTHER AGENCIES/AUTHORITIES

Calderdale Youth Service

We have held several meetings with youth workers and the Principal Youth Officer of Calderdale Youth Service to initiate a Young Lesbian Group. We contacted the Halifax M.P. and held a meeting with a local councillor who was supportive. However, little progress has been made, apart from the inclusion of the LYSIS helpline in a local young person's information book and Calderdale offering use of Youth Service premises for the Group to meet.

Rochdale Youth Service

At one point we were supporting four young lesbians from the Rochdale area. We held a meeting with the Youth Officer, to encourage Rochdale Youth Service to set up a lesbian/lesbian and gay youth group. We followed this up with telephone calls and letters but, to date, we have not heard anything.

Shropshire Youth Service

We met the Deputy County Youth Officer of Shropshire who planned a second visit with some youth workers but this never happened. Shropshire were interested in training, and a substantial number of our publications were acquired.

National Youth Agency (NYA)

We assisted Laura Read of the NYA by reading and commenting on a draft booklet about relationships. A representative from LYSIS was invited to join the electoral college for organisations working with girls and young women and an article about LIS appeared in the January 1994 issue of Young People Now (see, Appendix A and Campaigns).

Save The Children Fund (STCF)

STCF are producing a series of publications called "Spotlight" aimed at helping youth workers to introduce certain issues into their work. So far there has been a Spotlight on Families and another on Disability. In the Families Spotlight lesbian and gay youth were omitted; yet it is in the family that lesbian and gay youth grow up and the reaction of families that is crucial for their well-being. We wrote to complain. As a result, Jan was invited to work with Peter White (the writer of Spotlight) to produce one specifically about lesbian and gay youth. To date, however, nothing has happened about this project, despite repeated telephone calls.

Manchester University Community Work Course

We were consulted with regard to the Community Work Course's anti-oppressive policy.

Rossendale Youth & Community Service

We were consulted by workers from Rossendale Youth & Community Service, following a hugely successful Homophobia Awareness training day, on how best to develop homophobia awareness issues. (See Conference & Training).

Bradford Youthreach

A successful meeting was held with a worker from the Bradford Youthreach team.

Good Practice in Mental Health (GPMH)

We were approached by a worker from GPMH for a special women and mental health project. No doubt because we are the only national lesbian organisation outside of London (and there aren't many there!), we featured in their pack Women and Mental Health (see Appendix B). As a result of this BASW (British Association of Social Workers) worked with GPMH to organise a conference in June in London. We were invited to give a workshop but, because of the rail strike, were unable to attend.

Health of the Nation

As a result of liaising with national MIND and giving a presentation at their 1992 national conference, we sent MIND statistics and research concerning lesbian and gay youth and suicide. MIND submitted a report to Government and included our information. Last November Government published a booklet "Sometimes I think I can't go on any more..." as part of the Health of the Nation campaign to reduce suicides in which, for the first time, Government have publicly acknowledged that lesbian and gay youth are a high risk for suicide.

Referrals

We continue to receive referrals and requests for information from the Samaritans and Citizen's Advice Bureaux from around the country and an increasing number from the many new Youth Advice Shops.

VOLUNTEERS

We would like to take this opportunity to thank Angela, who not only helped out in the office during this period but also with the Rossendale training event.

FUNDING

Alcohol Education and Research Council (AERC)

We were unsuccessful in acquiring further funding to complete the Lesbians and Alcohol Project but are waiting to hear from the AERC in regard to a studentship for Jan to complete LAP as part of a further degree. We are optimistic because we were told that the Council were pleased with the survey report and that they support the Project.

Mental Health Foundation

In 1991 we applied to the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) - along with about 60 other applications - for funding to complete stage III of the research project into the needs of young lesbians. As with the other applications, we were unsuccessful. However, the climate appears to be more sympathetic now and, probably due to the work we have done in raising awareness about young lesbians and suicide, we were encouraged to apply to the Projects Panel of the MHF for funding to support our work. We decided to apply for monies to develop LYSIS. Appendix C contains extracts from our funding application. We are waiting to hear from the Foundation but are optimistic because we feel that we submitted a good application supported by two very good references.

LESBIANS AND ALCOHOL PROJECT

Responses to the Survey of North West Alcohol Treatment Agencies were computerised and analysed. We were delighted to complete the Report of the survey and publish it under the title: "Treatment of Lesbians with Alcohol Problems in Alcohol Services in North West England" (See Publications).

As a result of our press release, Jan appeared on BBC North West television, Radio 5 and Radio GMR; there was also a follow-up article in the Manchester Evening News, we also acquired publicity in several other publications (see Appendix ).

Another researcher, Elaine Creith, has completed her survey of lesbians (mainly from Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds and London - 326 respondents in all). She will be publishing her findings soon but, basically, her findings confirm early U.S. research that 37% of lesbians have serious drink problems.

Jan held a successful meeting with a representative from the Alcohol Education and Research Council and we were encouraged to submit a request for further funding to complete the Project (to pay Jan to do the work as the previous application only covered printing and publicity costs). If successful, as well as producing the booklets on lesbians and alcohol, we were going to develop a Homophobia Awareness Training Pack (from a multi-oppression perspective - based on our training programme) for use by alcohol and other agencies. The person who met Jan was unable to attend the December meeting of the AERC with the result that our application was turned down, although the AERC were impressed by our Report and wished to continue to support LAP. We have therefore asked the AERC to fund Jan to complete the Project as part of a further degree; meanwhile LAP has been put on hold.

CAMPAIGNS

Trust for the Study of Adolescence (TSA)

In 1992 we complained to the Trust for the Study of Adolescence for leaving lesbian and gay youth out of a conference on adolescent sexuality. A year later the Trust contacted LIS to run a workshop at a conference specifically about the needs of lesbian and gay youth. We agreed to run a workshop (see Conference/Training) but also suggested that work with lesbian and gay youth should be incorporated into all relevant conferences. For example, there was to be a conference on youth suicide, as lesbian and gay youth make up approximately 30% of youth suicide it was clear that there should be a workshop on this issue. The Trust agreed and invited LIS to run such a workshop.

Age of Consent

We wrote to the Home Secretary and several MPs regarding reduction of the the age of consent for gay men to 16 years. We also sent research information to some MPs and to Stonewall. We lobbied our local MP (with limited success as he only voted for a reduction to 18 years). We wrote an article (see Appendix E) and submitted it to several newspapers as well as distributing it to several, influential, people. The Bishop of Bath & Wells was one of these people. We received the following response:

"Thank you for your letter. The House of Bishops' publication 'Issues in Human Sexuality' sets out quite clearly what our view is of homosexual relationships. In the debate we are having in society at the moment we are discussing the necessary legal boundaries which have to be appropriate to the whole of society and not just Christians.

It is my belief that people who can vote and fight for their country should also be able to decide about their own sexuality, but I disagree with the BMA that people have a clear orientation by the time they are sixteen.

I am sorry I can't answer your letter more personally, but the level of correspondence has made that impossible...."

(See, also, Appendix A).

National Youth Agency

We have consistently communicated with the National Youth Agency with regard to work with lesbian and gay youth. We were critical of the way they organised Vox Pop (a project to give young people across Britain the opportunity of voicing issues which concern them), as they did not pursue any outreach work with young lesbians or young gay men to ensure their participation.

At the end of 1993 NYA produced a revised "Heterosexism and Work with Young Lesbians and Gay Men Reading List" (.50p). This was a tremendous improvement on the previous list and we wrote to congratulate them.

We believe that the National Youth Agency (along with Youth Clubs UK) should be encouraging statutory and voluntary youth services to make appropriate provision for lesbian and gay youth.

To our surprise Jan was invited to represent LYSIS on the NYA's Electoral College for organisations working with girls and young women. There are nine such colleges, the others are: organisations working with young black people, organisations working with disabled people, local community based young volunteers organisations, youth organisations defined by faith and creed, uniformed youth organisations, young people's advice and counselling organisations, non-aligned youth organisations, and councils for voluntary youth services. There is no college for organisations working with lesbian and gay youth.

At her first meeting Jan suggested that such a college be established. She was told that this point was made at the first meeting of the electoral colleges (some three years ago). The girls and young women's college agreed that the representative should make this suggestion at the next Executive Council meeting. We received the notes from this meeting and discovered that no suggestion was made. On enquiry we were informed that the suggestion was going to be put to the October Council meeting which was a special meeting to review the college system. Jan has said that she would be happy to present a paper to this meeting regarding the need for a college for organisations working with lesbian and gay youth.

We were recently sent a copy of the NYA's Policy Up-date which is sent to Principal Youth Officers around the country. Whilst much of the piece about the Age of Consent was very good, we were critical of the document for two reasons:

1. The briefing says that discussion of the effects of Section 28 of the Local Government Act have been "exaggerated and speculative."

In our experience Section 28 has been hugely successful, from stopping individuals/agencies from providing support and information to stopping provision. Take the following examples:

a. Late last year we received a telephone call from a female youth worker in East Anglia. She began by saying that she knew that she was breaking the law by merely speaking to us, let alone having our poster (LYSIS helpline) in front of her...

b. Funding for our own research in Lancashire was withdrawn as a result of Section 28.

c. We are currently supporting a young lesbian. She is very isolated and we were trying to get some local support for her. We suggested she spoke to her teacher. She did this and was told that it was school policy that if any young person came up to them and said they were lesbian or gay and wanted support, they (teachers) were to say they weren't allowed to give them support and were to try and persuade them to change their minds!

d. Calderdale Youth Service produce an information booklet for young people. We complained that there was not enough information about lesbian and gay youth and were told that originally they had planned to include more information but that their legal department had said that it contravened Section 28.

e. Our recently published Lesbians, Gays and Education Resource List was advertised in an article in the Times Education Supplement (see Appendix A). It is very revealing that we have only had ten requests for the List.

These examples are merely the tip of the iceberg. Section 28 has been very successful in stopping progress, not only in schools but also in youth services. We need only look at the kind of school projects that have been happening for several years in the U.S.A. (see Education Resource List) for examples of what might be. Prior to Section 28 authorities and agencies were beginning to include lesbians and gays in their equal opportunities policies - for services as well as employment; Section 28 quickly put a stop to that.

2. The briefing also gives the impression that there are a lot of youth service groups for lesbian and gay youth. We dispute this. If there are (and the fact that we do not know about them suggests that they are very low profile) then they will invariably be gay or mixed which means that young lesbians will not be attending them. We would add the following:

a. There is only one funded full-time project, the North London Line.

b. Most lesbian and gay youth groups are run by Helplines with little or no support from local youth services.

c. Most groups operate once a week or even less.

Merseyside Friend were supposed to be producing a directory of lesbian and gay youth groups around the country although, to date, nothing has appeared. We await publication of this with interest. What is needed is a survey of the groups to find out: a. if they receive funding/support from local youth services; b. if they are mixed; c. how many young lesbians/young gay men attend; d. what sort of projects they pursue; etc.

We believe that one way forward to get work with lesbian and gay youth firmly on the youth service agenda and priority list is by the establishment of an Electoral College for organisations who work with lesbian and gay youth; such colleges take forward recommendations to the Executive Council of the National Youth Agency.

The National Youth Agency's Statement of Purpose includes:

The purpose of youth work is to redress all forms of inequality and to ensure equality of opportunity for all young people to fulfil their potential as empowered individuals and members of groups and communities and to support young people during the transition to adulthood.

Youth work offers young people opportunities which are:-

* designed to promote equality of opportunity

- through the challenging of oppressions such as racism and sexism and all those which spring from differences of culture, race, language, sexual identity, gender, disability, age, religion and class; and

- through the celebration of the diversity and strengths which arise from those differences.

Given that the NYA have included work with young gay men and young lesbians as a priority for their 1994-1995 work programme it is appropriate that they establish such a college. Appendix F contains a brief history of statements of support regarding lesbian and gay youth and the youth service.

Young Minds

As part of our campaign to get issues concerning lesbian and gay youth on the table, we wrote the following letter to The Guardian in response to an article about suicide:

RE: SUICIDES SOAR IN 'PRESSURED' YOUNG MALES

I would like to make the following points:-

It is the methods used by men which is the main reason why it appears that more men are completing suicide.

Coroners are more likely to record suicides as 'accidental' or 'open verdicts'. The most popular method chosen by men, e.g. car exhaust fumes, is a. more likely to be fatal and b. more likely to be recorded as suicide because it is more obviously suicide. The most popular method chosen by women, e.g. tablets, is a. less likely to be fatal and b. more likely to be recorded as 'accidental' or 'open verdict' because it could be more easily construed as an accident. Therefore, the different rates of suicide completion may not even reflect the true situation. It is more likely that they simply reflect the choice of method rather than a stronger intention to die. It is worth noting that a recent medical report from the U.S. concluded that death was three times more likely to occur in households possessing a firearm.

It is estimated that there are 200,000 attempted suicides each year. Whilst there appears to be as many as four times more males than females who complete suicide, there are three times more women who attempt it. In other words every year approximately 150,000 women and 50,000 men attempt suicide whilst for 1992, 3,551 men and 1,122 women completed suicide. These figures alone should raise serious questions about the differences in suicide completions, especially as there is a higher risk of suicide completion among those who have previously attempted suicide. By focusing on completed suicides the population are being deceived i.e. the problem is far greater among women - especially young women - as attempted suicide is most common amongst adolescents.

The Samaritans recognised in their report in May this year, and the government have recently acknowledged in their leaflet "Sometimes I think I can't go on anymore", that lesbian and gay youth are particularly at risk for suicide and attempted suicide. U.S. research suggests that homosexual youth are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide and that they may account for up to 30% of completions. Our research, which comprised 20 isolated, mostly young lesbians, found that 14 (70%) had attempted suicide, some five or six times, whilst the London Gay Teenage research of 1983 found 19% of the participants had attempted suicide.

If there is to be an emphasis on the number of young men who have completed suicide, then at least acknowledge that probably a third will be gay. The major reason for this is the internalisation of a stigmatised identity with little or no help from parents, statutory or voluntary agencies. The AIDS epidemic will have had a further negative effect. Of course, the age of consent is a crucial issue - not only adding to the guilt of being gay but legalising homophobia. Equity with heterosexuals and removal of Section 28 of the Local Government Act would enable agencies such as schools and the Youth Service to make appropriate support and information available to lesbian and gay youth who are an extremely vulnerable and neglected group of young people.

Signed, J. Bridget, Lesban Information Service

cc Simon Armson, The Samaritans
Liz Sayce, MIND
Peter Wilson, Young Minds
Janet Paraskeva, National Youth Agency
Andrew Saxton, Pink Paper

The letter was not published but we received the following response from the Director of Young Minds:

"...I was particularly interested in your view that the increase in suicides amongst young men maybe is as much to do with the method of suicide rather than a stronger intention than women to kill themselves or indeed their greater difficulty in expressing their feelings.

I am also struck by your drawing attention to the greater risk of suicide or attempted suicide amongst homosexual young people. I shall take note of your statistics and the reasons you give and in future contribution that I or we might make to discussions on suicide in young people."
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