Aims & Objectives

The aims of LYSIS are to provide appropriate support to young lesbians, make visible their experiences and establish and improve appropriate support services in order to prevent or modify the development of maladaptive behaviours.

The objectives of LYSIS are, therefore,

1. To challenge the isolation of young lesbians.

2. To help young lesbians develop self-esteem.

3. To encourage the development of positive ways of dealing with external and internal homophobia.

4. To conduct research into the needs of young lesbians.

5. To encourage other agencies, and parents, to develop their knowledge and provide appropriate support to young lesbians.

Original Tasks

YEAR 1: August 1995 - July 1996

1. Continue level of service as it is, i.e. helpline, correspondence, referrals, etc.

2. Move office.

3. Develop a short questionnaire to ask clients to:

a. ascertain what help is needed/course of action;

b. to inform work;

c. utilise findings for annual report and LIS publications.

4. Develop LYSIS Group:

a. contact members;

b. devise training programme to include following:

        use of equipment
        preparing newsletter
        issues facing young lesbians
        use of information system
        developing a pen-pal system
5. Develop network (on computer) of supportive agencies, individuals, groups, within areas/counties/cities.

6. Develop affiliation scheme to encourage all Young Lesbian Groups and Lesbian and Gay Youth Groups to join as well as other interested groups, organisations and individuals. Possible survey of youth groups to ascertain support for young lesbians.

7. Retain level of publicity to sustain current level of enquiries.

8. Annual evaluation of service (Annual Report).

9. Personal training - skills needed and continued development of knowledge about issues.

10. Supervision.

Amended Tasks in view of shortfall in funding

1. correspondence with young lesbians nationwide;

2. provision of relevant information about lesbianism;

3. provision of local information and contacts for young lesbians;

4. on-going correspondence with young lesbians who need it - advice, support, information;

5. maintenance of the national penfriend service for young lesbians under 25 years;

6. maintenance of the national telephone helpline run on Wednesday evenings

7. establishment of a fund to cover the cost of calls when young lesbians cannot afford to pay

8. development of this work by:

        publicity - television, radio, magazines, newspapers

        making and re-affirming links with other youth organisations, voluntary and statutory and other lesbian and gay organisations

        development of a data base for easy access to local information (will need to acquire a computer)

        greater involvement of young lesbians in the project - young lesbians are currently involved in face-to-face support, letter-writing, meeting prior to attendance at groups. This could be more formalised and provision of expenses for young lesbians where appropriate.



The plan was to try and keep the Service at current levels in order that support aspects of LYSIS could be developed. In effect, as fig 1 shows, the number of young lesbians contacting LYSIS for support during this period in total increased on the previous year although this includes an increase in telephone calls and a slight decrease in letters.

Appendix A lists the various parts of Britain that the young lesbians who contacted us came from and some extracts from their letters.

The number of young lesbians taking part in the Pen-Pal Scheme (copy of flyer enclosed) has also significantly increased: there are now 150 participants. We send out a free copy of 'i think i might be a lesbian ... now what do i do?' (copy enclosed) and, with the aid of MHF funding, offer free copies of the Young Lesbian Coming Out Pack (flyer enclosed) to those who cannot afford it.

The number of agencies/workers contacting LIS/LYSIS for information increased significantly over the previous year (see fig 2); this is no doubt due to the extra publicity we have received, partly as a result of the MHF press release. A list of agencies contacting LIS/LYSIS can be found in Appendix B.

Overall, enquiries to LIS/LYSIS have increased, as fig 3 reveals.


In our original application we included funding to pay for rent for a new office and removal expenses. With the shortfall in funding we initially decided to retain the office in the home of the worker and volunteer. However, this became more and more unsatisfactory as we were trying to open up LIS/LYSIS to greater involvement of other people.

We were delighted that the local authority agreed to provide accommodation for LIS/LYSIS within their continuning education premises in Todmorden. However, this proved impossible because there was no room at the Youth & Community Centre and, whilst there was lots of 'space' within the local College, there were no rooms available.

With the help of the funding from the MHF we have been able to move LIS/LYSIS into a small, inaccessible, office in Todmorden.

On the one hand, this has created problems, for example, it is extremely difficult to counsel someone on the telephone whilst someone else is working in the office; this means that the other person usually has to stop/change what they are doing; it means that developing a volunteer programme, at the moment, is not possible; it also means that a disabled young lesbian we are supporting locally is unable to visit the office.

On the other hand, it has played a significant role in making LIS/LYSIS more accessible to non-disabled visitors and visits have increased significantly. It has also meant that we can hold the management/advisory group meetings in the office and members are able to observe our work better.

We are regarding this move as an interim one and hope, within the next year, to move into larger, accessible, premises (Todmorden College).

We have held discussions with the Partnership Officer who is in charge of Todmorden College (she is a member of our management group) and are applying for funding (Rural Development Commission) to adapt a cloakroom/ladies toilet area into an office suite. This would include a small reception area, a small room for counselling/small group work, a larger room for the office and research library as well as an accessible toilet, small store-room and kitchen; we would, of course, have easy access to classrooms for other training purposes. A chair-lift will be needed to make the suite accessible. The local authority have agreed to let us have this accommodation on a long term lease with the proviso that, in the event of them requiring us to move, they will repay any expenses incurred in the renovation. We will have to pay a peppercorn rent but without any further expenses (e.g. heating, lighting) apart from telephone expenses.


Questionnaires have been developed (see Appendix C) but, due to staff shortages, as yet, we have been unable to introduce them.


Due to the shortfall in funding it has not been possible to set up the LYSIS User Group. Because of this we have applied to several funding bodies:-

NYA: As a national organisation we did not fit into the criteria for their 'Innovative Project' funding; however, due to our involvement, they now fund lesbian and gay youth groups and it is worth noting this for local/regional groups.

Esmee Fairbairn: This seemed more appropriate for LYSIS as it was aimed at national voluntary youth agencies; the type of proposal, i.e. to bring together a group of young lesbians and work with them to devise a self-help training pack which could then be used anywhere, seemed to fit their criteria perfectly. We were not successful.

Princes Trust: Applied to the Princes Trust for £2,500 to pay towards running two residentials to set up the User Group for LYSIS. Refused. In his letter explaining why we had been refused the Deputy Director, Arwyn Thomas, said that the Prince's Trust was undergoing radical reassessment to improve their aim of "helping more disadvantaged young people." They have set up a new committee - Research & Innovation - with a move towards addressing "broader themes and issues which cause young people to become disadvantaged." He goes on to say "In keeping with our Equal Opportunities policy, we do not regard disability, ethnicity or sexuality as disadvantage in themselves." He then goes on to say that a sub-committee has considered our application and decided not to support it.

We are delighted that two young lesbians are about to join the Advisory Group.

With a small grant from the local authority we will be setting up a local Young Lesbian Group. It is hoped that members of this group will become involved in the Management Group.

We are hoping to apply to further funding bodies (in particular the National Lottery) to enable young lesbians to have a greater involvement in LYSIS.


Again, because of the shortfall in funding we have been unable to acquire a computer, software, programmes and training and, therefore, unable to conduct the survey and set up a network.

Because of this we have applied to various funding bodies:

IBM: Applied for new computer equipment, software and training, unsuccessful.

Edward Carpenter Trust: Applied for £1,000 towards acquiring new computer equipment and software. Unsuccessful.

Community Care: (LYSIS) entered competition for innovative project with cash prize which would have gone towards computer equipment; rejection.

Community Projects (Comic Relief): Applied for £3,000 for the new computer and software; rejection. Reason: too general; need to apply for funding specifically within their criteria i.e. alcohol/drugs, disability, homelessness.

Calderdale Community Foundation: We have been awarded £2,500 to run two ten x two hour session courses for people who work with young people, especially those with mental health problems, in Calderdale. It is envisaged the course will then form the basis of training for volunteers. We had hoped to be able to use this funding to acquire the computer equipment but because the MHF grant cheques have been late on each occasion we have had to utilise this money to bridge the gap and consequently have not, as yet, been able to acquire the equipment.

We had approached Save The Children for the equipment and programme but this has not materialised. In fact, STC have come up with a cost of £800 to develop the programme for the network.

When we learnt that STC would be unable to help, one of their workers volunteered to help us buy a computer locally. On receipt of the CCF grant we did, initially, acquire a computer but this turned out to be unsatisfactory and we returned it.

We also made contact with a local computer scientist/PC engineer who was going to help us acquire a new computer, develop appropriate programmes and provide training. However, he has proven unreliable and, in any case, until we can acquire further funding we cannot pursue this task further.

Nevertheless, a questionnaire for use in the survey has been developed (Appendix D).

Affiliation Scheme

We have not been able to develop the Affiliation Scheme due to shortage of staff. Currently there are 14 affiliates. These include: Lesbians Organising Together, Dublin; Salford Law Centre; North London Line; the National Children's Bureau; the National Foster Care Association; Birmingham Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Youth Group; Aberdeen University Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Society; Hillcroft College; Rossendale Youth & Community Service; Aberdeen Women's Centre; Divas/Zami, Manchester Young Lesbian Group; The Harbour Centre (Alcohol Agency), Devon.

Compiled and despatched three mailings for this period (having previously sent one out in July 1995).


We are not always aware of the amount of publicity we receive. However, the following are examples of those instances we know of.

NYA Calendar: We do not usually pay for publicity but did pay £70 for an advert to be included in the National Youth Agency's 1995-1996 calendar and were very pleased with the results: LYSIS was publicised alongside other national youth and training organisations.

BBC Northamptonshire: Sandra took part in a programme about lesbians coming out. It was an excellent programme.

Pink Paper: A journalist contacted us for information about young lesbians and gays and suicide and published a report.

Freedom Radio: In response to the article in the Pink Paper someone from Radio Freedom (London) interviewed Jan. They included an extended piece about lesbian and gay youth and suicide. This was a very good programme.

Gay Times: Terry Sanderson picked up the theme from the Freedom programme and wrote a piece for "Gay Times" (April).

Agony Hour (UK Living): The producer of this programme read the Sanderson article, contacted Jan for an interview, along with Jackie (a new member of our Advisory Group) and the programme went out on May 2nd. It was a very good piece and will be useful for training purposes.

Information about LYSIS appeared in Chat (13th April 1996), MIZZ, 3-16 July 1996), Sexperience (magazine delivered to young people in West Yorkshire) and Children, Young People and Mental Distress, Information for teachers in West Glamorgan. Lesbian Information Service is now included in the local Thomson's Directory (and we have had a few calls since) and should be going in the next local Telephone Directory.

We regularly receive requests for information from the media (see Fig 4).

Several journalists just require information; most want us to find lesbians which we are unable to do; often we refer them onto other agencies. Enquiries for this period included Kilroy Silk on lesbian battering; BBC programme on religion; BBC programme on lesbian & gay history; Granada debate on religion; Time & Place on lesbians, gays and friendships with heterosexuals; Heart of the Matter on lesbian and gay marriage. Other journalists contacted us for information for articles to be published in Community Care; The Big Issue and the Mail on Sunday.

Other calls were to check the telephone number and address to use LYSIS/LIS as a referral. These included: ITV, Dear Nick; two Radio 4 programmes including one on coming out to mom; ITV local station; Halifax Courier - health supplement for young people and a Newcastle evening newspaper.

Jan was commissioned (and earned £75 for LYSIS) to write a discussion paper for Good Practice in Mental Health pack: "Getting it Together, an information pack about ways of serving vulnerable young people with both housing and mental health support needs" (see Appendix E).

Other forms of publicity occur through presentation of workshops. During this period the following workshops were delivered:

Association of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Psychologies - UK: Jan gave a workshop on Lesbian and Gay Youth and Suicide at the second annual Lesbian, Gay & Bisexual Psychologies UK conference at Nottingham University in September. We also ran a bookstall of LIS publications and attended several of the other workshops. The majority of the participants are working in the mental health-therapy-counselling field and the conference provided an excellent opportunity to publicise the work of LYSIS and LIS; we received a very good response. It proved to be a very enjoyable and supportive experience. We were able to meet researchers we have given support/information to and networked with other researchers, in particular Adrian Coyle (Surrey University; young gay men and mental health) Ian Rivers (Luton University, lesbian and gay youth and bullying at school).

MIND Annual Conference, Blackpool: We ran a workshop, attended by 30 people, at the national MIND conference in Blackpool. Feedback was that the workshop was excellent. We attended the remainder of the conference and made contact with several lesbians and gays who work for mental health agencies as well as local MIND workers. The event helped to break our isolation. We have since been contacted by several workers.

Halifax Area Gays: An hour's talk, about homphobia and its effects on mental health, was given to the Halifax Area Gay Society in December.

Hillcroft College: Jan was delighted to be invited back to her old college to give a lecture entitled Lesbians & Multi-Oppression: Causes, Effects and Strategies for Change as part of a Lesbian Studies Module which, according to the resident lecturer, went down very well.

Eve Up North:
Jan gave a workshop (twice) at a regional Women and Mental Health conference in Leeds on Lesbian Women and Mental Health. Feedback from participants was positive.

Annual Review

The Annual Review has not yet been completed. We are currently working on a Development/Business Plan.

Personal Training

Calderdale Community Foundation are providing a course on developing a Business Plan and Jan is taking part. The aim is to produce a Plan by November but it is hoped to have produced the LIS/LYSIS plan well before then.


Initially Mavis Nevill (Calderdale MBC Youth Officer) agreed to supervise Jan. However, Mavis was replaced on the Management Group by Sue Coe (Partnership Officer, Todmorden). Chris Perring (Regional Director, Yorkshire and Humberside MIND) agreed to provide interim long distance supervision until a more local supervisor could be found. Carol Wardman (Pennine Rural Development Area Project Officer) has recently joined the Management Group and has volunteered to supervise Jan.


Until the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) awarded LIS a grant we had only been able to acquire small amounts of funding. This meant that most of the time could be spent developing services whilst little time was spent on management and administration.

However, the award of £30,000 over two years from the MHF has meant a 'catching up' exercise has had to be done. Consequently, whilst the Service has continued to function (and, indeed, demand for support has increased) a great deal of time has had to be spent on developing management and administrative structures (see Fig 5).

At the same time, due to the shortfall in funding (we originally applied for £68,000 over 3 years), much time has also been spent on applying for further funding, in particular to acquire a new computer. There has also been a problem because LIS is a small organisation and we do not have the money to be able to pay staff while waiting for the MHF cheque to arrive.

We have employed a book keeper for the accounts for both LIS and LYSIS and end of years accounts have been completed (see attached).


We now have a local management group which meets once a month. Representatives include the local council (leader of the local council), education service (Todmorden Partnership Officer), health service (health promotion - youth - officer) Pennine Rural Development (PRDA) Project Officer (who also represents the church) as well as other local people.

A national advisory group meets four times a year. Organisations represented include: Save The Children, MIND, Childline, MHF, the Samaritans. We have recently been able to invite two young lesbians to join the advisory group.

Monitoring & Evaluation

We have always included a monitoring and evaluation process: recording in-coming and out-going telephone calls in a day book, recording in-coming and out-going mail; producing quarterly mailings which analyse this information and publishing an annual report/review.

Jan attended the MHF Monitoring and Evaluation course and, as a result, has developed the attached (Appendix F) forms. However, due to staff shortages we have not been able to implement the new system.

The whole system of management and administration is being reviewed and developed alongside the Business/Development Plan.


After much discussion we have decided to apply for Trust status for LIS.

During the course of developing the Trust document discussions have concentrated on the difference between LIS and LYSIS and which should apply for Trust status. Our main concern was that once the organisation had been opened up there was the possibility that emphasis may be taken away from working with young lesbians.

LYSIS was originally set up in 1991 to give impetus to our work with young lesbians. This was successful. However, much of the work of LIS was also concerned with the needs of young lesbians, be it indirectly through training, publications, campaigns, research. It was very difficult to separate out LIS and LYSIS although direct support was the main aspect of LYSIS.

Whilst separating LYSIS out enabled greater concentration on our work with young lesbians, it also had the effect of confusing people as well as not giving a complete picture of LIS. You will see from below that this has been partially resolved by applying for Trust status for LIS which now has different objectives; these are more in line with the LYSIS aim and objectives. Whilst this does not preclude LIS developing other aspects, e.g. work with older lesbians, nevertheless the main objects are to provide support for young lesbians:

"The trustees shall hold the trust fund and its income upon trust to apply them for the following objects ("the objects") throughout England and Wales ("the area of benefit"):

'To provide to lesbians, and in particular young multi-oppressed lesbians and their families

(a) the provision of support, information and guidance on the development of self esteem; the relief of distress; and counselling and assistance in the prevention of the developent of harmful coping behaviour;

(b) the development of a network of peer support for challenging isolation and

(c) through research, educational, training and advocacy means, to advance understanding of the needs of young lesbians."


At the MIND conference on lesbians, gays and mental health in June 1995, three of the four keynote speakers acknowledged that lesbian and gay youth are a high risk group for suicide. Jan proposed that MIND could facilitate a working party to acquire funding to set up a national research project; there was no response from MIND. Jan, therefore, set up the working party herself.

Various researchers/people who have an interest in the topic, were contacted and Esteem: The National Advisory Group on self-harm and related issues in lesbian, gay and bisexual youth, held its first meeting at the Royal College of Nursing in January (see Appendix G). We have held several meetings since and submitted an application to the Lottery Board as well as having a positive response from the Nuffield Foundation.


Until such time that we acquire larger offices it is impossible to develop a volunteer programme. Having said this, procedures have been developed (Appendix H) and a training course developed.


1st year



Wages & NIC       10,639
Premises       1,225
Printing & Stationery 1,399
Postage*       67
Telephone     660
Travel Expenses   191
Conferences, Training and
Affiliations   367
Repairs & Renewals 60
Book keeping &
Accountancy   138
Depreciation     32
Sundry Expebses   126

TOTAL         £14,904

Surplus       96

*Much of the LYSIS postage has come out of the LIS account; in total this amounts to 578.89; the sum of £67 is not, therefore, a true reflection of the amount spent on postage pursuing LYSIS work.

Forthcoming Year


Maintain service at current level.

Devlopment/Business Plan

Complete Development/Business Plan for use in:

- funding applications

- giving a clearer direction

- bringing LIS/LYSIS closer

- developing other aspects to enable LIS to be more self-sufficient, e.g. training, publications

- deal with outstanding administration/management tasks


Continue to apply for funding from relevant trusts, specifically for:

- staff (administrator, LYSIS development worker, information officer, manager)

- premises

- equipment - computer, software, programmes, training, photocopier, collator, etc.


When acquired funding complete conversion (or, failing this, acquisition of other appropriate premises) move office.

Specific Tasks

When funding is acquired for computer equipment, programmes and training and for new staff (especially the administrator), complete tasks, e.g.

- acquire computer, software, programmes, training

- conduct survey of provision, set up network database

- set up data-base for pen-pal scheme

- implement new monitoring and evaluation procedures

- produce annual report/review

- establish user group (see below, Advisory Group)

- conduct various feasibility studies e.g. affiliation scheme, publications, training, etc.

Development of Advisory and Management Groups

There are now two young lesbians who have joined the Advisory Group. We need to look at the possibility of the Advisory Group continuing after the end of the MHF funding but with more young lesbian members; this could, then, replace the need for a LYSIS User group.

Similarly, if the local Young Lesbian Group is established (see below, Other LIS/related projects) there will be more opportunities for local young lesbians to become involved in the the Management Group. We also need to try and encourage more people to get involved in the Management Group to take on specific tasks such as fund-raising, premises, etc.


Forthcoming publicity includes:

- Royal College of Nursing: Visible Bodies, Invisible Lives: Sexual Health & The New Agenda for Practice, Education and Research, Cafe Royal, Regent Street, London, 19-20 October 1996.

Jan is giving a 'concurrent' input in the Researching Sexualities session entitled "Young lesbians and suicide - a major problem hidden by feminist and gay research" as well as a workshop under Theoretical Perspectives entitled "Developing a multi-oppression framework to explain high levels of attempted suicide among lesbian, gay and bisexual youth."

- Jan has been approached to be interviewed for Radio 4's All in the Mind, concerning lesbian and gay youth and attempted suicide. This is due to be recorded sometime in September 1996.

- The Journal of Social and Community Psychology is producing a special issue: Social Inequalities and Mental Health: Implications for Service Provision. An article entitled "Lesbian Youth Support Information Service (LYSIS): Developing a Distance Support Agency for Young Lesbians has been accepted; a copy of the article appears as Appendix I.


Continue to be involved with Esteem to acquire funding for a national research project about lesbian and gay youth and mental health issues, especially attempted suicide.

Other LIS/related projects - for information only

Lesbians and Alcohol Project (LAP)

We were awarded £7,500 from the Alcohol Education and Research Council to produce two booklets about lesbians and alcohol; one aimed at lesbians, the other at alcohol treatment agencies. With this funding we were able to conduct a survey of agencies in north west England, publish a report on the findings, publish a Lesbians, Gays and Alcohol Resource List and write a draft booklet 'Lesbians and Alcohol.' There was insufficient money to complete the project. We have recently been awarded a further £7,500 from Charity Projects to have the draft booklet typeset and printed; to distribute this, along with the survey Report and Resource List, to all alcohol treatment agencies in England; and to conduct a brief survey of approximately 120 agencies who say they provide a service for lesbians and gays to ascertain what exactly this means. This project is due to be completed by August 1997.
We then anticipate applying for a similar amount for the year 1997-98 to bring together a group of young lesbians to produce and distribute a glossy leaflet aimed at educating young lesbians of their vulnerability to alcohol misuse.

Calderdale Community Foundation

We were awarded £2,500 in November 1995 to conduct two 10 x 2 hour session courses with professionals who work with young people in Calderdale around lesbian and gay youth and mental health issues. The course has been designed and tested (this July with members of the Community and Youth Work course at the University of Manchester; response from the participants was excellent). This project needs to be completed by the end of 1996.

Young Lesbian Group

We have recently been awarded £2,196 to develop work with young lesbians in Calderdale. We are and have been supporting young lesbians in Calderdale for six years now without any funding. Before we can extend this to developing a Young Lesbian Group we will require more secure premises.

On-going LIS methods - for information only

Continuation of other methods pursued by LIS to achieve the aim and objectives, including:

- Information
- Support
- Research
- Publications
- Training
- Advocacy
- Developing Theory.


Where Young Lesbians Who Contact LYSIS Come From

Aberdeen Glamorgan   Reading
Accrington Glasgow     Renfrewshire
Ayrshire Gloucestershire   Sheffiled
Bedfordshire Guernsey   Shropshire
Berkshire Gwent     Stoke
Birmingham Gwynedd   Swansea
Blackburn Halifax     Rochdale
Bolton   Hereford     St Annes
Borders   Hertfordshire   Southport
Bradford Huddersfield   South Yorkshire
Bristol   Hull     South Wales
Buckinghamshire Ireland     Somerset
Burnley   Kent     Surrey
Cambridgeshire Lancashire   Sussex
Cardiff   Leeds     Swindon
Cheshire Leicester   Telford
Cleveland Leicestershire   Tyne & Wear
Cornwall Liverpool   Walton-on-Thames
County Durham London     Warrington
Crawley   Manchester   Warwickshire
Croydon   Middlesex   West Glamorgan
Cumbria   Mid-Glamorgan   West Midlands
Derbyshire   Midlothian   West Sussex
Devon     Northamptonshire West Yorkshire
Dewsbury   Northumberland   Wigan
Doncaster   Nottingham   Wirrall
Dyfedd     Norfolk     Worcestershire
Essex     North Wales   York

A couple of case studies


Susan lives in a rural area. She first contacted us by letter:

I'm 15 years old and need some information on how to cope with my sexuality. I think I'm gay. It's not just a phase I'm going through. I've felt this way for months. I don't know any other lesbians so I feel like I'm on my own. I came out to my sister and now it's getting out around the school I can't put my mind to school work anymore. I just want to meet other people who are like me. I really need some information so could you please write back as soon as possible

We wrote to Susan, sending her the booklet and asking her if she would like a penpal. Susan wrote back:

I am writing to thank you for your support and information you sent me. It's made made realise I'm not on my own and there are other lesbians like me too. I am now coming to terms with my sexuality and accepting myself as a lesbian and I don't care what straight people may think if me. I think there should be an end to prejudice against lesbians because as lesbians we have the right to live too. I would really like to join the LYSIS penpals so I can write to other lesbians for support and deal with problems I maybe having, like school, coming out to friends, etc. When I first realised I was a lesbian I felt alone and depressed because of my homophobia but now I realise I have the power to educate other members of my generation.

Susan has several penpals but recently telephoned in a distressed state to say that she was experiencing harassment at school. She had not gone to school because she had told her two best friends that she was lesbian and now it was round the school. The last time she was in school someone had put a sticker with the word lezzie on her back and everyone was laughing at her; she was bemused until someone told her why. Groups of girls shout at her on her way home from school calling her "lezzie," "lemon," "dyke;" they also say things in gym classes like "You can't change in the changing room." She is forced to change in the toilets.

The teachers know about what is going on but do nothing. Her parents know about the trouble at school but say that it is her own fault for telling people.

With Susan's permission we contacted her headmaster who said he would sort out some support for Susan and deal with the other pupils. He also checked that we would be continuing to give Susan support. We made contact with the local youth service to see what they could offer, as well as with some older, local, lesbians. Susan is going to contact the youth service and the older lesbian.


Erica lives in a city in the Midlands. She wrote saying:

I hope you can help me as I have known I was gay for some years now and I'm 19 and I feel I can't cope with these feelings anymore.

I haven't told anyone ever and I really need to talk to someone in order to accept that I am gay.

I feel really depressed and very lonely because all my friends have boyfriends and settling down and they will get married and have children and I know that I will never have that and all I've ever wanted in life is to be in love and have children and I can't face the fact that this will never happen.

I feel very trapped and confused and wonder if its worth going on.

I would like to meet some other gay people but I'm too scared to go along to a club or whatrever. Could you please help as I feel I'm going mad.

We wrote to Erica, sending her a copy of the booklet and information about the pen-pal scheme. Erica wrote back:

Thank you for your letter. It helps a lot to know that there is someone that will support me and listen to my feelings about being gay.

I feel really angry with myself because although I know that I am gay, I am unable to share it with may family and friends even though they are all very supportive people.

I feel that I am living a big lie and that I don't trust the people I am closest too.

I did talk to one of my friends and told her that I wasn't sure about my sexuality and she was really supportive but I still can't tell her that I am gay and I wish I could just tell her but something keeps on holding me back and it's driving me insane. I can't eat or sleep and find it really hard to go out socially because I can't keep on being somebody I'm not. I really don't know what to do. I feel like I'm in a viscious circle and I cannot break the cycle.

I'm sorry to be so negative I just feel so messed up and confused.

Maybe I am making a big deal out of nothing as other gay people are able to cope with who they are, so why can't I. Please write back.

We wrote back to Erica and have yet to have a reply. We will follow this up with another letter.


Agencies who have contacted LIS/LYSIS

Bristol Women's Crisis Centre
Langley Childrens Project, Manchester
Coventry Alcohol Service
Congleton Youth Project
Oxford Health Promotion
MIND Northants
Pride Scotland
Cornwall Health Promotion
Survivors Speak Out
National Youth Agency
Zami/Diva, Manchester
Manchester Lesbian & Gay Switchboard
Southampton Student Counselling
Northampton Lesbian & Gay Centre
Scottish Health Authority
University of Manchester
Hillcroft College
Rochdale Youth & Community Service
Calderdale MBC
Youth Centre, Catterick
Lesbian and Gay Bereavement Project
Happy Families
Northolt Young Womens Project
Off The Record, Portsmouth
Manchester Lesbian & Gay Centre
Good Practice in Mental Health
Bromley Health Authority
East Yorskshire Health Authority
Health of the Nation, Plymouth
Base 51, Nottingham
First Base, Plymouth
Lancashire County Council
Powys Agency Mental Health
Glasgow University
the Samaritans
Leicester University
North London Line
Aberdeen University
Birmingham Women's Centre
Wyre Information Shop
Blackburn Youth Service
Essex Youth Service
Harlow Young Lesbian Group
Tunbridge Wells Health Promotion
Cumbria Youth Service
Bangor University
CAB, Wiltshire
CAB, Wales
Sunderland Health Promotion
Norfolk Social Service
Oxford Health Promotion
Andrew Stayton Housing Association, Surrey
Caernarvon Library Services
Winstanley College
Kirklees Rape Crisis
Hinchingbrook HCT
Young Gloucestershire
Caldicot Young Peoples' Centre, Gwent
Wigan Youth Service
MIND Haringey
Associaltion of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Psychologists - UK
Save The Children
Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement, Kent
MCC Manchester
Newcastle Community and Leisure Services
Salford Law Centre
National Health Service - North West
Women First
Calderdale Health Trust
Lesbians Organising Together, Dublin
Streetwise, London
Information & Counselling, Hertfordshire
Dorset County Council
Barnardoes, Islington
Forth Valley Health Service
Birmingham Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Youth Group
HIV Project
Newham Alcohol Service
Gateshead Womens Survivors
George House Trust
Parents Friend, Leeds
Manchester University
University of Hull
Manchester Youth Service
New River Housing Association
Bradford Friend
Dundee Rape Crisis
Turning Point, Manchester
S. Lanarkshire Health
Bristol Young Lesbian Group
Enfield & Haringey Housing Association
S. Lanarkshire Council
Unit 10, Chesterfield
Islington Women's Aid
Kirklees Education Department
HIV, Worcester
Health Action for Homeless People
YWCA, Merseyside
Health Promotion, Kent
Calderdale Health Promotion
Wigan Health Service
YES, Cumbria
Leeds Womens Aid
Face-to-face, Winchester
Help to Hand (medical directory)
E. Suffolk MIND
Dundee Rape Crisis
Leeds Shaftesbury Project
Cardiff Triangle Housing Association
Sunderalnd Housing Project
Roundhey Road Day Centre, Leeds
WAC London
Lancashire County Council - Blackpool Youth Service
Rotheram College
Manchester Alcohol Team
Somerset Education Service
Addiction Recovery Foundation
Social Services, Norwich
Women's Safety Centre, Aberdeen
Lesbian Advice and Information Service, Glasgow
GAP House, London
Leicester City Council



Aims and Objectives

Research suggests that, because of external and internal homophobia and in particular isolation and lack of appropriate support during a crucial time of development, many young lesbians are at a high risk of developing maladaptive behaviours such as suicide attempts, self harm, alcohol and drug misuse, eating disorders. Without appropriate support these behaviours are likely to continue into adulthood and cause severe and enduring mental health problems.

The aims of LYSIS are to provide appropriate support to young lesbians, make visible their experiences and establish and improve appropriate support services in order to prevent or modify the development of maladaptive behaviours.

The objectives of LYSIS are, therefore,

1. To challenge the isolation of young lesbians.

2. To help young lesbians develop self-esteem.

3. To encourage the development of positive ways of dealing with external and internal homophobia.

4. To conduct research into the needs of young lesbians.

5. To encourage other agencies, and parents, to develop their knowledge and provide appropriate support to young lesbians.

Need for Project

Research Findings

Some of the findings of our research include the following:-

17 out of 20 experienced long periods of depression.

8 out of 20 experienced periods of anxiety.

14 out of 20 attempted suicide (2, 6 times each; 2, 5 times each; 1, 4 times; 2, 3 times each; 2, 2 times each; 5, once; 8 were hospitalised after their attempts; at least 3 have made further, serious, attempts and been hospitalised as a result).

10 of the 20 had seen a psychiatrist.

10 out of 20 abused themselves in other ways, e.g. cutting up with razor blades, banging fist against the wall/putting through window; biting chunks out of self; throwing self against wall and down stairs.

17 of the 20 used alcohol, 10 having serious problems i.e. 'black' outs, getting arrested for being drunk and disorderly, being hospitalised for drink problem, attempting suicide whilst under the influence of alcohol.

10 of the 20 had used illegal drugs; acid was involved in one of the suicide attempts, as was alcohol.

11 of the 20 had bad eating patterns or disorders - over-eating, under-deating, anorexia, bulimia.

11 of the 20 had been homeless.

10 of the 20 had been sexually abused or raped, two having been both sexually abused and raped.

The research is unusual for several reasons:- a) the majority of the participants were multi-oppressed, i.e. 13 were working class, 3 were black, 4 were disabled; b) 17 were aged 25 and below and most had identified as 'different' (i.e. falling for the same sex) from an early age; c) most (17) grew up - and most remained - in small towns/isolated areas where there was no lesbian visibility or support apart from the negative images of gay pubs. These are the sort of lesbians who usually slip through the research net.

There has not been much research in Britain but what there is provides further evidence. For example, the London Gay Teenage Project (Trenchard & Warren, 1984) found that 19% of their 415 respondents had attempted suicide; Bye (cited in Plummer 1989) found that 40% of her 95 (isolated) young respondents had attempted suicide; Parents' Friend enquiry (cited in Plummer 1989) found 55% of the youth sample had attempted suicide; all of these are mixed surveys.

Woods (1992) conducted a survey of older (34) and younger (38) lesbians in Manchester and came up with the following:

Extreme stress: older lesbians 57% younger 68%

Periods of depression: older 47% younger 45%

Deliberate self harm: older 37% younger 43%

Thought about suicide: older 23% younger 40%

Attempted suicide: older 7% younger 21%.

Research from abroad also supports our findings:

Barbeler (1992) conducted research with 200 young lesbians in Sydney, Australia, of whom 45.5% had attempted suicide (100% drank weekly).

Bell & Weinberg (1978) found that 42% of their 293 lesbian (age ranges 25 years and below to 46 years and over) respondents had attempted suicide compared with 26% of the heterosexual female controls (140) and 38% of the gay male respondents (686).

Gibson (1989) suggests, that up to 30% of completed youth suicides in the U.S.A. are by lesbian and gay youth and that lesbian and gay youth are 2 to 3 times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual youth.

With regard to alcohol misuse, Creith (1994) is about to publish the findings of her research, which included 326 lesbians mainly from Manchester, Leeds, London and Sheffield. 8.5% labelled themselves as alcoholic or alcohol dependent. 37.3% drank over the recommended levels for women thus confirming early U.S. research which suggests that between 35 and 37% of lesbians have serious alcohol problems.

Hetrick and Martin (1987), who established a unique social support service for lesbian and gay youth in New York, note that the main developmental task for lesbian and gay youth is adjustment to a stigmatised role. Most pass through a chaotic period that includes the risk of maladaptive behaviours which, without appropriate support, are likely to continue into adulthood, resulting in anxiety, depressive symptoms, alienation, self-hatred and demoralisation. Hetrick and Martin argue that appropriate peer and adult support - in a non-threatening environment - and access to accurate information alleviates many of their concerns and internalised negative attitudes are either prevented or modified.

Hetrick and Martin are talking about young people who live in New York. The nearest equivalent in Britain would be the North London Line (one of the many differences being that the New York project employs 24 full-time staff, the North London Line employs one full-time worker!) There are few Young Lesbian Groups in Britain and those which do exist are usually in cities and run on a part-time basis. It is young lesbians who live in areas where there is no support who are most at risk.

As a result of our research findings we decided to set up a special project for young lesbians: LYSIS (Lesbian Youth Support Information Service). The aim of LYSIS is to support young lesbians, make visible their experiences and establish and improve appropriate support services.


Trenchard, L. & Warren, H. Something To Tell You, 1984, London Gay Teenage Group.

Plummer, K. Lesbian and Gay Youth in England, Journal of Homosexuality, 1989, Vol 17(3/4), p195-223.

Woods, H. Young Lesbians and Mental Health, Manchester Polytechnic, 1992, Unpublished.

Barbeler, V. The Young Lesbian Report, A Study of the Atitudes and Behaviours of Adolescent Lesbians Today, 1991/92, Young Lesbian Support Group.

Bell, A.P. & Weinberg, M.S. Homosexualities, A Study of Diversity Among Men & Women, 1978, Mitchell Beazley.

Gibson, P. Gay Male and Lesbian Youth Suicide, Report of the Secretary's Task Force on Youth Suicide, 1989, Vol 3, p110-142, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

Creith, E. Lesbians and Alcohol, about to be published.

Hetrick, E.S. & Martin, A.D. Developmental Issues and Their Resolution for Gay and Lesbian Adolescents, Journal of Homosexuality, 1987, Vol 14(1/2), p25-43.

Remafedi, G. Fundamental Issues in the Care of Homosexual Youth, Medical Clinics of North America, 1990, Vol 74(5), p1169-1179.


The support agencies and individuals would include:-

LYSIS contact
youth groups
helplines (group)
other lesbian/gay groups
parents groups
university groups
counselling agencies
health service support (agency)
social service support (agency)
other voluntary agency support
other statutory agency support


The kind of information I would want to enter for each group, agency, individual would include:-


name of group

contact person

procedure for making contact (i.e. does someone meet new member)

correspondence address

meeting place

when meet (day, time, regularity/opening times)

age limit

number of group members

single sex or mixed; if mixed, ratio male/female

background of members i.e. % of minority ethnic, white, disabled, non-disabled, working class, middle class.

curriculum/programme/what offer


name of agency
contact person
procedure for making contact
opening times
age limit
what offer


procedure for making contact
opening times
age limit
what offer


I am hoping to conduct a survey and, if possible, I would like to be able to include 'subsidiary' information for each group, agency and individual; this would include, for example,



Support, i.e.

        funding - does group receive any funding, if so, who from, how much?
        venue - who provides the venue?

Does the group have access to other support e.g. mini-bus, equipment?

Do the local authority provide workers, if so, how many sessions?

Who supervises the worker/s and project?

Who manages the worker/s and project?
How was it set up:

How is it publicised:

Who refers to the group?

What links are there with other voluntary and statutory agencies? e.g.

        youth service
        social services
        health service

What are the Aim & objectives of the group?

What are the values of the group?

Do you have a constitution, if so, is it possible to have a copy?

Does the group have charitable status, if so, what is the number. Did you have any difficulty in acquiring it?

Does the group produce an annual report, if yes, is it possible to have a copy?

Number of staff

        paid - full or part-time;
        how many sessions
        working class

Qualifications of staff

        youth work
        social work

Any special training for working with lesbian and gay youth? If yes, what did this entail?

How are workers appointed?

Are workers vetted, if so, how?

What previous experience do workers have of working with lesbian and gay youth?

What are the issues which face lesbian and gay youth?

What are the training and support needs of workers?


What sort of problems have the groups experienced?

What are the issues/concerns/needs of the group?

What are the issues/concerns/needs of the group members?

What are the issues/concerns/needs of the workers?

What lesbian/gay resources (books, videos etc) do you have


any lesbian/gay staff
training - general
training - appropriate to working with lesbian and gay youth
experience appropriate to working with lesbian and gay youth
support for staff working with lesbian and gay youth
values in relation to homosexuality i.e. accept homosexuality as natural to homosexuals as heterosexuality is natural to heterosexuals
links with lesbian/gay organisations
purpose of agency
is sexual orientation included in equal opp. policy
if so, does this apply to service provision
how make agency accessible to lesbian and gay clients
what are the issues/needs/concerns of agency in relation to working with lesbian and gay youth
what are the issues/needs/concerns of lesbian and gay youth who are clients
what are the issues/needs/concerns of lesbian and gay workers
what lesbian/gay resources (books, videos, etc) do you have


qualifications in general
training in relation to working with lesbian and gay youth
experience in relation to working with lesbian and gay youth
values in relation to homosexuality i.e. accept homosexuality as natural to homosexuals as heterosexuality is natural to heterosexuals
links with lesbian/gay organisations
what lesbian/gay resources (books,videos, etc) do you have
what, in your opinion, are the major issues facing lesbian and gay youth
what are the issues/needs/concerns of you as an individual working with lesbian and gay youth
what support for this work do you have