LESBIAN YOUTH SUPPORT INFORMATION SERVICE: DEVELOPING A SUPPORT AGENCY FOR YOUNG LESBIANS
Lesbian Information Service (LIS) was established in July 1987 by Jan Bridget and Sandra Lucille. It was set up as a result of being involved with the Leicester Lesbian Support Group and the consultations between Leicester City Council and the Lesbian and Gay 'Community,' both of which had a profound influence on us: we changed from being active around womens' issues to focussing on lesbian experience and oppression.
Lesbian Information Service, and our project Lesbian Youth Support Information Service (LYSIS), is based on a theoretical framework that has evolved from our personal experiences, the experience of running Lesbian Information Service, conducting research, supporting lesbians, especially young lesbians and, finally, critically analysing current theories, in particular feminist and gay theory.
We discovered that neither of these theories alone can fully explain the experiences of young lesbians nor, therefore, form the basis for practical action to combat discrimination.
Feminism can help us to understand a young lesbian's expereince of being female. However, feminism is based on the experiences of heterosexual women or, in the case of feminist-lesbianism, on the experiences of ex-heterosexual lesbians who were mainly white and middle class (Stein, 1992). Gay theory has more to offer in helping us to understand a young lesbian's homosexuality. However, gay theory is based on the experience of gay men and usually reduces the experiences of lesbians to the same as that of gay men (Bidwell, 1988; D'Augelli, 1989; Ettore, 1980; Kitzinger, 1987; Savin-Williams, 1994; Slater, 1988; Steinhorn, 1979; Trenchard, 1984). Other 'layers' of a young lesbian's identity may include class, race, ethnicity, disability, each of which can compound to make the experiences of individual young lesbians very different, a difference that can be further complicated by the experience of sexual abuse.
The experiences of young lesbians must be viewed within the context of adolescence, a time when tremendous pressure is placed on young people by peers, parents and the media to conform to the 'norm;' when young people are at a crucial stage in the development of their self identity (Erikson, 1959) and when some young people are vulnerable to developing alcohol and drug misuse, depression, anorexia, bulimia, attempting suicide and other self-harming behaviours. Our theoretical framework is, therefore, based upon the concept of multi-oppression. (For a critique of feminist theory in relation to lesbians see Bridget, 1992; for the development of a multi-oppression framework see Bridget, 1994).
LIS - A BRIEF HISTORY
Lesbian Information Service was set up with the aim of 'facilitating communication between lesbians and promoting understanding of lesbian experience in order to combat discrimination.' Events have changed LIS and the current aim is to 'support lesbians and combat discrimination.' Our objectives are to support isolated lesbians, especially young lesbians; to generate positive activities to combat oppression; to increase the visibility of lesbians - our struggles and successes; to identify and expose the effects of homophobia and multi-oppression; to challenge homophobic attitudes; to challenge heterosexist institutions; to encourage authorities to fulfill their responsibility in supporting lesbians; 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 lesbians who are working class, black, minority ethnic, disabled and old.
1987-1988 - Local Activities
During the consultations between Leicester City Council and the Lesbian and Gay Community it became obvious that there was a need for some form of communication with lesbians in Leicester. We decided to publish a local Lesbian Newsletter; the first edition included a report we had submitted to the Council regarding what we believed were the needs of local lesbians. Before we were forced to introduce a charge for the Newsletter (due to withdrawal of support from the Women's Centre) it was being distributed to about 70 lesbians in Leicester. We later developed the newsletter into a national publication with the title "LISN" (Lesbian Information Service Newsletter).
Several major events happened during this period: The Lesbian Support Group was ejected from the Women's Centre because we wanted more visibility but were told that this would "put ordinary women off using the Centre." The Group moved to the new Gay Centre; indeed, we helped to decorate it. However, the Gay Centre Collective were never happy with us running a separate Lesbian Coffee Bar and, when we set up a Young Lesbian Group (they were in the process of establishing a mixed youth group), we were no longer able to use the Centre. This happened alongside two further developments: involvement with a housing group and the introduction of Clause 27.
Homelessness became a major problem facing several of the lesbians - especially young lesbians - attending the local support groups. We got involved with a Lesbian and Gay Housing Group. It became clear that it was going to be difficult working in a mixed group, not least because the men wrote a report which discussed many issues facing gay men and reduced the problems lesbians faced to 'sexual abuse' only. We broke away and formed a Lesbian Housing Group. When we learnt that some funding for a lesbian hostel might be available and were approached to write a report, we conducted a pilot study into the housing needs of lesbians and published a report on the findings, which included:
* 86% of the participants had suffered from depression;
* 43% had attempted suicide;
* 43% had experienced alcohol-related problems;
* 36% had experienced drug-related problems;
* Lesbians experienced particular housing problems in relation to their sexual orientation, including harassment, homelessness and leaving home early;
* Whilst hostels existed for other minority women, there was no non-discriminatory hostel provision for lesbians in Leicester.
We submitted the Report to Leicester City Council with a request for funding to conduct a wider survey. Our Report and request were ignored; however, about 80 copies were eventually sold to housing agencies around the country.
One of the gay men involved in the housing group was accused of sexually abusing the son of a lesbian and a scandal erupted with the Gay Centre Collective taking the side of the gay man while we supported the lesbian mother. This created a further split between us and the Gay Centre Collective.
Because we were producing a Newsletter we quickly picked up information about Clause 27 (later section 28 of the Local Government Act which prohibits the 'promotion' of homosexuality in maintained schools) and initiated a local campaign. At first we envisaged a women-only campaign but, as more and more lesbians became involved, it became clear that they wanted the campaign to be lesbian-only. We managed to arrange a meeting in the Council offices and over thirty lesbians attended. However the meeting was taken over by the lesbian worker from the Women's Centre, a lesbian from the Gay Centre, and a lesbian who belonged to 'Left Out' a left-wing lesbian and gay organisation. They accused us of being 'devisive' and took over the campaign, changing it into a mixed - lesbian and gay - campaign which was run from the Women's Centre.
On a more positive note, LIS had been awarded £1,000 and later £500 from Leicester City Council to run activities and set up various support groups including: a Young Lesbian Group, Lesbian Coffee Bar, Lesbians with Phobias Group and a Lesbian Library. However, we were attacked on the front page of the "Leicester Mercury" with the headline, "Fury at £1,000 lesbian grant" The leader of the Conservative opposition, Mr Michael Johnson, is quoted as saying:
It is the creation of a young lesbian group I object to most. If adolescent girls are at a very funny stage and if a relationship with a boyfriend breaks down, then they could be recruited to lesbianism by this propaganda. But as far as I am concerned, homosexuality, in either of its forms, goes against the teachings of all the major religions in this city. The grant is an immoral waste of rate-payers' money.
Without the support of Gayline we were forced to establish a Lesbian Line as the main point for lesbians to contact us but without premises we had to set the Line up in the flat of one of the volunteers. Due to unforeseen circumstances she had to move. We approached the Council for further funding to install a second telephone line but were refused.
We were forced to find alternative accommodation for the support groups and approached a voluntary youth project who refused permission to run the Young Lesbian Group on their premises. We ended up running the groups from a local authority neighbourhood centre. The authority insisted that the male caretaker was present in the building and on more than one occasion, after he had been drinking, he intimidated members of the groups.
We wanted access to a mini-bus to help collect disabled members of the group and to take the Young Lesbian Group away on a residential. We approached the local Community Transport Scheme who refused to let us join.
Publicity was an important aspect in reaching isolated lesbians in Leicester; we approached the local authority free paper to publicise the groups. After several months they advertised the Helpline once but never included information about the Young Lesbian Group.
The Council and voluntary organisations played an important role in opposing our work and ultimately the Council made it clear that we would not receive any more funding. Indeed, at one point they changed a policy document relating to funding for voluntary groups to delete the word lesbian. Meanwhile, Gayline and the Women's Centre continued to receive funding, although eventually the Women's Centre closed down.
Our involvement with lesbians in Leicester helped us to identify some of the issues facing those lesbians who were involved with the groups who were mainly young, working class and non-feminist; these included:-
* physical and sexual abuse;
* alcohol related problems;
* suicide attempts;
* harassment from neighbours;
* anxiety about being a 'deviant';
* tension and fear in relation to family and work i.e. the constant need to tell people about one's sexuality whilst fearing rejection;
* attitudes of colleagues at work;
* ableism and abuse which disabled lesbians are subjected to;
* poor services provided by the local authority, agencies, institutions, G.P.'s.
1988-1990 - Developing Theory
We were forced to stop running the local groups (but continued to support the young lesbians; indeed, we are still in touch with many of them) and look towards different ways of achieving our aim. We turned our attention to the Newsletter.
We applied to a regional Gay Trust for money to buy equipment but were turned down. We approached the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) for funding to travel around the country to encourage lesbians to get involved with LIS and the Newsletter. However, we were again unsuccessful and discovered that someone had written across our application form "We have no remit to fund lesbians." The MP Claire Short wrote to the EOC on our behalf but nothing further happened.
Because of lack of funding, attacks from feminists at the Women's Centre and lesbians and gays at the Gay Centre, our politics became more radical which resulted in growing links first with radical feminist-lesbians in Britain and ultimately with lesbian separatists in the U.S.A. Eventually "LISN" changed from being 'women only' to 'lesbian only.' We dropped feminism from the front page and became an international publication, changing the title to "Lesbian International."
As our separatist politics grew we began to serialise the book "Dykes-Loving-Dykes, Dyke Separatist Politics For Lesbians Only" by Bev Jo, Linda Strega and Ruston (U.S.A.). At its height, we were distributing 500 copies of "LISN" but as our radical politics developed, circulation dropped. The more separatist and 'lesbian identified' we became the more we were criticised, including an attack in the Leeds based "Rev-Rad" Newslettter.
We became disillusioned with radical politics, realising that separatist lesbians, like feminist lesbians, tended to be white, middle class, privileged lesbians who 'choose' to become lesbian within the context of radical feminist politics.
At the end of 1989 we moved to West Yorkshire and completely changed the direction of LIS: we stopped publishing the Newsletter in June 1990 after three-and-a-half-years and gradually withdrew from feminist and separatist politics.
Jan had managed to secure some funding from Lancashire County Council in the form of part-time youth work sessions to conduct research into the needs of young lesbians and Sandra acted as her unpaid assistant. It was during this research that feminist and lesbian-separatist politics became less and less relevant to understanding the experiences of young lesbians.
We envisaged setting up some form of support for young lesbians at each stage of the research. In Stage 1 we interviewed thirteen lesbians and set up a Young Lesbian Group which the participants decided to call YELL (Young East Lancs Lesbians). However, the project was attacked on the front page of the "Lancashire Evening Telegraph" which included a quote from a community group leader:
I'm concerned that poll tax payers' money is being spent on this. There is no way I'm going to put this poster up. We have girls between 12 and 18. They are at a very impressionable age, and I don't think they have made their minds up. Once you are beyond 21 or say 25 you know, but I don't think these younsters really know.
Neither was there support from County Hall; the Labour chairwoman of the education committee said:
I have now asked the chief education officer to take responsibility for ensuring this project, which is to be completed next month, is carried out under greater supervision. I believe the poster and a letter which went out were wide open to misinterpretation. The chief education officer has been instructed that there should be no further publication of the material.
The attacks went on for several weeks and resulted in us being summoned to County Hall to explain our intentions with regard to young lesbians. Lancashire County Council decided to impose an age restriction on the group, to limit the ways we made contact with young lesbians and to control the curriculum of the group. We decided this was unacceptable and withdrew from Lancashire but continued to run the group for six months on a voluntary basis.
The promised part-funding from Lancashire County Council for Stage 2 of the project - which was to widen the research across Lancashire - was withdrawn. We applied to about 60 relevant trusts and foundations for funding to pursue stage 3 - which would have been across Britain - but without success. Nevertheless, we were able to add a further seven interviews, bringing the total to twenty.
Seventeen of the participants were aged 25 years and below, the remaining three having identified as lesbian since their youth (13 knew about their sexual orientation at the age of 13 or below). Eleven thought that lesbianism was innate, four disagreed and four said they didn't know. All of the participants grew up in the North of England. Thirteen are working class, three are black, six have disabilities and twelve are, or have been, fat; four are mothers. All but three grew up in areas where there was no visible support for lesbians, i.e. in the form of helplines or support groups. The majority left school at 16, one was still at school, two had a degree. Ten of the participants were unemployed, several worked in factories; two held a professional qualification. The findings included:-
* high levels of depression (85%);
* periods of anxiety (45%);
* 70% attempted suicide, of the remainder, 3 had contemplated suicide;
this included a total of 41 attempts;
at least 3 have made further, serious, attempts.
* 55% abused themselves in other ways, e.g.
cutting up with razor blades,
banging fist against the wall,
putting fist through window,
biting chunks out of self,
throwing self against wall/down stairs.
* all but three used alcohol and 50% had serious alcohol problems e.g.
passing out under the influence of alcohol,
hospitalisation for drink problem,
suicide attempts under the influence of alcohol and drugs,
getting arrested for drunkeness;
* 50% had used illegal drugs;
* 55% had been homeless;
* 50% had been sexually abused or raped.
* 40% had been badly treated by an older lesbian/woman.
* Six had been in trouble with the police, one had been in prison.
* One had been a prostitute.
These were VERY ISOLATED, MULTI-OPPRESSED, young lesbians. But we know from our experience of running LYSIS that this situation is repeated elsewhere in Britain where there is no support.
Alongside the qualitative study we conducted a survey of what support, if any, was available to young lesbians in that part of Lancashire. We contacted over 40 voluntary and statutory agencies, none of which offered support specific to the needs of young lesbians.
The findings prompted us to set up two new projects: With £7,500 from the Alcohol Education Research Council we set up a Lesbians and Alcohol Project (LAP) to produce two booklets, one for lesbians and one for alcohol workers (see "Treatment of Lesbians with Alcohol Problems in Alcohol Services in North West England") and the Lesbian Youth Support Information Service (LYSIS).
We have run LYSIS from our own home since 1991 without any on-going funding. Save The Children Fund awarded us two grants totalling £1,500 to acquire a printer, publicise LYSIS and to enable a group of young lesbians to participate in Vox Pop, a National Youth Agency initiative the aim of which was to give young people in Britain a chance to meet politicians and discuss their needs. On our own initiative we facilitated, alongside a youth worker from Lancashire County Council, a group of young lesbians coming together to discuss their concerns and conducted a survey of statutory youth service provision in North West England; only one youth service provided a support group specifically for young lesbians. We produced a Report of Vox Pop and circulated it to government departments and statutory youth services in the North West, along with a free copy of the LIS publication, "Working with Lesbian and Gay Youth Resource List."
In 1992 LYSIS was awarded a bronze certificate signed by Her Majesty the Queen "in recognition of the completion of a project of long term benefit to the nation in the Royal Anniversary Trusts' Challenge."
The aim of LYSIS is to provide 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.
The direct support we give to young lesbians comprises four main methods:
* CORRESPONDENCE COUNSELLING:
Most young lesbians contact us initially by letter after having read about LYSIS on a problem page in a young women's magazine. This is a completely new development over the past two years since Agony Aunts have begun to publicise LYSIS as a resource for young women.
Some young lesbians are too fearful to telephone the Helpline - actually talking about their sexuality is far more frightening to them than writing about it in a letter. This method of counselling-by- correspondence can go on for some time until a young lesbian feels ready to move on to a penfriend, the 'phone line or, if one exists, a youth group in her area.
For many newly out young lesbians going to a youth group and meeting other young lesbians for the first time is a daunting task. If we can make this passage any easier we do. For example, we will encourage her to write to a group member so that she has become friends with at least one member before attending the group.
We feel it is very important to offer a young lesbian a range of help to meet her particular needs, and to find a method which she feels happy with. We don't want her to feel inadequate or that she doesn't 'fit in' with our method of support and never contact us again.
Young lesbians already have an acute sense of fear and uncertainty when first asking for help and support for their sexuality. It is our role to make young lesbians feel accepted and understood to enable them to begin to take responsibility for their sexuality. This is particularly important to young lesbians who are multi-oppressed: black, Asian, disabled, with learning difficulties, and/or working class. For example we provide reading material relevant to the special needs of these young lesbians and link them up with specialist networks so they get the support they need. This method of support has increased over the years whilst, recently, the number of telephone enquiries from young lesbians has decreased.
* TELEPHONE COUNSELLING:
We run a national helpline for young lesbians on Wednesday evenings 7-9 p.m. (we are also available for young lesbians every afternoon during the week and in fact receive calls anytime during the day and sometimes the night!) .
Wednesday evenings has become an occasion when the young lesbians we correspond with can ring and talk. It is also a time when young lesbians we have supported over the years contact us to say how they are getting on - we never cease to be amazed when one young lesbian or another calls after many years to say where she is now. We are always thrilled to learn of her progress and happy to help with any difficulties she may be experiencing.
The helpline is also a time when young lesbians we are supporting with severe mental health problems can talk (in addition to writing). These are often long and difficult calls requiring follow-up and referral to other agencies, for example, social services, G.P.'s, housing agencies, sexual abuse agencies; contacts which are only made with permission from the young lesbian involved. Making these links often involves a young lesbian coming out to professionals from whom she has been receiving medical and/or social support for a number of years. Coming out is often difficult but necessary for her recovery, and we are able to support her with this important disclosure (both to her workers and her family). We often find that young lesbians feel able to talk about many things, including sexual abuse when they may never have told anyone before.
Enabling young lesbians to come out to friends and family is a major part of our support work; coming out to her family is the most difficult and feared thing a young lesbian faces. However, for many it is also the most important - it is the acceptance of their parents that most young lesbians crave.
* PEER SUPPORT:
Most young lesbians want to 'meet' and share their experiences with other young lesbians. 'LYSIS Penpals' is a national scheme to encourage young lesbians of a similar age and region to write to each other.
The purpose of LYSIS Penpalsis to facilitate peer support for young lesbians who find themselves in a minority of one when they realise their lesbianism. Contact with another young lesbian of the same age provides a crucial element of support for her evolving lesbian dentity.
LYSIS Penpals is particularly effective for isolated young lesbians - those who live in small towns and rural areas in the British Isles. There are now approximately 100 young lesbians aged under 25 years, the majority aged between 16 and 20 years, writing to each other.
Some penpals are involved in a particular supportive role to new members who need extra help. Becki, for example, who is 21 years old and has been involved with LYSIS for over three years, is writing to no less than 7 young lesbians and providing crucial, life-saving support. In turn, we support young lesbians who are performing this role and assist in solving problems when asked.
We also try and put similar young lesbians in contact with each other for mutual support, for example, young Asian lesbians, young lesbians who are/have been anorexic, young lesbians who have been sexually abused, very young lesbians (12/13 year olds).
We send a free copy of the booklet 'i think i might be a lesbian now what do i do?' to any young woman who contacts us for support. The booklet was written by a Young Lesbian Group in the U.S.A. but adapted and produced by LIS with their permission. It contains short sections on: What does it mean to be a lesbian? How do I know if I'm lesbian? Am I normal? What is it like to be young and lesbian? Who should I tell? What about sex? Do I have to worry about AIDS? How do we learn to like ourselves? How can I meet other lesbians?
With funding from the Mental Health Foundation we are now also able to send the 'Coming Out Pack' free to any young lesbian who cannot afford it. The Pack, a LIS publication, includes stories written by young lesbians, interviews with young lesbians and other, relevant, articles about coming out.
Both of these publications include a book list and useful addresses; we encourage young lesbians to read lesbian positive material and to make contact with other relevant organisations such as Shakti (South Asian Lesbian & Gay Network) or Gemma (Lesbians with and without Disabilities).
OTHER ACTIVITIES - LIS
As well as research the other main activities of LIS include
information, training, campaigns and support, each of which includes a substantial amount of indirect work concerning young lesbians.
We disseminate information in three ways: publications, affiliation scheme, talks/lectures/training.
Publications have always been an integral part of LIS. They act as a record of our work (Annual Reports, Annual Reviews, Reports on research: Housing, Alcohol Treatment Agencies, Vox Pop); or information to support our work in the form of booklets (Homophobia, i think i might be a lesbian ... now what do i do?) or information packs (Lesbians and Housing; Young Lesbian Coming Out Pack).
As part of the research into the needs of young lesbians we began to have searches conducted on different data-bases at various universities. We discovered that whilst there had been little research conducted in Britain, important research had been carried out in the U.S.A. for over twenty years. We have acquired copies of those papers available in Britain and have set up a research information catalogue which includes nearly 60 boxes with subjects ranging from Adolescence to Youth Service.
The results of these searches form the basis of a series of Resource Lists including: Alcohol; Black and Minority Ethnic Lesbians; Butch/Fem; Coming Out and Identity Development; Education; Etiology; Health; Mental Health and Therapy; Mothers; Old Lesbians; Parents of Lesbians and Gays; Relationships; Social Work; Working with Lesbian and Gay Youth, which are aimed at disseminating information in the hope of encouraging research and provision in Britain.
The joint LIS/LYSIS Affiliation scheme offers workers an opportunity to keep up-to-date with developments in the field and access to LIS Publications at discount prices. The Affiliation scheme was established initially to fund the work of LYSIS but it has so far failed to attract large numbers due to the newness of statutory work with lesbian and gay youth.
We have given talks, workshops and lectures at conferences (MIND; Trust for the Study of Adolescence; Drugs, Alcohol & Women Network; Mental Health Foundation; National Lesbian and Gay Health; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Psychologies UK; Local Authority Women's Committee) throughout Britain. These have included the themes of: Lesbians and Mental Health; Lesbians and Alcohol; Lesbian and Gay Youth and Suicide.
We have developed Homophobia Awareness Training, based on our multi-oppression framework, and have delivered it to housing and youth and community workers.
We have been involved with several campaigns, mostly around the needs of lesbian and gay youth. When we learned about a young lesbian called Jenny from the North of England who had been imprisoned in 1991 for 'impersonating a man' we made further enquiries. We visited Jenny for the nine months she was in prison, set up an international campaign to raise money to help support her and, eventually, helped her to win her appeal and get out of prison.
We have campaigned for over four years now to publicise the vulnerability of lesbian and gay youth to suicide and to encourage statutory and voluntary agencies to take the issues on board, with a little success. Now, for example, The Samaritans include reference to lesbian and gay youth in their publications; MIND include statistics in reports submitted to government and references within their discussion document on lesbians, gays and mental health; the Trust for the Study of Adolescence include workshops on lesbian and gay youth as well as information within their publications.
After about a year of campaigning the National Youth Agency have set up an Electoral College for organisations who work with lesbian and gay youth (similar colleges for agencies working with black young people, girls and young women and disabled young people have existed for over three years). We are hopeful that this will increase the level of support provided by both the voluntary and statutory sectors of the youth service.
Providing support for lesbians is the essence of LIS work. Since 1991 the number of requests for information and support have increased significantly, we now deal with over 2,000 enquiries a year. Most of the individual enquiries come from lesbians who need support to come out (four-fifths of whom are young lesbians), we also receive requests for information from students, researchers and the media. Voluntary and statutory agencies that contact us include health, education, mental health and youth services.
FUTURE OF LYSIS
We have been able to establish and run LYSIS without funding by raising money through LIS publications, training, lectures, affiliations, donations and, not least, the commitment of the founders. However, with the greater visibility of lesbian issues in the media more young lesbians are realising their sexual orientation at younger ages and coming out sooner. There is still little support available from the traditional sources such as school, youth service, social services, health service, parents. Because of this, and alongside the greater visibility of LYSIS, demand for support is outstripping our ability to cope, both financially and personnally.
Having been unsuccessful in our numerous funding applications over the years, last year the Mental Health Foundation awarded us £30,000 over two years to pay for a half-time post to develop LYSIS. We have already set up a steering group which consists of a management group made up of local people (local council, youth and health service) who support the project and an advisory group made up of representatives from other national agencies (Save The Children, MIND, Childline, The Samaritans). We are in the process of applying for charity status for LYSIS (it is only within the last few years that lesbian and gay organisations have been able to apply for charity status and very few trusts or foundations would fund such an organisation).
The Mental Health Foundation distributed a press release about the funding. Whilst we have been unable to monitor all of the press, in stark contrast to earlier attacks in the "Leicester Mercury" and the "Lancashire Evening Telegraph," we received excellent coverage in the local "Halifax Courier" (although followed by several, negative, letters from individuals) and the "Todmorden News."
The local authority are supporting our work by providing office space; we hope to have a more accessible office within the near future. Other major developmental tasks include: conducting research and setting up a data-base of supportive agencies and individuals and establishing a User Group to enable young lesbians from around Britain to become more involved. It is hoped that we will be able to develop a volunteer programme from these new initiatives.
We are breaking new ground and are a little unsure of the future. Acquiring funding means setting up a management structure in order to acquire charitable status. The bureaucracy of this could prove too burdensome for a small organisation and LYSIS could collapse.
On the other hand, it could mean the opening up of LYSIS for further funding and expansion, thus providing much needed support to greater numbers of young lesbians.
However, LYSIS is not starting from scratch; it is being developed on a strong theoretical basis which has been built up from over eight years experience of running Lesbian Information Service, conducting research, acquiring and disseminating information and developing training programmes, activities which LIS will continue to pursue. LIS will be present, for the next eighteen months at least, to ensure that LYSIS has a good chance of success; the rest will be up to the will and commitment of those who get involved.
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