Jan Bridget

Jan Bridget

I originally come from Lancashire but have lived in Todmorden since 1989. I knew at eleven that I fancied girls but didn't come out proper to my family until I was 23, having just completed six years in the Royal Air Force. I left school at 15 years and worked in two local factories before enlisting. When I was 16 I sang in a local pop group called The Beathovens. Whilst I was in the RAF I was involved in several witch-hunts: in those days it was illegal to be gay in the forces and there were regular witch-hunts when the RAF police would interrogate members of the force who they suspected were gay; if found guilty they were discharged. I managed to escape capture but decided the stress was too great and so left the forces in 1971.

After a stint as a secretary in London I was lucky enough to get a mature student's grant and first attended Hillcroft College to gain the equivalent of GCE A levels and then Queen Mary College, London University where I acquired a 2.1 BA degree in Classical Studies. I later acquired a Diploma in Youth and Community Work and worked for Lancashire County Council as a rural youth worker but was forced to leave due to discrimination (back in the days before it was illegal to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation).

In 1987, when I lived in Leicester, I jointly set up Lesbian Information Service, with my then partner Sandra Lucille, which we ran together for ten years. Whilst in Leicester we conducted research into the housing needs of lesbians and set up a young lesbian group. However, we were forced out of the Women's Centre (because we were too lesbian) and then forced out of the Gay Centre because they weren't happy with a lesbian-only youth group. This experience played a large part in us leaving Leicester and moving to Todmorden. We also published a national, and later international, lesbian newsletter for three years.

In the early 1990's we conducted research into the needs of young lesbian and bisexual women in East Lancashire and set up a young lesbian group but, again, because of the homophobia of Lancashire County Council, we were forced to close the group. However, this research led to the establishment of LYSIS (Lesbian Youth Support Information Service) a long distance support network for isolated young lesbians around Britain which we ran for six years and supported hundreds of young lesbian and bisexual women.

The Lesbians and Alcohol Project also emanated from the original research; this included surveying alcohol treatment agencies in north west England, producing a lesbian alcohol resource list and a booklet aimed at agency workers to help them support lesbians with drink problems.

In 1998 I was approached by a health promotion worker to get involved in a local project in Calderdale to look at the unmet needs of LGB young people. We acquired funding and I conducted in-depth interviews with 15 young people as well as surveying agencies to find out what kind of support they provided for LGB young people. The findings were published in ACTION for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Young People in Calderdale and, along with members of the multi-agency group, "Supporting Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Young People in Calderdale" was published and distributed to agencies throughout Calderdale.

Over the years I have developed a training package (Homophobia Awareness from a Multi-Oppression Perspective) which I developed as part of a module I tutored on the Youth and Community Work course at the University of Manchester. I have since developed and adapted this and delivered it to hundreds of professionals around the country.

I have organised or helped to organise several local, regional and national conferences on LGBT issues, e.g. Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual People and Mental Health, Rotherham; Lesbians, Gays and Mental Health, Calderdale; Lesbians, Gays and Alcohol, Manchester and London, as well as running workshops and giving keynote presentations at over 50 conferences and events around the country.

I set up Gay and Lesbian Youth in Calderdale with a group of young people in 1999 and ran it until we closed the doors in November 2011.