Jan Bridget: Sponsorship

World Pride

In July 2013 I submitted a presentation for the next WorldPride Human Rights Conference, in Toronto in June 2014.

I learnt in October that I had been successful.

The acceptance letter states, "This is a significant accomplishment - the Conference received close to 400 applications from almost 60 countries around the world."

I am thrilled. The only problem is that I am now retired, after over 25 years of working with LGBTs, in particular LGBT young people. My only income is a State Pension and I cannot afford to pay the costs of the air fare, accommodation and conference fees.

I am estimating that this will cost between one thousand and one thousand and five hundred pounds (I will confirm the exact amount later).

I am applying for grants and bursaries but there is no guarantee I will be successful. I am, therefore, setting up this page and asking people - friends, family, ex-colleagues - to sponsor me for this trip.

I have a savings account that I can use specifically for this purpose and I will acknowledge, on this page, any donations or sponsorships I receive.

When I was in Canada visiting my sisters Nina and Sue and their families, I was impressed by their dedication to fitness. I was especially impressed by Sue who is in a wheelchair and works out Monday to Friday for an hour and a half every day! I joined her and began walking on Martin's treadmill.

I plan to get a treadmill and walk (treadmill and 'real' walking) as well as regular swimming. The distance between Todmorden (where I live) and Toronto is 3410 miles. There is no way I could achieve this in six months, so I am giving myself a target of 1,137 miles, which is just over a third of the way. I will post on this page my weekly progress.

So people can sponsor me per mile or simply give a donation.

For those of you who know me you will be aware that I am very much over-weight and extremely unfit; my mobility has reduced significantly in the past year.

So as well as raising money to go to Toronto, I should also get fit and lose weight, both of which should help with my mobility. If you would rather sponsor me per pound I will lose, that will be fine, too; although I have no idea how much I will lose.

If you wish to help me attend the conference to deliver the presentation please contact me at: hello@galyic.org.uk

The Presentation

Many of the young LGBT people I have worked with over the years have been highly vulnerable to mental health problems (self-harm, suicide ideation and attempts, anxieties, eating disorders), alcohol and drug misuse, homelessness, and poor sexual health.

The main cause of this is homophobia, both external: parental rejection or non-acceptance; homophobic bullying at school; homophobic abuse on the streets, isolation, and internal: internalised stigmatised identity, low self-esteem, self-hatred; not wanting to be LGBT.

My research into the needs and experience of LGBT young people began in 1990 looking at the needs of young lesbians/bisexual women in East Lancashire. This expanded to research with young lesbian, gay and bisexual men and women in Calderdale in 1998.

After setting up GALYIC (Gay and Lesbian Youth in Calderdale) with a group of young people in 1999 I realised the importance of assessing and responding to their needs as soon as possible, not least because an early GALYIC member died from a drug over-dose/suicide when she was only 20 years old. You can hear me reading her story on YouTube.

I worked with the IT specialist from Calderdale and Kirklees Careers Service and we developed a data-base questionnaire that provided a comprehensive assessment (the NAT - Needs Assessment Tool). The responses were printed out and formed the basis of an agreed, individual action plan.

This could involve, for example, referral for housing support, counselling, sexual health check ups, etc.

As well as being a systematic approach to meeting the needs of members, a consolidated report could be produced to show what percentage of members had mental health problems, substance misuse problems, housing problems, etc. In turn this was used to acquire funding, e.g. from BBC Children in Need. See, for example, the NAT 2010 Report.

As can be seen from this report, a new section was added to the NAT to identify members' experiences of accessing different services. This revealed that several of the mainstream services aimed at young people were either not being used by LGBT young people, not accessible to them or not meeting their needs. This provided useful evidence to open discussions on how agencies could develop services to meet the needs of LGBT young people.

I worked with John Dotchin from ReSURV, a company which provides specialist internet based applications; John was working on a health data-base questionnaire for schools in Calderdale. I worked closely with John to put the NAT on-line. Over time we expanded it to include a follow up assessment (IMP - Impact Assessment) to be taken six months after the initial NAT.

The IMP provided evidence of how far the young person had travelled and how successful our interventions had been, thus showing whether outcomes had been met - outcomes which have traditionally been difficult to measure.

Working closely with John I was able to amend and adapt the NATnIMP to include new measurements such as anger levels. In the last NAT report I was able to provide insight into some of the differences between a handful of young LGBT people (ten) compared with some of the findings from the Calderdale School Health Survey:

    94% of the school survey had moderate self esteem, about a third of GALYIC members had low self-esteem;
    the majority of students in the school survey had low aggression levels whereas half of GALYIC members had high aggression levels;
    42% of the school survey had experienced bullying compared with 60% of GALYIC members who had experienced specific homophobic bullying (several had experienced other forms of bullying);
    the Calderdale School Survey found that 25% had smoked (GALYIC 80%); 12.4% had used illegal drugs (GALYIC 70%); 20% regularly used alcohol (GALYIC: the majority used alcohol but 40% had significant alcohol problems);
    the Calderdale School Survey found that 15.7% had self-harmed - only one member of GALYIC had NOT self-harmed.
Of course, we are only talking about ten young LGBT people; however, previous reports, such as Ten Years On reveal that these are not isolated findings.

It is when you look at some of the consolidated findings that you realise the horrendous effects of homophobia, especially when social class is taken into account: the majority of young people who accessed GALYIC came from poorer families.

It is my firm belief that if we want to reduce the effects of homophobia on LGBT young people, including suicide, in the long term we need to extinguish homophobia. But this will take many years.

Meanwhile, it is crucial that isolated young LGBT people access LGBT youth groups where they can meet other young people who have been through similar experiences and realise they are not alone, can begin to have a 'normal' adolescence and reduce the levels of internal homophobia.

At the same time professionals who come into contact with LGBT young people, be they school nurses, social workers, youth workers, housing workers, mental health workers, need to be able to identify and respond to their diverse needs.

The NATnIMP is just the tool to provide a consistent and systematic approach to help professionals meet the needs of this highly vulnerable group.

This is the basis of my presentation.