Supporting LGBT+ Community Action in Leeds

Leeds LGBT+ Mapping Project report on how the third sector supports LGBT+ community action

This report investigates how funders and third sector infrastructure organisations currently support LGBT+ community action in Leeds.

Previous research from Leeds LGBT+ Mapping Project found that around half of the LGBT+ activity happening in the city was community led and volunteer run, and without regular funding. This raised concerns around the sustainability of LGBT+ community action in the city, and what is needed to support it.

Some key findings of this report
  • Supporting LGBT+ communities was not an identified priority for any of the organisations who participated in this survey.
  • Few of the organisations who responded to the survey said they were proactively seeking knowledge on assets and challenges on LGBT+ communities in Leeds by building links with LGBT+ groups and projects.
  • The majority the LGBT+ community action is undertaken by groups that are not formally constituted or registered with the Charities Commission. This means that they are are often ineligible to apply for funding.

To read the full report follow this link 

Leeds LGBT+ Mapping Project launches new report for LGBT+ History Month – ‘Spotlight on Racism’

Download report here…

The report responds to the findings of Leeds LGBT+ Mapping Projects’ research which found that racism was a priority concern for many in Leeds.

Leeds LGBT+ Mapping Project has conducted a short piece of research to scratch at the surface of BME LGBT+ experience in Leeds. This brief report is a summary of stories and experiences some LGBT+ BME people in Leeds shared.

What is captured here does not representative of the views of all BME LGBT+ people in the city, but highlights some strong and common themes that have surfaced through this community research.

The key messages from the report are:

  • Many felt that LGBT+ communities in Leeds lacked ethnic diversity. Some BME LGBT+ people did not feel welcome or included in LGBT+ spaces and communities in the city. This related to both commercial LGBT+ spaces and more alternative LGBT+ communities.
  • Experiences of racism on the commercial gay scene were common – much of this was sexualised racism.
  • There was an expectation among some BME LGBT+ people that they would encounter racism in LGBT+ communities.
  • It was important for BME LGBT+ people to be in community with other BME LGBT+ people.
  • There are health and well being impacts of racism for BME LGBT+ people, that include loneliness, isolation and poor mental health.
  • BME LGBT+ people are travelling to Manchester, Bradford and London to find more accessible and diverse LGBT+ communities. This suggests that despite the ethnic diversity of Leeds there is a lack of spaces and resources for BME LGBT+ people.

We hope this document be a springboard for discussion on experiences of BME LGBT+ people in Leeds, and in particular experiences of exclusion, racism and Islamophobia.

Leeds LGBT+ Mapping Project Report Summary

Access and download:

Leeds LGBT+ Mapping Project – Report Summary

Leeds LGBT+ Mapping Project – Full Report

About the project

The LGBT+ Mapping Project was a short piece of exploratory work commissioned by Leeds Community Foundation in conjunction with Leeds City Council as part of their commitment to making Leeds an LGBT+ friendly city.

This research was undertaken by Anne-Marie Stewart, Community Development Worker at Leeds Older People’s Forum, on behalf of the Four Forums Partnership, between November 2016 and February 2017.

The project engaged a number of data collection methods and strategies for ensuring the work was participatory and guided by voices from within LGBT+ communities in Leeds. This included community mapping, outreach and consultation, survey research, and guidance from a LGBT+ project advisory group.

There were 126 responses to the community survey from LGBT+ people across Leeds.

By looking at both formal and informal LGBT+ networks and infrastructure in Leeds the Leeds LGBT+ Mapping Project sought to map out LGBT+ activity and assets to provide a snapshot of the city and to build an understanding of the following:

  • The levels of LGBT+ community activity and capacity in the city
  • How to build on and grow existing LGBT+ assets and activity in the city
  • The challenges and exclusions facing LGBT+ people and communities in Leeds
  • What LGBT+ people value in Leeds and what they consider necessary to ensure LGBT+ people and communities are supported

This report provides an evidence base for further development which is necessary to understand how to best resource LGBT+ communities in Leeds.

The importance of LGBT+ communities in Leeds

There is no single LGBT+ community in Leeds; rather a number of different communities of people who identify as LGBT+ in the city. People’s social lives are complex and shaped by their relationships and social networks as well as their sense of identity, informed by their politics, gender, ethnicity, faith, class and sexuality.

Almost 8 in 10 people said being part of an LGBT+ community was important to them, yet only 3 in 10 LGBT+ people said they felt part of an LGBT+ community. Almost 4 in 10 said they ‘sometimes’ felt part of an LGBT+ community.

What people value

LGBT+ people said they valued the following aspects about Leeds’ LGBT+ communities:

  • They are visible (have a presence in the city)
  • They have a DIY and grassroots spirit
  • They are supportive networks, friendships and communities of care
  • They allow people to feel part of something larger
  • They are diverse

What people felt negatively impacted LGBT+ communities

Some of the concerns people had:

  • The lack of safer and more accessible spaces for LGBT+ people (especially trans and non-binary people, older people, BME people, disabled people and women)
  • Mainstream services should better serve LGBT+ communities
  • The need for capacity building within the LGBT+ community to ensure the sustainability of community action
  • Homophobia and transphobia in the city

Leeds LGBT+ landscape

Mapping was undertaken as a way of identifying strengths and gaps within Leeds’ LGBT+ community.  The mapping exercise recorded 102 activities – 81% were LGBT+ led and focused, 19% were LGBT+ friendly. Most of the 102 activities took place in Leeds City Centre.

Almost 60% of LGBT+ led  activities were volunteer or community led – sustained by unpaid work. The majority of the activities mapped were social and support.  BME and disabled people were particularly underrepresented in LGBT+ activities and groups.

LGBT+ community assets

The Leeds LGBT+ Mapping Project aimed to find out what LGBT+ people in Leeds considered as assets to the community and to their life as an LGBT+ person in Leeds. The most frequently cited things in Leeds that have positive impact on LGBT+ lives were:

  • Leeds Pride – annual city celebration of LGBT + community
  • Yorkshire MESMAC – longstanding sexual health organisation with history working for HIV/AIDS prevention. MESMAC delivers a number of different services relevant to LGBT+ people
  • Wharf Chambers Cooperative – multipurpose venue and bar seen as a hub and ‘safe space’ for LGBT+ people in Leeds
  • Gay Quarter – Leeds’ commercial gay venues on Lower Briggate and The Calls

Many of the assets identified through the project weren’t common across LGBT+ people in Leeds. Certain assets were of greater value to some LGBT+ communities than others.

In addition, what was identified by some LGBT people was identified as negative by others. In particular there were many comments collected throughout the project about people’s experience and perceptions of Leeds commercial gay scene that suggested it was not accessible or inclusive of LGBT+ people who are trans, non-binary, BME, women, disabled, or older people.

LGBT+ health and wellbeing

The survey asked what people thought were LGBT+ health and wellbeing priorities in Leeds.

  • Mental health (86%)
  • Sexual health (50%)
  • Safe and welcoming spaces (46%)
  • Trans health care (43%)
  • Drug and alcohol abuse (31%)

Leeds’ LGBT+ communities are experiencing a mental health crisis. In the last 5 years, 90% of respondents to the survey had experienced difficult mental health that severely impacted on their day-to-day functioning.

Although mental health, sexual health, safe and welcoming spaces, trans health care and drug and alcohol abuse are presented separately, for many LGBT+ people these issues are inextricably intertwined, negatively impacting and reinforcing each other.

Trans healthcare was a priority concern for many LGBT+ people. A number of people in the survey commented on how long waiting lists to access trans healthcare in Leeds had a negative impact on the physical and mental health of trans people.

The lack of safe and welcoming spaces for many LGBT+ people meant an increased risk of isolation and loneliness, as well as reinforcing difficult mental health experiences already associated with discrimination and prejudice, especially for those most marginalised.

LGBT+ communities are disproportionately impacted by drug and alcohol abuse, driven by experiences of social marginalisation, discrimination and prejudice, and poorer mental health outcomes. Negative experiences with healthcare lead to and reinforce these poor outcomes.

Findings indicate that sexual health inequalities remain a persistent concern amongst LGBT+ communities in Leeds.

LGBT+ community safety

The survey asked respondents to pick three issues related to LGBT+ community safety that they felt are the biggest priorities to tackle in Leeds.

Community safety concerns are intimately connected to health and wellbeing concerns. Literature has shown that social stigmatization and direct experiences of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic abuse are connected to increased levels of stress, anxiety and depression, problematic drug and alcohol usage, smoking, internalised homophobia, and suicide. (Banks, 2003)

Transphobic and homophobic hate crimes are a concern and a reality for LGBT+ people in Leeds. Only one third of survey respondents said they had confidence in the police to respond effectively. Experiences of violence, abuse, prejudice and discrimination were broad and wide ranging. For many respondents these experiences were related to their actual or perceived sexuality.

Trans and non-binary people are overrepresented across experiences of sexual assault, physical violence, verbal abuse, negative comments, harassment, bullying and homelessness.

Women, trans men and non-binary people are overrepresented in experiences of sexual assault. One in four women who responded to the survey had experienced sexual assault. Over half of non-binary people who responded to the survey had experienced sexual assault.

Addressing domestic violence and abuse amongst LGBT+ was another priority for LGBT+ people in Leeds.

Racist hate was a concern for LGBT+ people who responded to the survey, and throughout the project people shared their experiences of racism within LGBT+ communities.

Homelessness amongst LGBT+ people was a concern for over a third of survey respondents. The Albert Kennedy Trust estimates that one in four young homeless people will be LGBT.


Leeds’ LGBT+ population is active and belonging to a community matters to many LGBT+ people in the city.  This investment in the idea of community is evident  in the number of LGBT+ led efforts in Leeds that focus on building social and supportive networks.

LGBT+ people have a long history of addressing their own social and support needs by taking action in their communities.  This action can look like setting up a social group, campaigning for inclusion and against discriminatory policies, developing networks of emotional support, or putting on cultural events celebrating queer life.

Data gathered through mapping LGBT+ activity in Leeds shows that 60% of this activity is driven by volunteers or community led which indicates there is a lack of resources and investment, and therefore a risk to the sustainability of action.

The survey  highlighted issues related to intersecting oppressions and experiences felt by LGBT+ people in Leeds regarding disability, race and ethnicity, religion, age, gender. Many LGBT+ people felt that the LGBT+ social and cultural landscape in Leeds, currently, isn’t accessible or inclusive to them because of discrimination and prejudice they experienced in these settings – discrimination and prejudice related to their ethnicity, age, gender, disability or trans status.

Many of the concerns that LGBT+ people in Leeds have around health and wellbeing and community safety are persistent issues that communities and researchers have highlighted for decades; such as poor mental and sexual health, homophobia and transphobia, youth homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse.

Whilst this community action is a strength and an asset, it also reveals where mainstream services and society is inaccessible to some LGBT+ people.  LGBT+ community led action around issues related to health inequality, or creating safe spaces indicate not just a connectedness between LGBT+ people but also that services aren’t meeting the needs of these communities and that these communities aren’t always safe in the mainstream.


Safe, inclusive and accessible spaces

  • Local councils and funders should value and invest in the provision of safe and inclusive LGBT+ spaces
  • An LGBT+ Charter Mark for Leeds that would identify places as inclusive and safe for LGBT+ people. Recognising the intersectional oppressions that face communities this Charter Mark must also be fully inclusive and safe for disabled people, BME people, women, people of faith and older people
  • The development of an inclusive LGBT+ community centre. Staffing of an LGBT+ community centre to be LGBT+ led, with a particular focus on underrepresented or marginalised groups e.g. trans, bisexual people and LGBT+ BME people
  • The development of an LGBT+ housing project that is intergenerational, supporting the needs of older and younger LGBT+ people in Leeds

Accessible and up to date information about LGBT+ Leeds

  • Investigating the feasibility of developing an LGBT+ Hub website for Leeds to ensure information is widely available about what support there is in the city. For the website to be accessible, to include BSL interpretation, translation into community languages, to be sustainable and adequately resourced.

Sustainable and supported LGBT+ community action

Around half the LGBT+ activity identified is community led and volunteer run, which raises sustainability concerns. These efforts require support and resources, including but not limited to:

  • Greater availability of small grants for community groups and for the application process to be accessible
  • The development of a strong collective community voice is essential to ensure the demands of LGBT+ people are met and that action taken is coordinated and strengthened. An LGBT+ consortium in Leeds, of smaller groups and organisations, would foster this goal. Those who are most marginalised within LGBT+ communities should be brought to the fore, their voices amplified in the development of a consortium or forum
  • Building stronger networks – supporting established LGBT+ groups and projects to connect with emerging or smaller projects to share skills and resources, and connect agendas
  • The development of a ‘code of conduct’ for larger organisations and public bodies who engage and consult with LGBT+ groups and individuals. Ensuring that the time, knowledge and expertise of LGBT+ communities are valued through providing remuneration or resources in exchange

Addressing health inequalities amongst LGBT+ communities

  • Inclusion of LGBT+ people in the design of services, to co-produce with LGBT+ organisations, groups and communities
  • Development of LGBT+ led mental health services with a range of services including 1:1 counselling services and drop-in. Integrated services are important for people to feel comfortable and that they know where to go and feel trust.
  • Addressing practical barriers for LGBT+ people accessing mental health services; ensuring their location is safe, accessible and affordable.
  • Training and accountability around LGBT+ issues for statutory and non-statutory mental health staff.
  • Developing and supporting trans-led organisations and groups that provide support and advocacy on issues related to trans health. Recognising that trans people are the experts in their own lives and best placed to develop supportive services for trans communities.

Addressing LGBT+ community safety

  • More detailed monitoring of LGBT+ identities when recording hate crimes.
  • Begin addressing racism within the gay scene and LGBT+ community. Facilitation of discussion on the issue of racism with LGBT+ communities, and the impact of racism on BME LGBT+ people, including collection of testimony from LGBT+ people affected by racism.
  • Build a strategy for ensuring racism is challenged at all levels.
  • Support for existing groups and projects are led by BME LGBT+ people.
  • Training domestic violence services staff on how to support LGBT+ people, ensuring the inclusion of trans people and non-binary people in the DVA support services, for services and local authorities to provide clear signposting to local domestic violence services in Leeds that are available to LGBT+ communities.
  • Training sexual violence support services staff on how to support LGBT+ people, ensuring the inclusion of trans people and non-binary people in sexual violence survivors services.

Further consultation with the most marginalised and harder to reach LGBT+ communities

  • Though the Leeds LGBT+ Mapping Project community survey has successfully engaged many LGBT+ people in Leeds there is the need for further consultation with BME and disabled LGBT+ people

Further information

To find more information on the LGBT+ projects, groups and organisations that informed this work you will find an A to Z directory attached to the full report.

You can access and download a copy of the Leeds LGBT+ Mapping Project report summary here

You can access and download the Leeds LGBT+ Mapping Project full report here

Acess the Leeds LGBT+ Mapping Project Google Map here


This work is funded by Leeds City Council and supported by Leeds Community Foundation.