Leeds LGBT+ Mapping Project Report Summary
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About the project
The LGBT+ Mapping Project is 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
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.