This weekend sees Pride across Manchester City Centre; the award winning annual lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) festival.
Young Women’s Health Project (aka LIK:T) is run by and for young lesbian and bisexual women between the ages of 14 and 25 to improve health by promoting various activities designed around six areas: physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and occupational and social/community.
Many of the LIK:T attendees have mental health issues due to the rejection and difficulties they have faced through either hiding their sexuality of being ‘out’ in a family or school that is hostile to lesbian and bisexual young people.
The young women in the group are all lesbian or bisexual and have faced homophobia and biphobia in their lives. One third of them have been subject to abuse in the home or family rejection of their sexuality. Half have mental health issues, the most common being depression. Lots of the young women are shy and do not feel comfortable in mixed young groups or sports facilities, and need extra support and encouragement to be able to get involved.
Nearly half of the young people LIK:T works with have financial challenges, and the group has supported a lot of them to access emergency accommodation and/or food parcels over the past year.
These young women have a lot to give and need people round them who support them, make them feel important and help them develop their confidence and skills, so that they can reach their potential and in turn, help other people do the same, which is exactly what LIK:T aims to do.
The groups aims are for attendees to:
– improve fitness.
– increase confidence and happiness
– be able to teach and train new skills
– feel less isolated
– build support networks
– have the chance to do accreditation e.g. level one sports coaching
– have less need for higher level support e.g. state funded mental health crisis support
As a result the group will have more young people who want to volunteer and help other young women, which will mean increase LIK:T’s impact.
The community will have more confident young people with more skills for sports and healthy lifestyle knowledge that they can share with others.
A recent camp that Forever Manchester supported incorporated sports such as canoeing and cycling alongside advice and support for young bisexual and lesbian women. The organisations who carry out the canoeing training and hire out the bikes are both organisations that the group knew and had been given LGBT training to so they were able to make the young women feel comfortable.
Of the camp, the group said: “We ran a super super summer camp. There were 44 people in total. One young women said ‘being here lets me live the way I have always wanted to live’. The young women who came on camp often grow up isolated as the only lesbian/bisexual women in their family or in their school. This camp is affirming and supportive, providing a chance for these young women to connect and build peer support, fun and adventure in a safe environment whatever their race, class, colour or ability.”