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The needs of young people in Northern Ireland who identify as...

lesbian, gay, bisexual and or transgender

YouthNet, The Warehouse, 2nd Floor , 7 James Street South, Belfast, BT2 8DN Tel: 028 9033 1880, Email: info@youthnet.co.uk, www.youthnetni.org.uk Research Document December 2003


Research on the needs of young people who identify as...

shOUT The needs of young people in Northern Ireland who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (LGBT) This research has been commissioned by the Department of Education as part of their statutory duty to promote equality of opportunity under Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act (1998). Analysis of the Census 2001 indicates that between 2 and 10% of the population may be lesbian, gay or bisexual. This would indicate that there are between 12,190 and 60,953 LGB people under 25 years in Northern Ireland. The publication of the data provides an insight into the experiences of young people in Northern Ireland who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender as well as highlighting the support needs for organisations in responding to issues of sexual orientation/transgenderism. It is hoped that this research will promote open discussion and debate within the formal and non-formal education sectors, helping to inform and influence the development of future policies in relation to young people who identify as LGBT. The research was authored by Fidelma Carolan and Sharon Redmond of YouthNet (The Voluntary Youth Network for NI) and supported by a steering group comprised of the following representatives: • Rhoda Cassidy YouthAction NI • Sean Morrin Foyle Friend • Seamus Keeley Foyle Friend • Paul Hindley Rainbow Project • David Miles Rainbow Project • Amanda Stephens Young Citizens in Action Also supporting the research were• Terry Sargent – Gay Lesbian Youth Northern Ireland; and • Keith Kerrigan who carried out statistical analysis

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Methodology The research was carried out using three questionnaires targeting: 1. young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (LGBT) 2. organisations working with young people: 3. and public authorities. This data was supplemented with focus groups for young people who responded to the questionnaire. As with any research, findings are based on a sample of people. 362 young people who identified as LGBT under the age of 25 completed an anonymous questionnaire either online or on paper. This questionnaire was promoted widely through youth, community and gay organisations, as well as online. However we were unable to promote the questionnaire in schools, as permission could not be obtained. Approximately 25 young people also participated in focus groups.

Illustration of results from the Sample There were approximately 5 years between a young person knowing they were LGBT and telling someone else 78% of young people came out to friends first 63% of young people did not feel they could tell their parents when they first came out 86% of young people were aware of their sexual orientation while at school 11% of young people got support or information in school 29% of young people taking part in the research had attempted suicide 44% of young people were bullied at school because of their sexuality Of the 63% of young people who experienced negative attitudes in school around sexual orientation, only 13% of these sought support 69% of young people who left school earlier than they would have preferred were also bullied Young LGBT people are five times more likely to be medicated for depression 50% of young people who identified as transgendered had self harmed 50% of young people experienced a negative attitude towards sexual orientation whilst being a member of a youth organisation 91% of young people believed that youth organisations should deal with the needs of young LGBT people. 79% of youth organisations would like access to training for staff on issues which affect young LGBT people


Research on the needs of young people who identify as...

Profile of Respondents Respondents came from all six counties in Northern Ireland, from urban and rural areas. More men than women took part in the sample, perhaps because of differential access to IT and to gay venues. Some young people identified as being members of minority ethnic groups, some stated they have disabilities and respondents came from a variety of perceived religious backgrounds. 49% are in education and 69% are or had been involved with a youth organisation. This finding is not surprising as the questionnaire was promoted through youth and community organisations. Percentage of responses in relation to how respondents describe their sexual orientation. Figure 1>

60 54 50 40 30

24

20

14

10

6 2

0

Lesbian *

Gay

Bisexual

Unsure

Other

Which one of these best describes your sexual orientation? * those who indicated gay + female are included in ‘Lesbian’ Lesbian (24%) = N(88), Gay (54%) = N(196), Bisexual (14%) = N(52), Unsure (6%) = N(21), Other (2%) =N(5)

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Percentage of responses from respondents in relation to whether they are male or female.

70

64

<Figure 2

60 50 36

40 30 20 10 0

Male

Female

Are you male or female? Male (64%) = N(232),

Female (36%) = N (130)

Percentage of responses from respondents in relation to the age category within which they fall

48

50

<Figure 3

44

45 40 35 30 25 20 15 10

9

5 0

16 or under

17 - 20

21 - 25

How,old are you 16 Or Under (9%) = N (31),

17-20 (44%) = N (159),

21-25 (48%) = N (172)


Research on the needs of young people who identify as...

Percentage of responses from respondents in relation to how they perceive their religious background Figure 4>

60

53

50 40

34

30 20

13

10 0

Catholic

Protestant

Other

What is your perceived religious background? Catholic (53%) = N(193), Protestant (34%) = N(122), Other (13%) = N(47) Other profile characteristics 4% identified as a member of an ethnic minority 15 young people had a disability 14 respondents identified as transgendered/transsexual 36% of young people were from a rural area

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Percentage of responses from respondents in relation to their occupational status.

40

37

<Figure 5

35 30 25 20 15

20 16 13 10

10 4

5 0

At School In Further In Employed Employed Education University Full Time Part-Time

Not Working

Are you? At School (16%) = N (58), In Further Ed (20%) = N (71), In University (13%) = N (48), Employed Full Time (37%) = N (135), Employed Part-Time (4%) = N (15), Not Working (10%) = N (35).


Research on the needs of young people who identify as...

Percentage of respondents who are or were members of youth organisations

45

Figure 6>

44

40 35 27

30

25

25

21

20 15 10 5 0

Youth Club

Youth Group

Uniformed Organisation

Church Based Youth Group

Youth club (44%) = N (160), Youth Group (27%) = N (99), Uniformed Organisation (25%) = N (90), Church Based Youth Group (21%) = N(74) .

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Percentage of responses from respondents in relation to the age that they realised they were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered.

40 40

37

<Figure 7

35 30 25 20 15 9

10 5 0

7

3 0 -5

6-9

10 - 13

14 - 17

18 - 21

1.5

2.5

22 - 25

Not Specified

What age were you when you realised you were gay, lesbian, bisexual? 0-5yrs (3%) = N (8), 6-9yrs (9%) = N (34), 10-13yrs (40%) = N(145), 14-17yrs (37%) = N (134), 18-21yrs (7%) = N(27), 22-25yrs (1.5%) = N (5), Not Specified (2.5%) = N (9)


Research on the needs of young people who identify as...

Percentage of responses from respondents in relation to the age that they came out to someone else Figure 8>

60

53

50 40 27

30 20 10 0

6 10 - 13

14 - 17

18 -21

7

7

22 - 25

Not Specified

What age were you when you first came out to someone else? 10-13yrs (6%) = N (21), 14-17yrs (53%) = N (192), 1 8-21yrs (27%) = N (98), 22-25yrs (7%) = N(24), Not Specified (7%) = N (27)

What is â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Coming Outâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;? Coming out is where a person accepts to themselves their sexual orientation and wishes to share it with someone else. Coming out is a fundamental aspect of the personal and social development of young people who identify as LGBT. It can be a particularly emotionally challenging time for young people, who are caught between their developing sense of sexual identity, which is different to what is around them and wanting to fit in with their peers.

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The average age for men to realise they were LGBT was 12 years. However the average age they first told someone else was 17 years of age. For women, realisation was at around the 13 years of age, with coming out to another person at around 18 years. This indicates that for many young people there is a substantial period in their lives when they are struggling to come to terms with their sexual orientation or transgenderism. With 86% of respondents aware of sexuality in school and 69% involved with


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youth organisations, it is clear that messages young people get in these places are crucial to their personal and social development and ability to manage the critical transition from youth to adult. These findings emphasise the need to consider the development of specific support for young LGBT people under 16 years old.

Who do young people tell? Friends provided essential support, this is illustrated by the fact that 90% of respondents had told at least one friend. Research highlights the importance of peers in adolescent’s sense of self and self esteem. The messages young people receive from their peers and from society in general can impact on negative and high risk behaviours.

“Before I came out I was drinking, gambling, I told a friend who was very angry that I didn’t tell her sooner. I didn’t like the person I was then and since I came out I’ve felt liberated” Similarly negative attitudes can reduce a young person’s access to support.

“When I was in school in my last year, I contemplated telling people but someone would make a derogatory remark about queers and I would keep quiet” Parents were the most difficult to tell with 63% indicating that they could not tell parents when they first came out and only one quarter of young people stating they were out to all of their family.

“I am out to everyone I know except family. I don’t want to lose my parents. A fear of being disowned” Rejection by the family can leave young people not just emotionally vulnerable but also can leave them at risk; highlighting the need for support mechanisms for parents/guardians around issues which affect young people who identify as LGBT. Almost three quarters of all respondents indicated that they had experienced homophobic attitudes from family members and as a result 45% felt compelled to leave the family home. 16% of young people stated that they had experienced homelessness.

“A neighbour told my parents and they threw me out, they said I was disgusting. I then stayed with some friends but I couldn’t get my own place because I was still at school”..


Research on the needs of young people who identify as...

From where do young people get support and information? Over half the respondents got support/information from the internet with 36% seeking it from books and magazines. Lesbian and gay services also featured significantly in that 22% of respondents had contacted a lesbian/gay group, 18% had accessed a helpline and 17% had got information at a gay venue. Only 4% received information or support from school, 7% stating they got it from a youth organisation and one person indicated they got support or information from a church group. These findings have significance for targeting support for example, through the development of relevant information materials on sexual orientation for young people that can be distributed through the formal and non-formal education sectors.

Do young LGBT people have similar experiences to heterosexual people? Even though young LGBT people grow up in the same communities, go to the same schools and are involved in the same youth organisations as heterosexual young people, this research indicates that for many, their experience of the world is different. What are young people’s experiences within the school environment? 44% of respondents indicated that they been bullied at school directly because of their sexual orientation. With 63% of the sample stating that they had suffered negative experiences around their sexuality, it is clear that actual bullying was only one manifestation of that negativity. Their perceived sexuality also meant that 33% believed that they achieved lower results, one quarter of young people truanted with 15% actually dropping out and 9% changing school. The impact of bullying is stark in that those who stated they had been bullied also made up 69% of those who said that they left school earlier than they would have preferred and 65% of those who believed that they had achieved lower results.

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“I left school early and moved to tec. I was bullied from 1st to 4th year. I had to leave. I didn’t come out at school, but people said I was gay. I didn’t really understand what gay was. Teachers would say: Don’t be such a sissy / girl to me too”.


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All schools have policies and procedures in place in relation to bullying, young people are advised to talk to a teacher or a parent who can bring the bullying to the attention of those in authority and deal with it appropriately. However for young LGBT people this is not always an option, some expressed incidents and concerns about being ‘outed’ to their parents, others illustrated how those in authority colluded with the bullying or contributed to it.

“Teachers had more of a problem than pupils. Teachers would talk/gossip about it, even in the corridors, and allowed verbal abuse directed towards me by other pupils, even in front of them. The school also made it clear to me that my sexual orientation was abnormal and not to be talked about in school”. Homophobia is not just a bullying issue; it goes much further than that. Respondents stated that they did not see their lives or their feelings reflected in the curriculum. Relationships were always spoken of in a heterosexual context, where discussions on homosexuality did take place, some teachers reinforced the idea that homosexuals were “second class citizens”, “perverted”, “wrong” and “would burn in hell”, The research indicates that the insidious way in which homosexuality was related to both inside and outside the classroom contributed to the way in which young gay people felt about and reacted to them. This highlights the need to include sexuality as a core topic in both the new Citizenship curriculum and in the Relationships and Sexuality Education programme. It also highlights the need to develop and pilot resource materials for the formal education sector that will increase awareness at all levels and directly support work around issues of sexuality/sexual orientation. What are young people’s experiences within the youth sector? In youth organisations 36% of respondents stated that they had experienced a negative attitude, this is 53% of those who are or were members of youth organisations. The examples given by young people indicated that the negative attitude came from both their peers and also from youth leaders. This also highlights the need to develop and pilot resource materials for the non-formal education sector that will increase awareness at all levels and directly support work around issues of sexuality/sexual orientation.

“In church groups I helped for my Duke of Edinburgh Award. When they discovered my sexuality they asked me to leave as they didn’t feel it was appropriate to have someone like me working in such an environment i.e. religious setting with an influence over young children. I never joined my local youth club out of fear of physical or verbal assault because from a young age Î was perceived as different”.


Research on the needs of young people who identify as...

Even when support was sought by the young person, they received a different response than if support was sought on other general adolescent issues.

“I approached a youth leader for support however I was told to go home and not talk about being gay”. It would be easy to presume that it is only in a few traditionally conservative youth groups that these opinions prevail. However 58% of those attending youth clubs and 49% of those in youth groups also stated that they had negative experiences related to their sexuality. This compares to 57% of those attending church based organisations and 50% of those involved in uniformed groups. This indicates that no segment of the youth sector, statutory or voluntary, can be exempt from bringing their practice up to standard, in line with not only fundamental child protection and youth service policies but also basic human rights It is less likely that a young person who is being bullied because of a different sexual orientation will report it because of concern about the consequences of outing themselves and being victimised twice, firstly by the bully and then potentially by the adult responsible for their welfare. The homophobic messages that young people receive from their peers and adults effectively silence them and in doing so deny them access to services and rights open to other young people, often leaving them to cope and often struggle alone. This highlights the need to pro-actively encourage organisations to include sexual orientation explicitly in Equal Opportunities, Anti-Bullying, Anti-Harassment and Volunteers policies along side clear actions to ensure such policies are fully implemented. Many of the respondents involved in LGBT groups highlighted the support they received and the significance of that support. Other participants discussed the importance of being accepted, especially when they do not receive support at home or at school. This highlights the great need for supportive organisations.

“Because I am a member of a gay youth group (GLYNI), I receive loads of support around my sexuality”. 14

All of the young LGBT people involved in these groups described how being part of the group enhances their self esteem and self respect. They also highlighted the significant and positive impact being a member of a


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LGBT organisation can have on their lives. In addition, many of the young people pointed out that these groups are very different from most other youth organisations.

â&#x20AC;&#x153;I am happy and feel privileged to be part of this group. I feel excited about what we can achieveâ&#x20AC;? (YouthAction NI - Out & About Group)

Number and percentage of responses of respondents in relation to negative life experiences. Have You Ever Personally Experienced...?

Physical Abuse Verbal Abuse Sexual Abuse Homelessness Attempted Suicide Being In Care Self Harm Medicated For Depression Eating Disorder Alcohol Misuse Drug Misuse Practice Unsafe Sex Being Paid For Sex Sex In Public Places e.g. Public Toilets, Parks, Cruising etc

Number 126 237 63 57 104 27 95 87 76 124 82 98 27 111

% 35 65 17 16 29 7 26 24 21 34 23 27 7 31

Total sample 362 - 232 male and 130 female Like the findings above, other research reveals a potential range of psychologically demanding situations, arising largely from the social context, including negative social representations of lesbian and gay sexuality.


Research on the needs of young people who identify as...

The profile of respondents in this research indicates a strong predisposition to mental instability, high risk behaviour taking and negative self image. Young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender in this research are; • • • •

At least three times more likely to attempt suicide Two and a half times more likely to self harm Five times more likely to be medicated for depression Twenty times more likely to suffer from an eating disorder than their heterosexual counterparts.

They drink and take drugs on a par with heterosexuals though it’s impossible to compare levels of misuse due to the subjective nature of it. In addition a significant percentage have experienced sexually risky situations such as practicing unsafe sex, being paid for sex or not being in control of a sexual situation. This shows the need to develop and resource services aimed at reducing high risk behaviour and incidence of mental health issues amoung young people who identify as LGBT. Though there is some general gender distinction, the main distortion appears to be that experienced by those who identified as transgender, where more than 50% have had negative life experiences. Even allowing for the small sample (14), the percentages are significant and raise the debate around particular support and understanding which needs to be developed around transgenderism apart from issues around sexual orientation. Specific research is needed to help identify the particular needs of the transgendered community.

Is being gay a mental illness?

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No, homosexuality has not been recognised as a mental illness since 1974. However there is a significant body of research which links negative societal attitudes to negative self perception, low self esteem, poor performance depression and mental health issues. In this survey half to three quarters of those who cited being bullied or negative experiences in school also cited evidence of high risk taking behaviour and mental health issues. This is consistent with the theory that society’s attitudes to homosexuality creates a difficult environment for gay people and those difficulties can result in mental health issues, such as self harming or an eating disorder. Other research also contends that good social support and confidants can mitigate some of the negative societal influences thereby reducing the chance of high risk taking and mental health issues.


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What do schools and youth organisations say about working with young LGBT people? Schools have a range of policies and initiatives designed to protect young people, e.g. bullying, and promote the personal and social development of young people, e.g. relationship and sexuality guidelines. While there is no formal legal requirement that schools provide education in sex and sexuality, the Education Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 requires schools’ curricula to prepare pupils for the “opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life. In the new proposed curriculum guidance for teachers for Key Stage 4 pupils states that; “The issue of sexual orientation should be handled by schools in a sensitive, non-confrontational and reassuring way... Teachers, whatever their own views, should counteract prejudice and support the development of self-esteem and a sense of responsibility”. The youth service has developed a curriculum for youth work -’Youth Work: A Model for Effective Practice’ which includes a commitment and promotes the personal and social development of all young people in the youth sector engaged in the youth sector activites. 76 organisations, representing a range of local, regional, statutory, community, faith based and secular youth provision across Northern Ireland responded to a questionnaire as part of this research. This revealed that for many organisations completing the questionnaire was the first time they had considered the issue.

“This questionnaire has highlighted a real need for Community Projects to become more aware of the needs of young LGBT people within the community. We will become more pro-active in providing services and policies that are inclusive of all sexual orientations” Only 8 organisations surveyed make provision specifically for young LGBT people, this includes 4 LGBT groups and 4 mainstream youth organisations. While at one level there was a willingness to accommodate young people who identify as LGBT people the actions, systems and training are not currently in place to facilitate this.

“Has been quite difficult to answer some of the questions” While 58% of organizations stated that they would not be in a position to make provision specifically for young LGBT people they would encourage young LGBT people to participate in their existing youth work programmes. To support this 79% of organisations would like to access training for their staff to deal more effectively with issues around sexual orientation. Only one mainstream youth organisation stated that young LGBT people were not welcome in their community.


Research on the needs of young people who identify as...

In contrast to this only 11 (15%) actually have publicity aimed at encouraging young LGBT people to access their services, of which four are LGBT organisations and less than a quarter of those surveyed have formal links with LGBT organisations.

“We are aware that we are not targeting this issue as much as maybe we should be” Of the respondents , generally there was a clear willingness from organisations working with young people to look at the issue of sexual orientation. These organisations indicated that, with support, they would become more pro-active. This illustrates the need to resource specific initiatives and social spaces for young people who identify as LGBT, which support their personal, social, emotional and educational development.

Conclusion This research has highlighted many difficulties for young LGBT people in Northern Ireland, but also some of the good practice which does exist. However the key issue is that all young people deserve to be protected in the school and youth sector environment, and all young people deserve to benefit from the commitment to support them to develop personally, socially and educationally. Supported by new legislation such as Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act (1998), the EU Directive on Sexual Orientation and proposed legislation arising from the Bill of Rights, we hope that this research will help identify ways of moving the debate forward.

Recommendations Proposal to Progress The Outcomes of The Research Into The Needs Of Young People Who Identify As Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual And/or Transgender (LGBT)

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This summary of the recent research into ‘The needs of young people in Northern Ireland who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/ or transgender’ concluded that, in order for both the formal and non-formal education sectors to engage effectively with young LGBT people and to address LGBT issues with young people in general; action needs to be taken in the following areas: • Development of support services for young people who identify as LGBT • Development and delivery of appropriate training


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• Production of specific information materials on sexual orientation for young people and the incorporation of LGBT issues into existing youth information strategies. • Curriculum and programme development which will address issues of sexual orientation and recognize the needs of young people who identify as LGBT • Inclusion of sexual orientation matters in all pertinent policies, procedures and guidelines. • Further research. In order to progress this programme of work YouthNet recommends that the key organisations identified below are approached to carry out specific tasks.

The Department of Education The Department of Education should, as a matter of urgency, initiate a taskforce inclusive of: • The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety and the Department of Social Development; • Community and Voluntary sector organisations with relevant expertise in rights based and development work and/or who have experience of work with young people who identify as LGBT; and • LGBT organisations. The purpose of the Taskforce would be to progress the outcomes of the research into the needs of young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (LGBT). In particular the Taskforce should seek to reduce the incidence of bullying because of sexual orientation and reduce negative and risk taking behaviours such as alcohol misuse, practicing unsafe sex, self harm and suicide; by: • Piloting and developing LGBT awareness training programmes targeted all those involved in the development and implementation of services to young people in formal and non-formal education, in both the statutory and voluntary sectors. • Securing funding for resource staff in voluntary organisations to provide the support needed to implement training programmes in the formal and non-formal education sectors. • Securing funding for the creation of safer spaces for young people who identify as LGBT. • Producing and disseminating information posters, leaflets and booklets including positive information and support to young people who identify as LGBT. • Developing support mechanisms for parent, guardians of young people who identify as LGBT. • Encouraging organisations in the formal and non-formal education sectors to review existing policies and where appropriate incorporate sexual orientation issues into their policies, procedures and guidelines; and to be proactive in implementing subsequent measures. • Commissioning further research into the needs of young people in the transgendered community.


Research on the needs of young people who identify as...

The Youth Service Liaison Forum The Youth Service Liaison Forum should actively develop partnerships between and working groups with youth and LGBT organisations to promote the personal, social and educational development of young people who identify as LGBT. These joint initiatives should focus on supporting young LGBT people to engage in structured personal and social development programmes; where appropriate leading to peer facilitation and integrated work with generic youth activities. All such work would need to be supported by - and link into - the production of information posters, leaflets and booklets including positive information and support to young people who identify as LGBT.

The Youth Council for Northern Ireland The Youth Council for Northern Ireland should seek resources to enable LGBT organisations develop joined-up support structures including direct services to young people such as help lines.

The Education and Training Inspectorate The Education and Training Inspectorate, as part of their common framework for evaluation, should evaluate the effectiveness of institutions and individual organisations in the formal and non-formal education sectors in addressing the needs of young people who identify as LGBT.

The Curriculum Development Unit The Curriculum Development Unit should commission the production of and seek out existing resource materials that will contribute to increased awareness of LGBT issues and enable youth organisations to better address the personal and social development needs of young people who identify as LGBT.

The Youth Work Training Board

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The Youth Work Training Board should support relevant youth work organisations to design and deliver specific training programmes to effectively address the needs of young people who identify as LGBT. The development and implementation of such a programme(s) should be evaluated by the Education and Training Inspectorate and where appropriate disseminated widely as best practice.


2b:creative 028 92 669888


The needs of young people in Northern Ireland who identify as...

lesbian, gay, bisexual and or transgender


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The full research report is available at www.youthnetni.org.uk

Organisations providing specific support for young LGBT in Northern Ireland are Foyle Friend - (this organisation is currently closed) Gay & Lesbian Youth Northern Ireland - www.glyni.org The Rainbow Project - www.rainbow-project.com YouthAction NI - www.youthaction.org


shout summary pdf