A Chat With: GYRO LGBTQ+ Youth (YPAS)

As part of our youth-focused week, we speak to Chris Porter from GYRO and find out more about one of the longest running LGBT+ youth provisions in the country, which was originally established in 1976. 

What is GYRO LGBTQ+ Youth (YPAS) and what services do you offer?

“GYRO offers a safe space for LGBT+ children and young people to meet others in their community with the aim of reducing mental health issues and increasing wellbeing through empowerment.

“As well as offering a combination of group and 1:1 support to any LGBT+ young people aged 12-25, we also have THE Action Youth, which is our trans, gender diverse and gender questioning support arm. 

“Not many people know, but we are the chosen local provider for all things trans and CAMHS related, as we are deeply embedded in the community. We offer a space to vent or to get things done, from referrals to the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) and letters to GPs, to meetings with schools about uniform policy and support with gender expression. What we are not is medical professionals, so we don’t diagnose or prescribe medical interventions.

“Everything is different right now, with COVID-19 meaning we are unable to run physical sessions, but we are still running two LGBT+ Youth groups via Zoom,  Tuesdays (4pm-5pm) is for 12-16 year olds and Thursdays (4pm-5pm) is for 16-25 year olds.

“We also offer a range of 1:1 work via telephone call, email, text and will be aiming to offer some Zoom 1:1 work soon. If people are interested in our services either now or once lockdown restrictions are lifted, they can get in touch at any time and we’ll be happy to answer any questions.”

How many young people do you support each year?

“In 2019/2020 we offered a safe space to around 444 LGBT+ young people, which equates to 1739 times an LGBT+ young person between the age of 12-25 accessed our LGBT+ groups. 

“These figures don’t even include young LGBT+ people who accessed therapy at YPAS also or instead of our direct LGBT+ services, or those who came with us to the Youth Zone at Pride in Liverpool 2019 – we’re a big community!”

What makes you different from other services?

“We are community focused. We lower the drawbridge to our queer castle more than raise it. We are all about that community word, from the roots to the fruits. 

“We are a part of Liverpool and very passionate about activism and local identity and issues as well as on the macro scale. We are at some of those national roundtables saying yo what’s up, Liverpool LGBT+ young people have something to say about GRA reform! We are also part of an Ireland, UK and the Islands network of LGBT+ youth providers. 

“In our wee groups we can be found playing Uno, mindfully colouring in and chatting about how we make Jurassic Park gay, or we can be amongst a march for equality – did we mention that BLACK LIVES MATTER! 

“I suppose what our unique offer is that YPAS is an organisation that, crudely speaking, can be split into two sections – therapeutic support and social support. We operate a YIAC (Youth, Information, Advice and Counselling) model. It is really useful to have an office full of therapists with varied disciplines to speak to about how to deliver effective sessions and hopefully we also are useful internally to raise the awareness of how to support LGBT+ youth if they present for therapy.”

Can your services only be accessed in Liverpool?

“We are usually located at our central hub by the Adelphi hotel. We miss our physical meetups but for now we are located online and anyone can get in touch!

“We are Liverpool-based but there are local LGBT+ youth groups around the region and we love them and that they exist. We aren’t into that neo-liberal capitalist dystopian fantasy. We want local groups to thrive for people in those local areas. Shout out to Comics Youth, Sefton New Beginnings, Knowsley KYM, Lee Cooper Foundation, Halton Over The Rainbow, Halton Youth Cabinet, Wirral Work It Out and many others further afield!

“If you want us to help find you an LGBT+ youth group in your area please ask, we’d rather you felt connected and less isolated.”

As it is Pride month, what does Pride in Liverpool mean to your organisation?

“Pride in Liverpool is usually the time we get HYPED about getting politically active while having loads of fun. Every year we have young people where it is their first Pride and they aren’t even out to anyone yet, to those who are loud and proud and bravely marching in heels and face beat to queer gods! 

“It is a time where we link in with our community to make banners and placards. It is a time of togetherness, it is OUR time and space in the city to be unashamedly us with our LGBT+ siblings. For a couple of years we opened our YPAS doors and had young people in but it was getting to the point of having around 150 people in the doors, our space is not that big! We were glad to break out and get the chance to be a part of Pride in Liverpool’s Youth Zone last year and look forward to that aspect developing in the future.”

How will you be celebrating Pride month, given that we’re still in the middle of a pesky pandemic?

“We were due to be taking part in a Digital Youth Pride event on 20th June, with LGBT+ young people performing and presenting their art as part of that. However, in light of recent events, this has now been postponed to allow us to shift the focus onto supporting and elevating Queer People of Colour, which we think is exactly the right thing to do. We are working on projects behind the scenes and promoting amazing local voices, events and organisations on our social channels – you should check them out!

“We are planning a Liverpool LGBT+ youth event for our group members and we are keen on hearing if there are other events we can link in with. We’ll also be sharing images from the archives on our social media – we have hundreds of photos so just trying to pick some of the best ones!

“Finally, we’ve been delivering ‘LGBT+ with a focus on Gender Identity’ awareness sessions to Alder Hey and CAMHS practitioners as well as community group leaders.”

What else is on the agenda for GYRO right now? What’s important to you and your members?

“Just like everyone else we are in the midst of a couple of pandemics, the obvious one being COVID19 – so please stay safe, wear protective masks and gloves and wash ya hands if you are out and about. 

The second is the reason that you might be out and about – a racism pandemic that is being addressed by protests and marches worldwide. We stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and are happy to use our privileges and hand over our platforms.

Right now we are about getting political, getting active. BIG things need to change and we need politicians to start making them. Keep an eye on our trans siblings, they need our support to amplify their voices. GYRO stands by any LGBT+ young person who faces discrimination and we will help you seek justice.”

Where can we find out more?

Our website has loads of information, but you can also follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook or just email us directly at gyro@ypas.org.uk


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