Walk down Oxford Road and you might not notice the Joyce Layland Centre, a non-descript building tucked behind the Eighth Day Café. Now run by the Proud Trust, and a safe and welcoming community space for LGBT+ people of all persuasions, races, gender identities and beliefs, the story of the woman and civil rights campaigner who gave her name to the centre is both extraordinary and inspiring.
In 1986 Cath, the mother of a young gay son who had recently come out to her, spoke to Joyce on a helpline offering advice and support to the parents of gay children. Joyce told her about the work she did at a local Gay Youth Group and soon Cath had joined her in supporting young gay teenagers and lesbians who asked for help coming out to their families, sometimes speaking to the parents to reassure them about their children’s sexuality. Soon it became clear that more than a helpline was needed, and Joyce, Cath and Joan (another mother of a gay son who attended the Gay Youth Group) organised the Manchester Parents Group, a safe space for the parents of young LGB (and later T) people to discuss their issues and worries in confidence.
A tireless campaigner for equality, Joyce went on to co-found FFLAG, an umbrella organisation for parent support groups across the country. Today the Manchester Parents Group is run by Barbara Spence and Lois Fitzpatrick, who continue to organise monthly support meetings, offer a friendly ear just a phone call away, and campaign for acceptance and equality for young LGBT+ people.
Research has found that around 50% of LGBT+ youth live in a negative home environment, and up to 26% have been forced out of the family home due to their sexuality or gender identity. Young LGBT+ people are three times more likely to develop alcohol or substance abuse problems.
Whilst organisations can offer counselling or financial support, it’s often emotional support which these young people need the most.
Manchester Parents Group will be helping to deliver this year’s Family Zone and will be joined by other organisations which support and encourage young gender non-conforming people, including The Proud Trust.