Following their Mornings With radio show last month, we chat with Chris and Mark from GYRO and YPAS! GYRO is a Liverpool-based LGBTQ+ youth (Group and 1:1) provision, which is part of YPAS, a mental health and emotional wellbeing service for Liverpool’s children, young people and families. We chat with Chris and Mark to find out more about their services, as well as their feel-good tunes and more… Read on below!
Hey GYRO! You’re the longest running LGBTQ+ youth group in the UK, having provided support for LGBTQ+ youth for over 40 years now, which is an incredible achievement! How did GYRO start and what was the initial reaction to it like?
GYRO started a long time before our organisation YPAS – Young Person’s Advisory Service – took over it in the early 2000s. I (Chris) took over leadership of it in 2016. Back in the day, the GYRO acronym stood for Gay Youth R Out. It was also apparently a nod to the fact that a lot of LGBTQ+ youth at the time were on the dole- collecting their gyro! It was born out of Friend Merseyside, which ran groups for gay and bisexual men and women. On a Wednesday it ran a youth group. These days it is much more than gay youth – we know that our community is increasingly diverse as it becomes increasingly visible.
Forty years is a long time for anything to exist! What’s been the key to your longevity?
I believe the longevity is down to a few simple facts – that LGBTQ+ adults were once LGBTQ+ youth, our community has and always will exist. Sadly, as minority groups, we often need our own safe spaces to have our needs met e.g. safety of expression!
Your organisation works specifically with young people – why was it important for your organisation to specifically support younger people rather than the LGBTQ+ community as a whole?
Our org believes that early intervention is the key to reducing the long term severe effects of untreated mental health. Essentially, the earlier that an issue can be identified and addressed, the more likely the results will be positive and long lasting. We have a skilled and passionate workforce that knows that children, young people and families have mental health and wellbeing needs. We take a person-centred rights-based approach to ensuring the voice of the child is as heard as anyone else’s in their life. We do have the interesting position of working with children, adolescents and adults, as we work generally from the ages of 5-25 years old. So, we need to be well connected to children and adult support pathways and tailor support to be age appropriate either way.
How has the support you’ve offered to people changed over the time you’ve been in existence? Are the needs of young people today similar to those you first supported 40 years ago?
These days we see a lot more gender-diverse presentations – a growing trans population for many reasons, including visibility and understanding. Back in the day, you could pop into a service and sit down and have a cigarette and chew the fat with someone behind closed doors. As LGBTQ+ rights have come a long way over 40 years, so has the ability to be more outward-reaching and forward-looking. Hard fought for rights means we can now teach and talk about our identities in schools, where in 1988-2003 Section 28 (of the Local Government Act 1988 brought in by the Tories) made it illegal to do so.
Do you have any advice for young queer people looking for some support/how can they access your services?
Reaching out and walking through the door can be the most scary thing to do, partially as you don’t know what you’re walking into, but also because it affirms that you are LGBTQ+ and may need support. Both of those affirmations can be terrifying and emancipating at the same time. Please just do it! Even if you email firstname.lastname@example.org, follow us on Instagram or Twitter @ gyroliverpool (DM us!) or walk into YPAS and ask to speak to a worker, we are here for you. Our team are all LGBTQ+ and therefore have lived experience and have years of working experience to support you in some way.
When you’re in need of a bit of a pick-me-up, what’s your go to song or artist to put on?
If I need a pick me up I often reach for Jimi Hendrix – Voodoo Chile (Slight Return), or John Grant often cheers me up.
What other projects are you involved in/what else is coming up in 2022?
We often work with Homotopia Festival to partner up on offering the Young Homotopia projects. We hope to have some great opportunities for young budding queer performers to hone their skills with us, so keep an eye out for that. By the end of 2022, we want to have put the last 2 years behind us and go BIGGER! Get in touch to find out more about what we do.
Be sure to follow GYROS and YPAS to keep up to date with all of their exciting projects. In the meantime, listen back to their Mornings With show on Melodic Distraction Radio below!