|London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard||
London Lesbian & Gay Switchboard is a voluntary organisation with charitable status, whose aim is to provide an information, support and referral service for lesbians, gay men, bisexual and trans people and anyone who needs to consider issues around their sexuality.
Our values ensure that our services promote a positive attitude to being lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and are: -
We take all manner of calls, such as supporting a man who had been queer-bashed, supporting a lesbian teenager thrown out of their home by their parents, providing the telephone number for a gay painter or the bus route to a local gay pub. As the LGBT community has developed over the years, so too have we, changing and developing our services to fit the needs of the community and provide the service we see today.
We are committed to discussing safer sex to prevent the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Whilst we never try to influence the decisions of our callers, we aim to make them aware of the wider implications and the issues facing them.
We have about 160 trained telephone volunteers. All volunteers identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans which enables them to fully understand the needs and situations of our service users.
Our bright and airy phone room, utilising modern telephone exchange technology, is at the heart of our disabled-accessible property (a legacy kindly donated to us in a supporter's will). Located in the Islington area of London, it is easy to reach for our volunteers who travel from all over London and the south-east.
Founded on March 4th 1974, London Lesbian & Gay Switchboard's (LLGS) information and support helpline operated for 5 hours every evening in a small room above a bookshop near Kings Cross Station. Due to rapidly increasing demand, it very quickly became a 24-hour service.
We estimate that we have provided support and information to more than 3 million people since our telephone started ringing in 1974. Our volunteers answer approximately 25,000 calls every year, and an additional 100,000 people seek information online from our LGBT community database,www.turingnetwork.org.uk.
Throughout our history, we have been at the forefront of supporting the community in facing the issues of the day.
In the 1970s, we helped support people coming out after the 1967 partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality and provided much needed signposting to the newly developing “gay scene”.
In the 1980s, we were the leading source of information on the then new and unknown disease of HIV/AIDS. As the effect on our community became apparent, we collated and maintained a detailed manual of the latest and most up-to-date information available. We not only shared this with the many frightened callers to our helpline, but also with the general public, as our volunteers staffed the BBC helplines to take calls after programmes about HIV and AIDS. Organising a public meeting in 1983, our volunteers went on to set up some of the up the UK's leading HIV charities, such as Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) and National AIDS Manual (NAM).
In the 1990s, our support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans community was never more evident than throughout the aftermath of the bombing of the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho in 1999, when operators not only answered hundreds of calls from concerned friends and relatives, but also helped many people deal with the after-effects of the attack in the following months.
In the new millennium, we have achieved huge changes in legal equality and LGBT information is much more accessible, however our services are still very much needed. We continue to provide support on the phone to 30,000 people per year from across the UK. They may be feeling isolated in their community, they may be coming out and want to talk to somebody who has also been through it, they may have an issue that is concerning them and need to talk it through with somebody who will not judge them, they may want to ask how to put a condom on without being embarrassed, or they may just need to know where they can meet other people in their area.
Our volunteers will continue to provide support and information to these people until the day our phones stop ringing or our website is no longer needed.