Who we are.
Manchester Parents Group is a voluntary organisation which supports families and friends of lesbians, gays and bisexuals. We are all parents of lesbian, gay and bisexual sons and daughters and understand the confusion and questions you may have when you first found out your child is gay.
Why we are here.
We have accepted our children's sexuality and want to help other parents and family members to do the same.
What we do.
We work to help people understand gay and lesbian children in various ways.
We meet each month in central Manchester as an informal support group.
We run telephone help lines and offer a friendly listening ear.
We campaign for acceptance, justice and equality for all our children.
We educate other organisations and work with the media on issues surrounding homosexuality.
The History of Manchester Parents Group
It all started in 1986 when Cath rang a helpline when her son came out to her at the age of 13. She spoke to Joyce who also has a gay son, and who told her all about the Gay Youth Group in Manchester, and about her work there. Cath thought this was just the kind of help her son needed. She took him along and he met Joyce's son and also Joan's son. Cath and Joan joined Joyce helping at the Gay Youth Group in Manchester on Saturday and Tuesday evenings.
The young people at the group often asked for help "Coming out" to their parents, and some asked if they would speak to their parents on the phone. Often young people told very sad stories of how their parents had reacted when they told them they were gay. It was very evident to Joyce that these young people needed the help and support of their families. Sometimes they would visit parents to have a chat and reassure them, and help them come to terms with their child's sexuality.
Joyce, Joan and Cath soon realised that there was a need, not only for a helpline, but also for a place where parents could meet and support each other. So things were put into motion. Joyce applied to the council and received a small grant to start them off. Cath found The Friends Meeting House where they could meet for a small charge, and so Manchester Parents Group was formed. Adverts were put in Gay Times and Scene Out (which no longer exists). One worried mother turned up for the first meeting and the same thing happened at the second meeting. Numbers were low for the first six months but numbers escalated as the group became better known.
Brenda took over when Cath became involved in setting set up The Albert Kennedy Trust to help homeless young gay people, and when Joyce became ill and was no longer able to attend parents group meetings. Brenda has been working tirelessly for MPG and FFLAG ever since.
Joyce, Joan, and Cath were in touch with Rose Robertson who was a pioneer in the parents movement in the 60's and also with Norah Gutteridge in Nottingham. Gradually more groups were formed around the country and in 1993 FFLAG (Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) was set up as a central umbrella organisation to co-ordinate the groups.
Tribute to Joyce Leyland by Francis Nicol (FFLAG trustee)
Joyce Layland sadly passed away on 3rd May 2006. Joyce was one of the founders of the Manchester Parents Group and worked hard to establish and maintain links with the LGB community in Manchester for many years. Joyce helped countless parents over the years and campaigned tireless for equality. Our condolences go to her family and friends.
I first met Joyce in February 1988, at a protest march in Manchester against the much despised Section 28 which the Conservative Government was then passing through Parliament.
What stands out about that march was the moment when we passed the group of parents carrying placards of support and the extraordinary reaction of the people marching near us. They clapped, cheered and ran from the march to hug and kiss the stalwart band of mums and a dad. I little knew at the time that these people would become my dear colleagues and friends. Joyce was one of this group but her image was further etched on my mind when, later that same afternoon, she spoke from the rostrum to the rally in Albert square.
I was recently talking to Brenda Oakes about this moment and she reminded me of what Joyce said, it was: “I am the proud mother of my gay son” The whole square had erupted with the cheers and applause of 20,000 people. In fact Brenda told me that at the time Joyce had felt angry that a normal comment from a parent should have had such an effect. It demonstrated the loneliness and fear of parental rejection that many gay, lesbian and bisexual people had.
So Joyce, as a member of the inspirational Manchester Parents Group was already immersed in working against the inequality suffered by lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
Joyce and Cath Hall organised the first Manchester Parents Group seminars for the several parent support groups around the country, and it was at one of these in 1989 when we first discussed the topic of an “umbrella organisation” for these groups.
In January 1990 Joyce came up with the name “Family Pride” for our new “umbrella organisation” A steering committee was formed which set to work on the aims and formal structure in many meetings around the country. Joyce was the co-ordinator of Family Pride which metamorphosed into FFLAG in September 1991. Joyce stayed at the helm until October 1992. She was impatient as was I with some of the steering committee who thought her views were just too grandiose and her wishes for the launch of FFLAG and a video were really rather wild dreams. Of course Joyce was absolutely right and FFLAG has done so much more than Joyce had planned. Ill health forced her to pass on the baton to Brenda Oakes who carried it on with similar brilliance.
Joyce was warm, brave, clever and politically sophisticated. She made a great contribution to the movement for equality for lesbian gay and bisexual people and her inspired leadership of FFLAG’s beginning is remembered with love and gratitude.