Summer club targets gay youth

A LONDON organisation will this month host the first summer scheme aimed specifically at gay, lesbian and bisexual youth.

PACE, a London-based charity which promotes lesbian and gay well-being, expects to attract about 100 participants to its summer school. The scheme, run by an entirely homosexual staff, will be free to young people under the age of 25, and already has students as young as 14 on its roll.

The five-day programme will include activities such as film-making, creative-writing and DJ-ing. But there will also be workshops on issues specific to the lesbian and gay community, such as coming out and coping with bullying.

The aim, says Peter Algacs, youthwork manager for PACE, is to provide an environment in which lesbian and gay young people can relax and enjoy themselves, without feeling self-conscious.

"Schools are very homophobic places," he said. "The most common insult at school is to call someone gay, whether they are or not. It makes it a very hard environment to come out into."

The scheme, he said, gives young teenagers the opportunity to address any confusion about their sexuality: "A lot of 14-year-olds may think they're gay, but don't know what to do with it. For us, it's about giving them access to the right resources and information to be able to make up their own mind."

Research by the Samaritans shows that one in five gay teenagers attempts suicide, and that a quarter of these attempts are as a direct result of homophobic bullying.

But the PACE scheme, says 19-year-old Josh, provides a rare opportunity to be with young people who can understand and relate to his experiences: "I didn't learn anything about being gay at school, and was always afraid to ask. Here, I can get help that is relevant to me."

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