Gay Older Brothers and Sisters scheme (GOBS)
About the project
The Gay Older Brothers and Sisters scheme (GOBS) was set up in Carlisle, Cumbria and aims to help anyone aged 13+ with coming out and dealing with their sexuality by giving them that little bit of extra support.
They use volunteer mentors who have already come out themselves and faced similar issues, to provide a safe and supportive environment to enable young people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning their identity to participate in personal development opportunities so that they may grow to full maturity as individuals and members of society.
GOBS also acts as an educator, when and where appropriate, to local authorities, schools, colleges, universities, other academic/education establishments and youth groups. They also offer parental support and act as a Third Party Reporting Centre with regards to hate crime.
The GOBS website includes more information including a chat forum for members (see www.gobs.info)
Project outputs and impact
The project has been engaging with at least 120 people on a daily basis through social networking sites and its website. The project aims to have links in schools in the new year.
Their first mentoring success story is shown below and they are currently collecting data from their website to see how many people have been helped which will help support future funding bids. Their goal for the next two years is to expand to cover the UK and to look to setting the project up abroad as they have had interest from places as far off as Canada and Australia.
Interview with mentee:
How did GOBS help you through coming out?
GOBS helped me by supporting me through everything, they kept giving me advice and reassuring me that everything was fine and I could get through this.
Was it worth getting in touch with them?
It was definitely worth getting in touch with them. If it wasn’t for all the help and support they gave me I would never have had the confidence.
How easy was it to get in touch with your ‘Big Brother’?
It was really easy, I had their number, Facebook and Skype so they were always just a message away if I needed them for anything!
Did you think using GOBS was a good experience?
I thought it was a brilliant experience, my family now know the truth and I’ve gained an amazing friend from it who I know I can still rely on if need be!
How did your family take it?
My family took it surprisingly well, they were extremely supportive. Especially my dad, he was the one person I expected to take it bad but I was completely wrong, he was hugging me the entire time telling me how brave I am to him and that he’s never been as proud of me as he was at that moment.
Are you getting help from GOBS after telling your family?
I’m still getting help from GOBS to this day, there are still times where I feel like I need someone to talk to and that the only person who understands me would be someone who has went through the same as what I had, and my ‘big brother’ is right there.
How is life now you have come out?
My life hasn’t changed too much, I was expecting everyone to treat me completely different but I’m still treated with the same love and respect I had before I came out, maybe even more.
Is there anything you would like to share with people who are scared about getting in touch with GOBS?
I’d say go for it. You aren’t pressured to come out, I wasn’t going to at first but they made me realise that no matter what happens I’d always have someone to turn to through GOBS.
Interview with mentor
What were the main difficulties faced during the relationship?
I had to be very clear on how the relationship worked and what boundaries there were. It is so important that you and your ‘mentee’ are completely honest with each other and have a good enough relationship to tell each other if things are progressing in a way they should not.
What skills have you developed as a result of the relationship?
The skills I got out of mentoring this individual ironically was a lot more confidence in myself. He was struggling to come out and I of course was there to help him through this. I gave him my experience in this and he took it away and came up with a solution that fitted him better. I was only there to give him advice and tell him what to do, not to tell him how to do it.
How do you feel about the progress of your mentee/befriendee?
I could not be happier of how far my mentee has come over the past few months. He has matured and is now focusing on what he wants to do in the future. His life has become a lot easier now and although he still has a long way to go, he has made amazing progress for his ‘first steps’ as being an ‘out’ gay man in society.
What have been your mentee/befriendee’s main achievements as a result of the relationship?
He came out to his family and friends who were all very accepting and is now focusing on what he wants to do as a career. Without the stress or worry about what people may think, he is now free to get on with his life and live it the way he wants.