What the Outsiders Club Offers
We offer a free service run largely by disabled people, all of us on a voluntary basis. Outsiders is not like other dating clubs – not just a place to look for a partner and give up if nobody seems to live up to your dreams. We offer a warm and dynamic online and live environment where members can have fun, support each other, gain confidence, learn, move forward and enjoy relationships. We hope new members realise that, the more they get involved in Outsiders, the more likely they are to find the partner of their dreams.
We take great care to vet applicants and this job is handled by a very experienced team. As a result, you can feel confident that all the members of Outsiders are genuine, and not predators. We only accept people who can handle their own affairs without assistance, and become wonderful friends and partners.
Here is a list of our services:
Regular Local Lunches and Events
These are friendly and welcoming gatherings in lovely quiet accessible venues, usually gastropubs, run by a team of members, sex therapists and ex-members. There is no need to worry about arriving at your first lunch. One member described his first time as ‘like jumping into a pool of cold water and finding it actually feels nice!’ What strikes all our members is that they are welcomed into a room full of people having fun. Sometimes, especially at the London lunch, discussion workshops are run to swap notes on matters troubling most disabled people looking for love. Newcomers come to the lunches to learn more about us and members from the past
If there is no lunch near you and you want one, with your help. we can make it happen!
Our Jamboree in early summer is a big celebration with a day packed with exciting things to do.
Our Online Membership Facilities
Our members enjoy a wide range of opportunities in the glamorous Clubhouse. You can put up a profile which can be as long as you like, and choose any picture to represent you. We encourage members to present themselves well, and give support when asked. The sections of the profile form are based on research by Susan Quilliam, which shows more success when you reach out to invite a person into your life, rather than promote yourself.
We tell members that they can put photos of themself up or pictures which reflect their inner selves.
Our discussions allow members to speak to those with whom they have things in common, and enjoy meaningful discussions which will help you on your journey. In Outsiders, we don’t go for trivia or small talk — life is too short and fascinating!
Discussions and debates at lunches may be extended to the Clubhouse.
The Events section will let you know what’s going on. And, once more people from abroad start joining, we will enjoy more geographical areas of activity and contact.
To sum up, the Outsiders Members Clubhouse is quite different to dating sites: more fun, as much about friendship as sexual attraction, and providing opportunities for peer support and personal development.
Venturing into a relationship takes time, courage and self-acceptance, especially when you have a disability. Most disabled people say they need to build up confidence, and we are always here to support you.
Outsiders has always attracted a magical mix of people, mostly people who are open and adventurous but also those who are very private and shy. Most are in their 30s and 40s but we are now attracting younger people, and some are in their 70s. Most are simply delighted to belong to a club where they are truly accepted.
We are proud that our members are honest about themselves and self-accepting. Many have had unhappy experiences of online dating: advertisers not turning out to be what they seem in their adverts, often failing to turn up because they are really quite frightened, and thus seeming disrespectful. Outsiders members have been carefully screened and are soon booted out if they behave disrespectfully. All have signed that they agree to the rules of Outsiders which clearly describe the level of respectful behaviour required (this is not moralistic — members can enjoy any mutually consensual activity).
We welcome anyone over 16 years of age who is able to understand the concept of Outsiders and run their own affairs. We ask that members fill in our online application form themselves, or tell us why they are unable to do this. We can offer help if you get stuck. We also welcome members who support our ethos and have valuable skills or expertise to contribute.
When somebody applies who we feel ill-equipped to cope with, e.g. people who cannot manage their own affairs because of learning disability, mental health problems or brain damage, they are signposted on to more suitable clubs.
All members’ application forms are examined by experienced volunteers to ensure that they are not previous members who have been banned, and are not lookist, sexist or racist, or only concerned with their own needs or instant gratification.
Dr Tuppy Owens Tuppy started running Outsiders from her subterranean flat in Mayfair in 1979 (with accessible back entrance). She continues to coordinate the club and run the Trust from her croft in the Highlands. She has an Honorary Doctorate for Good Works, and a Diploma in Human Sexuality from London University. She enjoys a mixture of the wilderness at home and the exotic style of London and devoted to Outsiders and its future. She runs Outsiders for free, as a volunteer. Today, the board of Trustees are responsible for the Outsiders and Tuppy attends all their meetings.
Our team of Volunteers
Most of our volunteers are Outsiders members who have gained experience, found happiness and want to support others. Together, they have a wide range of wisdom, experience and practical know-how on disability and personal matters.
Members wishing to volunteer need to have been in the Club for at least six months before starting work.
Outsiders has been lucky enough to have some very exceptional membership secretaries, most of whom came from the membership and fundraising events, and went on to successful careers elsewhere. Thanks go to Ann Rae, Madelaine Shoer, Christine Nocek, April, Di Impey, Sheila Dray, Dee McDonald, Paul Nevitt and Sue Nathan.
Our volunteers work hard but some have health problems and experience fatigue, shyness, and stress, so please be respectful towards us.
The Membership Team coordinate the club. They vet applicants, respond to emails and phone calls, send messages on forthcoming activities, and make phone calls to ensure everything is going well for members.
Janet Brookman — Janet is the longest-running volunteer. She is our helpline operator.
Eleni Stephani — advises Tuppy when there are problems . She won Islington Volunteer of the Year in 2009.
Philippe Gasguy — Philippe began as office boy and now takes a major role. He says helping other people is what he enjoys most.
Sam Chung – supports us online and runs the Midlands lunches
Els Payne Els runs the West Country lunches and is a trustee. She also supports Tuppy in her work.
Tuppy Owens Tuppy coordinates Outsiders. She oversees and looks after the vollies, consults them on all decisions, and keeps them up to speed on the progress of programmes and funding.
We have written guidelines on running lunches and, in 2005, Victoria Mackenzie, who has run the London Lunch and helped at Sheffield, wrote down the model she used. These are available here.
London Lunches are currently run by a small team of volunteers including Dawn, Tuppy, Suebie, Eric, Anis, and James.
West Country Events Run by Els.
Sheffield Lunches these are run by Lilian McCarthy and they attract a lively crowd.
Leeds will be run by Aureliah
Midlands Lunch – run by Sam
NW Lunches are run by Marie
Outsiders Jamboree is an annual event which takes place in London, a kind of Monday Matinée Mini-Ball with all kinds of activity and fun. This is a time when we invite people from outside to join us and find out more. It is run by a small team of of the above plus some of our fundraising vollies.
Outsiders at the Disability Field at Glastonbury is run by Tulloch Kempe.
Outsiders AGM at a London Lunch in Spring, is run by Tuppy Owens to discuss developments within the Club with members.
The Fundraising Events Team Over 150 volunteers help to raise funds for Outsiders, staging several events a year.
Computers and Website Lawrence Brightman looks after our computers and John Keiller produced this website.
“If this world were an ideal place, we would not have any use for Outsiders; but it isn’t. So, thank GOD we have something which is called Outsiders. I find it twisted that we are living in a world which is far from perfect. Still this imperfect world expects us to be perfect. I think Outsiders should be in every country.” — Lainaus, Finland”
“The London lunch is a real eye opener because of the amazing people who attend — so diverse, complex and honest.” — Steve
“Outsiders has helped me so much. Through my new-found confidence, I now get on with my life in a positive way. Volunteering has helped because I feel that I am achieving something very important. I enjoy organising some social activities and answering the helpline. I am no ‘do gooder’. I work from the heart. I feel I have grown up and am learning all the time and making the most of what Outsiders has to offer. Providing you are willing to get out there, you too can make the most of YOUR life. I’ve been on many dates with men which has taught me a lot — especially how to be happy in my own skin. Now I am in a relationship with a gorgeous guy who I met though Outsiders.” — Eleni
“I feel so much happier than before, just being in contact with people who understand. I am infinitely less lonely and see to have lost that dreadfully painful feeling of isolation altogether.” — Pat
“For me personally, Outsiders has been totally fulfilling. I can’t think of a moment I have been disappointed. Outsiders has opened so many doors to me, that I often find it hard to understand why it isn’t like that for everybody.” — Eric
“I feel I’ve come on so much since joining Outsiders. Up until I joined about a year ago I only really mixed with people from work, because I didn’t have the confidence to go out on my own. Now I have met and made friends with a huge variety of people.”
“The best club in the world — and it is our pleasure and privilege to have been OUTSIDERS.” — David and Elsie (who met through Outsiders)
“I have made three good friends through Outsiders who have helped me gain confidence as I am very shy. I am moving into my own flat, leaving home for the first time at 31.” — Jenny
“I came to Outsiders with a view to helping out at the luncheons in London and running workshops there (because of my previous experience working in this field). Immediately I was greeted with such warmth and enthusiasm, I knew it was a safe space and a group that I would love to be involved with. Then life dealt me a few twists and turns. I had previously been in full health but something was changing, eventually I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME). Two years later, my symptoms mean that I am still unable to work and I most definitely would identify myself as someone with a disability.
It is only now that I think I can fully appreciate Outsiders in all its forms and meanings. Feeling part of a larger group has made a lot of difference. Reading INSIDE magazine, checking out the website and, above all, realising that being ‘different’ is in some ways more normal than being ‘normal’ has been where I have really gathered strength from Outsiders. It is all too easy to feel isolated when you are suffering from a particular condition. Outsiders helps me feel connected to a wider group.
The campaigning work of Outsiders is — to me — of crucial importance. So many people assume that disability equals no fun, no flirting and no sex. It is very important that these assumptions are challenged and the wider life experience of disabled people is represented.
Outsiders isn’t about sex per se, but it is about being in a pro-sex atmosphere where people are treated as adults and their rights and choices are respected. After all, sexuality is a right not a privilege.
Outsiders not only spreads the word on disability rights, but through the helpline, lending library and workshops it can help members to attain the knowledge and confidence to assert these rights and live the kind of life they, as adults, want to.”
Long live Outsiders! — Victoria
“When I first joined Outsiders, I was depressed, agoraphobic and isolated by a stutter that I thought would always prevent me from making friends, let alone finding a relationship. The club gave me the chance to be more adventurous in a friendly and supportive environment. I now have a job, a partner and a son. My advice to a new member would be twofold: stick at it, and get involved.” —Paul
“We live in a world of commodified physical perfection, so anyone who does not fit into some narrow and superficial view of ‘beauty’ or even ‘attractiveness’ is seen as a non-starter. I feel this is the real down side of global capitalism: the emphasis on the visual, the external, and ultimately the purchasable. As long as the idea can be sold that desirability can be acquired by buying beauty products, slimming aids and plastic surgery, big business can continue to make huge profits and disabled people will continue to feel marginalised. If the idea took hold that these things don’t matter and it’s what you’re like on the inside that counts, we could start a revolution and get us back to a world where the value system was based on something with more integrity than the profit motive” —Jane Gibbin
“I have a social disability: depression, anxiety and often feel trapped. This made it impossible to travel. But, having made it all the way to visit another member, the delightful Ruth, I was inspired to travel to Northampton for the medical for my pension infirmity benefit application. Ruth sadly passed away but I still enjoy my pension. Outsiders has helped me in many other ways. Recently, it has helped me come to terms that I am ‘happily single’ and don’t need a relationship to feel fulfilled and be content. It’s nice to know there’s still one organisation that has not been hi-jacked by the quangos or big business.” — John
“It was surely great to meet you and everyone else there on Saturday. It felt really good just to be accepted.” — Vics
“Outsiders is a widely-spread family of very different, very special people who sometimes join us without hope, but gain hope and hopefully, much, much more.” — Tuppy Owens, founder
“The club’s value lies, for me anyway, in providing an environment where I might resolve some of my doubts over my sexuality and its implications. Where there are people I can trust sufficiently, with with whom, since they acknowledge my sexuality as a matter of course, I can speak frankly and expect from them a response which will be of use. Help. Moreover, it provides an environment that does not humiliate and de-humanise, by flinging around in County Halls and social workers’ files (at least as far as I know) my personal problems. Other organisations dealing with the problems of disabled people and books which serve to highlight the sexual problems may bring awareness, but they often shy away from doing more than raising expectations in what is little more than a clinical vacuum. Thus, the Club serves as an over-all enhancement. It is concerned with sex in its significant place beside emotions and sociability – the important thing is it knows it can’t, shouldn’t discourage diminish or try to leave out sex altogether.” — Alan
“I think that Outsiders is an organisation that is doing much to make people aware of the problems faced by people with disabilities.” — Nick Wallis, the young man with Muscular Dystrophy who was featured on TV on Helen House, hiring a sex worker so that he could be sure he would have sex before he died.
“Tuppy, you have done a really good thing by going out of your way to organise a good idea in forming Outsiders. Not a lot of people would do that, since disabled people are discriminated against. It’s such a good thing to see disabled people meeting up together.” —Errol
“God Bless ya Girl, for setting up this organisation that allows folk to be un-alone, to have friends other than the milkman, postman, meals on wheels driver lady, and a daughter in another country that never rings or writes.” — Tony
“The best thing for me about Outsiders was meeting Philip, my partner, a long time ago at one of the lunches. We have always got on very well and love each other very much. It always surprises me that once we were strangers, sitting opposite one another in that restaurant in Shepherd’s Bush, only trying to guess what each other was as a person, and now we’ve been together a long time, and know each other’s ways inside out.
I am quite socially phobic, so I regret I haven’t made that circle of friends I’d hoped to find. But I still carry on the search because I don’t give up. Whatever anyone disabled or disadvantaged can do to improve the quality of their lives, they should try to do. I appreciate that the Outsiders is trying to help us all do that.” Sally Davey
The Club helpline is run by Janet from 2 — 7pm weekdays. This contact with members and their worries and difficulties gives Janet a grip on the dynamics of the club. She runs a very personal service and nobody has ever complained about this service. The Helpline can also be accessed by email.
We hold discussions on topics of relevance to our members that seem to be holding them back. They are both in person at lunches and online in the Members’ Area.
Beyond Impairment is an Outsiders innovation to support disabled people to look at their assets — what they can do and what they are good at — and how these can be used to attract a partner, seduce a partner, and enjoy a relationship with a partner. For example, a quadriplegic person may have a strong voice which they can use, there’s humour, brain power, hair, sexual knowledge, all kinds of things which can be put to the forefront, to your advantage, to attract others to you.
Campaigns and Projects
Outsiders runs campaigns and projects both on the Members’ Area as well as out in the world. The Outsiders demo on Westminster Bridge was incredible and our aim is to encourage society to view disabled people as sexual beings with the same desires and needs as everybody else.
All our events are in lovely accessible venues and run by experienced volunteers, who will welcome you and introduce you to the others. You are expected to pay for your own drinks and food, but otherwise it is free. We prefer newcomers who have attended a couple or more lunches to actually join our club. Shy people will be encouraged (but not pushed) and visually impaired people offered support. We expect people who need feeding etc., to bring their own PAs who can then sit nearly in a different part of the restaurant.
Anybody can come to our events to see what we are up to (although the events only reflect one aspect of our club).
Details of the lunches and Jamboree are giving in the Events section.
Outsiders Anniversaries We celebrated the 10th, 20th, 25th and 30th Anniversaries of Outsiders.
The 10th Anniversary was held in 1989 in the London Lighthouse, and Chad Varah, founder of the Samaritans addressed us before the celebrations.
The Outsiders 20th Anniversary in 1999 was celebrated with a Sensuality Day in the Area of the Senses at Kew Gardens. We entertained ourselves with delicious morsels to eat, a Tactile Fashion Show, belly dancing and massage in the sunshine. This remarkable experimental art event was televised by SexTV Toronto, one of the best TV programmes made about us at that time. The documentary was repeated on Bravo TV in the summer of 2002. A man silently watched the entire proceedings and then came over and gave us a tenner.
The 25th and 30th Anniversaries took place in the sumptuous surroundings of Landmark Hotel, Marylebone. Both were glorious affairs, with a Tactile Fashion Show, speeches, dancing and delicious teas.