The Pandemic’s Impact on the Queer Community
The reverberations of the crises will affect queer people disproportionately, but there are resources to provide essential support
We’re all sharing understandable concerns about the implications Coronavirus will have on us, but new insights from LGBTQ+ market research specialists Queer Voices Heard, and a report exploring on queer youth by The Trevor Project, finds the Coronavirus crisis will have unique ramifications on the already-vulnerable LGBTQ+ community.
Some of these reverberations are already visible, with the pandemic causing the closure of more than 75 outdoor Pride events, festivals, and organised protests. For many members of the LGBTQ+ community, Pride is an essential element of their livelihood. Whether it’s seen as an opportunity to revolt and organise a weekend of escapism, or a time of pride and celebration, Pride is a required rite of passage for many gay people. In fact, Pride attendance – which is usually in the numbers of 30,000 people per year – is such a vital part of the queer experience, that many events are not operating for the first time in decades. As many as 1,000 Pride events were scheduled to take place in Europe alone.
But it’s not just gay-orientated events and opportunities for activism affected by the crisis. There is, of course, no evidence to suggest LGBTQ+ people are any more likely to catch Coronavirus than anyone else, but the research does find that LGBTQ+ community will face a set of queer-specific reverberations, disproportionately affecting them socially, psychologically and economically. But, according to the Queer Voices Heard research, 72 per cent of LGBTQ+ people feel concerned about the unavoidable consequences COVID-19 will have specifically on their community.
For transgender and gender-non-conforming people, the virus presents complications for hormone access and isolation may exacerbate gender dysphoria.
For transgender and gender-non-conforming people, the virus presents complications for hormone access and isolation may exacerbate gender dysphoria. For queer people who work in the nightlife industry (in particular drag queens, sex workers and other performers), the closure of bars, clubs and other nightlife venues completely jeopardises their income, and in turn, access to other support resources.
And for those who usually stay connected to the queer identity and improve their mental health by spending time with a chosen family, quarantine can exacerbate anxiety and other psychological issues. This, of course, makes it difficult to access the social support they need to protect themselves. Many queer people have had to unexpectedly move back in with parents (who may not be supportive of their identity).
Ben*, 21, a non-binary bartender from Surrey, shares their perspective on how moving back home unexpectedly can impact queer people greatly. “I’m from a very conservative area and growing up gender-queer and gay was not easy. My parents were supportive of me coming out at first, but they don’t use my preferred they/them pronouns and prefer me to dress ‘less flamboyantly’ around other relatives.”
Once Ben turned 18, they moved to London to live in a warehouse with other queer folks, who they adopted as their chosen family. “As soon as the bars closed, I knew I’d have to move home. I don’t have any savings, so being laid off meant [going to live with parents again].”
“I suffer from panic attacks whenever I’m misgendered. They’re small and I’ve learned to manage them, but I wouldn’t have to go through [anxiety] at all if I could live somewhere else.”
Ben explains that while their family do financially support them and ensure they have the necessities, being misgendered and having their lifestyle oppressed is extremely difficult. “I suffer from panic attacks whenever I’m misgendered. They’re small and I’ve learned to manage them, but I wouldn’t have to go through [anxiety] at all if I could live somewhere else.” Ben also shares with us that many of their queer friends are in similar situations, some without the option of returning home at all, and others experiencing abuse at the hands of relatives.
Many campaigns and charities are pulling together to focus on the LGBTQ+ community through this turbulent time, and ensure essential resources continue to be provisioned. LGBTQ+ charity akt provides services such as safe homes, mentoring, training, advocacy and support to young people who are homeless or living in a hostile environment as a result of their queer status.
“For some young people, [going home means going] back into the closet, others are too scared to come out.”
akt’s Director of Services Lucy Bowyer notes that many young people are being forced to stay home in uncomfortable environments, with families who don’t accept them for who they are. “For some young people, [going home means going] back into the closet, others are too scared to come out. We know that domestic abuse helplines have seen an increase in calls during COVID-19, and no doubt there will be queer young people experiencing more difficulties than normal in their households because of lockdown.”
A lack of face-to-face support can make people feel isolated, whether that’s from services like akt or local community groups. Bowyer adds, “Even the cancellation of events like Pride can take a toll on mental health. For many young people, in particular, perhaps those who commute for Prides from rural parts of the country, this is the one day of the year they can be themselves among like-minded people. LGBT people are also disproportionately impacted by other issues such as mental health and substance misuse, and these issues can also be worsened due to the current climate.”
The team at akt continue to offer its essential services throughout lockdown, but have needed to adapt to difficult barriers and make some big changes. In place of in-person campaigning, akt is hosting live sessions every Tuesday afternoon to provide support, answers and guidance on questions people might have, ranging from tenants rights to instructing queer people on accessing Universal Credit. “Over the coming weeks, we’ll be working with more of our high-profile supporters and launching a series of collaborative content with Prides and other community groups,” Bowyer adds. There’s also a live chat on the website where LGBTQ+ youths can access support.
As the Coronavirus pandemic prevents akt from helping LGBTQ+ youth directly and raising awareness with outdoor activity, akt have seized the opportunity to launch a digital engagement programme. Bowyer explains, “This programme is full of exciting activities and sessions on our Instagram to keep our young people engaged and informed.” With the support of public figures such as non-binary model and activist Jamie Windust, akt is providing entertainment for its audience through things like dance tutorials, digital mixtapes and more. As we know, engaging with art for escapism, entertainment and relatability is of high importance during such a troubling time.
No queer person should have to choose between a safe home and being who they are. If you’re a member of the LGBTQ+ community struggling with the impact of Coronavirus, please reach out to akt for support. Children resonating with these difficulties can also use akt, or childline.
*names have been changed