The Continued Impact of Coronavirus on LGBTQ+ People

Covid Anniversary Blog

Research and contemporary reports on the impact of COVID-19 indicate how those from marginalised and disadvantaged backgrounds have been most impacted by the virus. This has been particularly the case for disabled people and ethnic minorities.

February 2021 was LGBT History Month, a time to focus on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who shaped the civil rights and (relative) freedoms we have today. Social media was buzzing with reference to the queer saints who went before us, including the LGBTQ+ authors on school curricula, specifically Wilfred Owen, Alice Walker, E. M. Forster to name just a few.

Twelve months ago, I discussed the complexities of LGBTQ+ young people who may be residing in lockdown with families to whom they are not open about their non-normative gender or sexual identities. I warned against the romanticisation of “coming out” given that LGBTQ+ young people are statistically more likely to be made homeless, sofa-surf or have insecure housing as a result. While lockdown has been challenging for everyone, for LGBTQ+ young people the risk of non-acceptance and/or homophobic, bi-phobic, or transphobic violence at home as significantly increased. Moreover, as school and colleges are closed, the usual channels to discuss safeguarding concerns have changed.

The Barnardos Charity reports how calls to their switchboards have increased by 20%. They reiterate the message from the Albert Kennedy Trust, that LGBTQ+ young people should think carefully and maybe consider pressing pause on any intention to come out during lockdown periods. Their page lists a number of UK charities equipped and ready to support LGBTQ+ people.

The LGBT Foundation has conducted research into the impact of coronavirus on LGBTQ+ lives. Their findings demonstrate the following:

  1. LGBTQ+ individuals are more likely to be socially isolated; they may lack contact or support.
  2. Trans and non-binary people have experienced interruptions to hormone therapy, with appointments and surgeries cancelled.
  3. There has been an exacerbation of poor mental health already experienced by LGBTQ+ individuals. For many, the struggles may be worse, including because of the lack of contact or support with others in the LGBTQ+ community. This can also lead to substance abuse, including alcohol.
  4. LGBTQ+ people more likely to experience domestic abuse, especially during lockdown periods.

In addition to their research into COVID-19 on LGBTQ+ individuals and communities, the LGBT Foundation has offered a list of ten simple strategies people can do at home to both affirm their LGBT identities, and support mental health. The list is here, and includes engaging with LGBT films, music, YouTube channels; connecting with people in safe online chat forums; documenting experiences to process emotions and thoughts; and to talk with trusted people.

Post-Covid, education and health settings will have a real task ahead in promoting and supporting wellbeing and positive mental health to all young people who have been impacted by the pandemic: academically and emotionally. Reflecting on my words written almost a year ago, my position remains that coming-out should not be romanticised, either within or outside a pandemic. It is not always a safe transition for young LGBTQ+ people and is indicative of the work still to do to eradicate homophobia, bi-phobia and transphobia in society.

Dr Chris Greenough is Senior Lecturer in Theology and World Religion at Edge Hill University.

This piece is written in response to a post originally published in the Covid-19 blog on 18th May 2020 by Chris which can be found here.

image by Fokusiert

“Coming Out” and Covid-19

Sunday 17th May 2020 was International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. It is significant that this year this falls when many LGBTQ+ people are in lock down with their families or relatives to whom they have not disclosed their self-identities.

Back in April 2020, during the initial stages of the coronavirus lockdown, the LGBT+ and homeless charity, The Albert Kennedy Trust,  advised young people not to come out until the pandemic has passed. The charity specifically supports LGBTQ+ young people aged 16-25 in the UK who are facing or experiencing homelessness or living in a hostile environment. LGBTQ+ people make up 25% of all youth homeless people; so staying silent on one’s sexuality or gender, even with its emotional toll, seems preferable at this time.

‘Coming out’ has been romanticised into a celebratory event that offers freedom of expression and reinforces the love between friends and families of the LGBTQ+ person. The relationship to the closet renders visible what has previously been hidden. For some, the act of coming out actualises sexuality and activates authenticity of self. Coming out to oneself and others therefore disrupts the prevailing silence perpetrated by homophobia, transphobia and biphobia.

Yet, coming out should not be idealised, and it is not desirable in all contexts. The closet is also a safe space. Moreover, coming out is not a single act, it is strategically repeated and managed throughout an individual’s life course. It is therefore multi-dimensional and multi-directional.

Jason Orne’s work demonstrates how coming out is often tactical where risk is assessed and planned beforehand. He explores the concept of ‘strategic outness – the contextual and continual management of identity – to emphasise the role of social context in sexual identity disclosure’ (2011: 681). Being out is selective: young people may be out to their friends, at university or to chosen groups, but that does not necessarily mean they are out to everyone.

Legislation in the UK does not treat LGBT family rejection as domestic abuse, thereby preventing vulnerable people from securing emergency housing. At a time when the pride flag comes to symbolise hope for the NHS and is displayed in the windows of many houses, sadly many young people are behind the very same windows working out and wrestling with who they are.

References: Orne, J. 2011 ‘You will always have to “out” yourself : Reconsidering coming out through strategic outness’. Sexualities, 14(6), 681–703.

Dr Chris Greenough is Senior Lecturer in Theology and Religion at Edge Hill University.

Main image: Stafford, England, UK – 2nd April 2020: A picture of a rainbow with the stay home save lives instruction and thank you message to the NHS.