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.

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