It’s no secret that the experience of lockdown this year has been challenging for everyone. But for some LGBTQ+ people - particularly young people, and especially of colour - the same stress and worry around finances and work, housing and food experienced by others comes with added hardships.
Non-acceptance or violence within their family home, not being out while being stuck living with their family, a loss of the support networks of their chosen families, as well as being more susceptible to mental health issues due to discrimination all add up to a more challenging experience.
For many young LGBTQ+ people, the COVID-19 lockdown has meant that they no longer have the respite of their friends, communities and partners. Parents who either do not know their sexuality, or who disapprove, can restrict their contact with the outside world. LGBTQ+ people with BAME backgrounds, who face disproportionate levels of homelessness, are living with a heightened risk of safety issues.
Calls, emails and texts to LGBTQ+ charities providing support have jumped significantly, with UK LGBTQ+ helpline Switchboard reporting 20% more calls, emails and instant messages during the pandemic, with the numbers only increasing.
The Albert Kennedy Trust (akt) recommended that young people to “press pause” on coming out until they had their support networks in place. Essentially, living their normal lives has become at best a difficulty, and at worst actively dangerous. To combat the restrictions that are placed on some in the LGBTQ+ community, the LGBTQ+ Foundation has compiled 10 ways to safely affirm your LGBT identity during lockdown - providing advice like connecting with online spaces if it’s safe to do so, researching LGBTQ+ heroes to learn about how they survived the challenges of their times, practicing positive statements to affirm identity and using creative outlets such as journals, poems or song lyrics to record the experience and the feeling of feeling restricted.
A loss of employment has seen LGBTQ+ people facing a choice of homelessness or moving back in with their families. For some who are out with an accepting family, this isn’t a particular hardship. For others, however, it brings the risk of things like feeling isolated through to being in danger. Rohit K Dasgupta’s article for The Conversation talked about the loneliness and hostility faced by the LGBTQ+ community during lockdown. His friend Rajesh was kicked out of home for being gay, and moved from Birmingham to London for a job that, once the pandemic hit, no longer existed. Unable to find other accommodation, he had to move back to the home he was thrown out of, aware that the people around him not only didn’t like his sexuality, they disliked it enough that they hadn’t wanted him in their house at all. The isolation of an experience like that is, sadly, one that seems to permeate the LGBTQ+ community during lockdown.
LGBT Youth Scotland talks about young people being estranged from family due to the homophobia, biphobia and/or transphobia in the communities they live in. “During the pandemic, the public are being encouraged to seek solidarity and support from our families and local communities,” they wrote. “For LGBT+ young people, however, this is not always straightforward.”
The creativity, strength and perseverance of the LGBTQ+ community, however, can never be underestimated.
With the lockdown now starting to ease, and businesses slowly re-opening, hopefully the added difficulties, dangers and worries facing the LGBTQ+ community similarly start to ease, and communities and support networks can start to rebuild.
Help is available
While the experiences may be grim, upsetting or dangerous, there are a number of charities in the UK that are providing support to LGBTQ+ people - regardless of age. If it’s an emergency, dial 999, otherwise the charities below (and more) are open and ready to provide support.
LGBT Foundation - A national charity delivering advice, support and information services
akt - Supports lgbtq+ young people aged 16-25 in UK who are facing or experiencing homelessness or living in a hostile environment
The Proud Trust - A LGBT+ charity that supports young people and youth groups across the UK. They've moved support services online.
Age UK - Offers support to older LGBT+ people.
Stonewall - Their information service provides help and advice
Samaritans: 0845 7909090 - a 24 hour helpline support for those experiencing distress, despair and/or suicidal feelings
LGBT Switchboard – An LGBT+ helpline to provide support with whatever you want to talk about.
Pace Youth: – 0207 700 1323. A free and confidential counselling service for LGBTQ youth under 19.
National Lesbian and Gay Switchboard – Support and information for LGBQ people across the UK (0300 330 0630 - 10am to 11pm)