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The LGBTQ Community during the Pandemic

For decades, the LGBTQ+ community has faced discrimination and social marginalisation. The COVID-19 pandemic has both divided and united the world in the past year. Unfortunately, during a time when unity is essential, the LGBTQ community is facing more discrimination than ever which may result in long term or even fatal dangers to the community.

However, why does COVID-19 pandemic pose a higher or more prominent threat to this particular ‘section’ of society? Here’s why.

Statistics show that LGBT people experience high rates of chronic conditions that weaken their immune systems and therefore they are comparatively more vulnerable to COVID-19. An estimate of about 65% of LGBTQ adults have pre-existing conditions like diabetes, heart disease and HIV. These conditions make it even more difficult for them to combat COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In addition, even if the LGBTQ people have insurance coverage; discrimination stops them from seeking medical help or care. An increasing number of courts are interpreting and enforcing the ACA’s prohibition on sex discrimination to put a stop to discrimination based on sexual preference and gender identity in federally-funded health programs; however the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is in the process of finalizing a rule that would remove any explicit protection for LGBTQ patients. The College of American Pathologists conducted a nationally representative survey which discovered that 1 in 4 LGBTQ people reported experiencing discrimination in the year prior; and 29% of transgender adults and 8% of lesbian, gay and bisexual adults reported that a healthcare provider refused to attend to them due to their perceived gender preference and identity. Therefore, LGBTQ people who have suffered any form of discrimination are roughly seven times more likely to avoid visiting a doctor’s office to prevent discrimination. Another important concern is financial conditions. LGBTQ people with more difficult financial conditions and poorer living conditions are likely to face more discrimination and added difficulties during the pandemic, as compared to the middle class LGBTQ population. For example, poorer LGBTQ BIPOC are facing widespread violence and discrimination along township-dwelling dark-skinned LGBTQ people in South Africa, specifically lesbians. In Kenya, gay and transgender youths found themselves homeless after being driven out of their homes by angry, narrow-minded, homophobic troops which made them all the more susceptible to the deadly virus. Lesbian woman in Ghana were left with nothing and no one when their families turn abusive because of their gender preference while LGBT Panamanians find themselves in a hard place during gender-based quarantines when neither their identity documents nor their expressed identities could protect them from abuse. Therefore, their financial conditions caused them to suffer even more discrimination than they face on a daily basis along with being dangerously exposed to the virus.

One of the major side-effects of being grasped by a deadly virus is the worsening of mental health. Therefore, it is important to take into account the mental oppression the LGBTQ community is facing due to lockdown and the pandemic. COVID-19 has resulted in higher levels of housing insecurity and financial stress for students across the world, especially for transgender students who rely on campus housing in the absence of a permanent address and parental support. Many LGBTQ students also rely on student health insurance for mental health services and other related needs, including hormone replacement therapy. All students are struggling with social belonging but the pandemic and lockdown proved to be even more difficult and devastating for LGBTQ students, particularly those who lack the support of loving families. In order to take care of these problems, it is important that colleges and universities periodically assess students’ needs, alongside mental health and protective factors. Campuses should ensure a compassionate environment and maintain communication with students, acknowledging the burdens and stress they are facing during these difficult times.

“Try not to isolate too much. Stay socially connected while keeping your distance.”

-Jill Crank, M.S.N., M.P.H., nurse practitioner at Johns Hopkins Community Physicians and the John G. Bartlett Specialty Practice.

According to Dr Jill Crank, the LGBTQ population is already at increased risk for depression and anxiety. The isolation and loneliness that comes with social distancing makes it even worse for them to cope with these. Therefore, it is important to incorporate peaceful, reassuring activities such as meditation and exercise to help fight with anxiety on a daily basis during these trying times.

It is clearly obvious that this pandemic has been especially stressful for the LGBTQ population, having to face discrimination and marginalisation every day. It is important during these times that we as humans unite, in order to defeat this deadly virus and to truly attain peace and happiness once again, cruel acts of discrimination, bullying and mental oppression need to stop.

Written by Aahi Guha Thakurta

Illustrated by Patricia M.

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