Attitudes and discrimination towards the LGBTQ+ community have improved over recent years, however, harassment and mistreatment continue throughout the UK and the world. It is understandable then, that individuals identifying as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer experience higher rates of poor mental wellbeing and stress than the general public (Mental Health Foundation, 2021).
A report by Stonewall (2018)
uncovered deep challenges for the LGBTQ+ community, with alarming levels of racism experienced by black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) LGBTQ+ people. Within the LGBTQ community itself, it also found that self-identified minorities; a significant proportion of trans, bi, disabled, and individuals of faith, felt excluded.
The report demonstrated significant and persistent challenges for LGBTQ+ people feeling able to express themselves and be open about their sexual orientation or gender identity with friends and family. Sadly, only 46% of individuals who identified as lesbian, gay, and bi people and 47% of trans people felt able to be open about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity to their whole family. In addition to this, 32% of bi people shared that they did not feel able to be open about their sexual orientation with anyone in their family.
If these findings of what it is like to be LGBTQ+ are capturing the experiences pre COVID-19 pandemic it is crucial to then recognize the potential difficulties and added minority stresses that some members of the LGBTQ+ community will have been in during lockdown and continue to face.
The Pandemic has limited opportunities for individuals to come together in settings where they feel safe and free to express their true selves. Loneliness has more than doubled within the LGBTQ+ community during the lockdowns, increasing to 56% experiencing isolation often to every day. This includes more than two in three respondents aged under 18 (BMJ, 2021).
Older LGBTQ individuals are particularly vulnerable to social isolation and loneliness. This is due to the fact that older LGBTQ+ people are more likely to be living alone, less likely to have children or the benefit of wider family social networks. Recent findings have also found that Older LGBTQ+ people are less willing to engage with local services, with 80% stating they do not trust multi-disciplinary professionals to understand their lifestyle (Age UK, 2021).
It has been well reported that the prevalence of domestic abuse, in general, has increased during the pandemic. Within the LGBTQ+ community, 8% did not feel that they had a safe place to live during lockdown (LGBT Foundation, 2020). LGBTQ+ people are more likely to face domestic abuse, In OutLife’s (2020) LGBTQ+ Lockdown Wellbeing Report, 15% of LGBTQ+ people reported the experience of abuse and/or violent behavior during the lockdowns, with black and south Asian LGBTQ+ people more than twice as likely to have experienced it. There are also many, particularly young LGBTQ+ people who find themselves isolated with homophobic parents and culture which prevents them from feeling able to come out or express themselves as they would like.
Trans and Non-Binary Health
The LGBT Foundation states that they have received numerous reports from trans and non-binary people who state that they have had access to their scheduled hormone injections denied, with some people being told that these are ‘non-essential’. In addition to this, Gender Identity Clinics have frozen their waiting lists and other services, such as gender-affirming surgeries have been canceled.
World Health Organisation & European Commission guidelines on essential services include the provision of ongoing medications for the trans community.
LGBTQ+ sources of support:
LGBT Foundation’s national helpline continues to be open on 0345 3 30 30 30 Monday to Friday between 9am and 9pm, and weekends from 10am-6pm. Details of our other remote service provisions can be found on the LGBT Foundation website
Stonewall - Help and advice
Mind Out - LGBT Mental Health Support