COVID-19 and its impact on LGBTQ+

The world came to a standstill with the spreading of the infectious coronavirus in 2020. In March 2020, the WHO declared the COVID-19 as a pandemic. Hence, the governments all around the world imposed (and are still imposing) nationwide/partial lockdown and curfew timings, as a measure to contain the spread of the virus.

With the imposition of lockdown came different sets of difficulties. The COVID-19 pandemic has had adverse impact on the world economy, and the impact is expected to be visible in the coming times as well. However, not just the economy but the social impact of the virus can be felt on different genders groups as well. Gender and sexual minorities are the one most prone to face the social impact of the virus.

COVID-19 and its discrimination towards LGBTQA+

The gender and sexual minorities (SGM) are especially vulnerable to the experiences of COVID-19. The SGM people collectively includes Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Two-Spirit, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual (LGBT2SQIA+) people.  Hankivsky & Kapilashrami in their work ‘Beyond sex and gender analysis: An intersectional view of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak and response’ (2020), mention that, While COVID-19 was initially framed as an illness that does not discriminate COVID-19, but like other biocultural health crises, it does in fact discriminate, and it does so in ways that mirror the discriminations that are fundamental to contemporary society.

It is not an uncommon fact for SGM people to face discrimination on a daily basis. Now in times of COVID and the past nation-wide lockdowns and state lockdowns, along with the mass hysteria of not-knowingness, their chances of facing discrimination is clearly higher than the usual.

In the work ‘Sexual and Gender Minority Health Vulnerabilities During the COVID‐19 Health Crisis’ (2020) by Gibb et al, they mention, the heteronormative structures of power, inequality and marginalisation have shaped the understanding of economic, social and political inequalities experienced by SGM people. The stigma, systemic discrimination and other forms of structural inequalities faced by SGM people’s reduces their access to vital resources such as basic healthcare, educational and employment opportunities, housing, wealth, social support and political power related to heterosexual cisgender people. Like other marginalised communities SGM people face the risk of behavioural and environmental inequalities linked to social and economic marginalisation. In the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, SGM people are being subjugated to the atrocities from the hysteria created by the public.

COVID-19 and mental health of LGBTQ+

With the imposition of nation-wide lockdowns and/or curfew timings, the livelihood of people came to a pause. This also meant that people had to return to their homes of safety. But, this option was not entirely available for people of SGM because of their past social unacceptance of their sexuality by their family and others. And hence, they had to take abode in unsafe neighbourhoods.

Gibb et al in their ‘Sexual and Gender Minority Health Vulnerabilities During the COVID‐19 Health Crisis’ (2020) further mention that, public health measures, such as social distancing and self-isolation, to protect the public from the pandemic may have unintended consequences for SGM people’s physical and mental health. Social distancing and isolation may lead SGM people to take shelter in dangerous places, and fall prey to experience violence and abuse. Such experiences also lead to cases of  anxiety and depression, increasing risks of suicide, self-harm and controlled substance dependence among the SGM people.

In worst case scenario when a LGBTQ+ person contacts the virus, the absence of love and care from loved ones can be damaging to their mental health. The emotional support from family could help them deal with the recovery process as they have someone to look forward to.

SGM and COVID-19 vaccination

The greater challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ was/is for getting the vaccination. There have been instances where members of the trans community were getting left out of the vaccination drive. One of the main reason for such exclusion is that it first requires the access to the web portal, which includes navigating through the sites, further demanding the need for identification to book a slot for the vaccine. This process can be quite complicated and not everyone has the access to the internet or other related means of access to it, thus creating a digital divide.

Apart from the challenge of booking a slot, there has been speculation regarding the efficacy of the vaccination and the possible side effects, which further limited the chances of them being vaccinated. However, different aid organisations are working towards especially vaccinating the LGBTQ+ community. Their efforts are yielding slow but visible results in vaccinating the community.

                         It can be regarded that the LGBTQ+ community members experienced the COVID-19 pandemic differently. These differences and discriminations always existed and will continue to do so. However, the pandemic has further exaggerated these already existing discriminations. Nevertheless, it is hopeful to anticipate that these discriminations would be reduced someday with collective efforts.