Illustrations by Hannah Robinson
While the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic has many believing that ‘we’re all in the same boat’, for minority communities the virus does, in fact, discriminate. Not only is the LGBTQ+ community vulnerable to attack from the virus itself, but also subject to negative discourse that seems to have manifested across the world.
Even though rainbows have become a nationwide symbol of solidarity (as well as of gratitude for the NHS and care workers), the mainstream media has paid less attention to the effect of the pandemic on the community that also flies the colours of pride and unity.
The LGBT+ community is more vulnerable to the virus because of a combination of social and health factors. The level of homelessness in the community has been troubling for a while; 24% of all homeless youths in the UK identify as LGBTQ. The current lockdown has made life even more challenging for people who already have a poor quality of life. The lockdown also has the potential to endanger the swathes of young people being forced to move back to unsafe and unaccepting homes.
Job security for the LGBTQ+ population will also be damaged by the COVID-19 pandemic. With generally lower salaries than their heterosexual counterparts, LGBTQ+ people are particularly disadvantaged during periods of economic instability. While many have taken work home, this is not possible for many people in lower income jobs; working as waiting staff and shop workers for example.
Underlying health conditions also pose a risk to LGBTQ+ people during the virus outbreak. Research from the USA National Institute of Health has found that asthma is far more prevalent in the LGBTQ+ population. Furthermore, the LGBTQ+ population has the highest rate of tobacco, alcohol and drug use and all of these habits damage the immune system, which worsens the symptoms of COVID-19.
The LGBTQ+ community are also suffering discrimination in global responses to the virus. Trump’s cabinet minister Ralph Dollinger suggested that COVID-19 was God’s wrath against the world in retaliation to ‘gay people’. This shows that dangerously discriminatory politics are alive in Washington, even during a pandemic.
The US also discriminates against gay and bisexual men, who are not allowed to donate blood. It is not exclusive to the USA either: here in the UK, men who have had recent sex with other men cannot donate, nor can they participate in a plasma trial at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospitals. This archaic policy is worsening the strain on the health service and stops gay and bisexual men from contributing to the fight against the virus.
In South Korea, closeted men are now in fear of being outed, as local media reported that a man infected with the virus had visited gay clubs in Seoul. Furthermore, video evidence of a raid on a Ugandan LGBTQ shelter demonstrates that the government there has been using new COVID-19 laws to discriminate and target members of the community.
With Pride having been cancelled this year, and more COVID-19 related damage ahead, it is clearly an extremely stressful time for the LGBTQ+ community.