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How to Support the LGBTQ+ Community During COVID-19

Joeli Katz

How to Support the LGBTQ Community During COVID-19

While the pandemic continues to take its toll, the impacts are often magnified for minority, at-risk, and other vulnerable populations. Among those groups, and despite their historical resilience, the LGBTQ+ community is particularly at-risk for a variety of reasons. That's why it’s important to understand some of the underlying causes of this heightened vulnerability, and to learn how to support the LGBTQ+ community during COVID-19.

Why is the LGBTQ+ community particularly vulnerable?

A number of health factors put LGBTQ+ individuals at higher risk for complications from COVID-19. As detailed in two open letters signed by over 100 LGBTQ+ organizations:

  • LGBTQ+ individuals are 50% more likely to smoke, and smokers are at higher risk of suffering respiratory complications due to COVID-19. 
  • The community has high rates of HIV and cancer, and those with compromised immune systems are more vulnerable to infection.
  • Barriers in access to health care mean individuals in the community may be less likely to receive testing and treatment. 

The signatory organizations are calling for measures to prohibit discrimination in COVID-19 treatment and prevention. They also call for the consistent collection of data to help identify and monitor at-risk populations, as well as the expansion of economic protection measures to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on at-risk communities.

And for LGBTQ+ people of color, certain factors—such as lack of access to health insurance and higher representation among the essential workforce—may exponentially increase their risk.

What are some LGBTQ+ individuals experiencing?

The financial and emotional consequences of the pandemic are vast—and the LGBTQ+ community may experience these effects at higher rates than other groups. LGBTQ+ youth may be particularly vulnerable to negative mental health impacts associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Homeless youth are disproportionately LGBTQ+, and are particularly at risk, often without a safe option amidst shelter-in-place orders. And many LGBTQ+ college students are returning to homes where they may experience feelings of isolation and compromised safety. 

Adults in the community are also feeling the consequences. Elderly members of the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to be socially isolated and less likely to seek care due to social stigmas. And one in five LGBTQ+ individuals were living in poverty in the US before the start of the pandemic, leaving them particularly vulnerable to economic troubles and job loss resulting from COVID-19.

It is also important to consider the experiences of Black LGBTQ+ folks, who may face added discrimination when seeking out healthcare services due to the intersection of two identities that are oftentimes stigmatized. Although the Black Lives Matter movement and Pride are in full swing, there is still a lot to accomplish on both fronts in the fight for equity and social and racial justice.

How have LGBTQ+ organizations been handling the pandemic?

For organizations offering essential services to the LGBTQ+ community, halting was not an option. Across the country, LGBTQ+ centers have shifted their services online, implemented virtual programs, opened hotlines for COVID-19 relief, and published online resource kits to share information specific to coping with the pandemic.

Organizations’ ability to quickly adapt to the crisis has been critical. For instance, SAGE, an organization dedicated to supporting LGBTQ+ older adults, began a telephone program, calling to check in with thousands of seniors a day, in addition to offering meals for pickup and delivery. And the Ali Forney Center, a New York City LGBTQ+ youth shelter, has met an increased demand for services due to the tireless dedication of its staff. 

How can I support organizations working with the LGBTQ+ community?

While there is a heightened need for services from organizations working with the LGBTQ+ community, there is also a heightened need for donations:

If a monetary donation is not possible, here are other ways to help:

It is a critical time to support LGBTQ+ individuals and organizations. Together, we can work to ensure that no one is left behind.

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Joeli Katz

Joeli has professional and volunteer experience spanning the fields of healthcare, education, local government, and the nonprofit sector at large. She is passionate about LGBTQ issues and advocacy.