The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the majority of the world to stay at home and limit contact with others. For many LGBTQ+ people, these measures have placed them in dangerous situations and exacerbated the hardships they already face.
Mental illness, suicidal ideation, and substance abuse are several times more likely to affect LGBTQ+ individuals, all of which can be worsened by isolation. Moreover, many people have been forced to quarantine in environments that are dismissive or violently opposed to the way in which they identify and express themselves. Staying home also makes connecting with other LGBTQ+ people more difficult, and can lead to feelings of loneliness and abandonment.
For AISB’s first Ally Week, we asked students from around the world to anonymously share their own experiences with The Bite. Here’s what they had to say:
“Being under lockdown has forced me to spend most of my time with parents who consistently dead name and misgender me. At school, I was out and people used my preferred name. Being at home with unsupportive family has made my dysphoria worse. I at least have my friends that I can contact online to affirm my gender and feel validated.”
“Personally, being under lockdown has created some anxiety for me as someone who is not straight and living with a family that is not supportive of the LGBT community. It’s hard, mainly because I love them and they love me, but there is conflict when it comes to my identity, even if it’s not stated outright or even assumed. I know that if I were to officially come out to them, there would be an even larger underlying conflict, so I’m living in that weird limbo where it’s hard to know what to do next, or if stagnation is better in the longterm. Being in quarantine just made that state worse. Now, there’s more time to consider these things, as well as more time to worry about what would happen if my family was to find out.”
“Firstly, since I’m not out to my mom, I’ve had to monitor myself for a larger part of the time. Secondly, since I haven’t been distracted by school, I’ve had more time to question everything LGBT-related about myself. I’m not sure of my sexuality or my gender anymore, which, as you may know, is… not a great feeling.”
“Overall it has been alright. My parents are supportive, but I do feel like I have been spending too much time with my mum and it is starting to get to me. We have had a few arguments and none of them have been even slightly homophobic, but I can’t help feeling like maybe I’ve done something wrong and that is why she keeps getting angry at me. I have spent several nights crying in my bed or not being able to sleep because of anxiety. I have felt like I need to hide my pain from my parents even though I know they only want to help.”
“I have been spending a lot of time in a non accepting household. My friends and I have been talking over Facetime and we have GSA meetings over Zoom so that’s an escape I guess.”
“I’m quarantining at home with my immediate family in New Jersey. I’d say the biggest thing for me is that I’m not out to my whole family, and my family (not maliciously) pushes pretty heteronormative values. At school, I am truly myself 100% of the time whether it be how I talk about my love life and social media, how I dress and the types of social activities I attend. However, at home I kind of feel like I can’t express myself like I do at school, such as wearing the clothes that are more out there in terms of gender expression. It’s not a huge problem and I have to say I’m very lucky compared to a lot of people’s situations, but I am definitely missing the ability to be fully out and express myself as such that I have at school.”
“I’ve felt very isolated from other gay people since quarantine was imposed. The night before the last in-person day of school, I was advocating for gay rights with friends at a local council meeting, so to go from so high to so low has been a lot.”
“Being in lockdown with my family has been a bit difficult since they are not very supportive of the LGBTQ community and for my own safety I have to keep my identity hidden. I do keep in touch with my friends who are supportive of me, and I am very lucky to have people like that in my life since not everyone who identifies as LGBTQ can have that.”
“I’m missing my friends’ support and I feel very tired and sad all the time since I’m stuck in a house full of people who I know won’t accept me. What really helps me is talking to my friends online and suppressing my feelings and not talking about them while I’m around my family.”
“Personally, it hasn’t affected me much since I’m in an accepting environment, but I know a few people within the LGBTQ community who are quarantined in an unaccepting household and it’s having a very negative effect on their mental health.”
“I’m out to my family and they are pretty accepting. For me, I miss things like hanging out with my girlfriend and I’m really sad to miss Pride. Being the only queer person in my family also means that I don’t have people who can relate to my anger about the NHS using the rainbow flag despite its history with the community and things like that, but I understand that I am in a far better position than most and am very grateful for that.”
“Being bisexual, there is always tension around the subject between me and my family, even if it’s indirect. I have to avoid the topic when I’m at home, which means I’ve been seeking out comfort from social media (like Twitter & TikTok) to remind me that I’m valid and supported. It’s important to have an outlet to express myself authentically, especially during these isolated times. However, I recently had a positive conversation with my mom about LGBT history and we didn’t end up screaming at each other. Progress.”
“On the one hand, it has limited my ability to connect with other people within the community and support each other. But it has been mostly positive because it has allowed me to do more self reflection and reflect on my actions in the past and decide on what is best to do moving forward.”
“Being under lock down has affected me because while I am completely out of the closet at school, I have not come out to my family, so I have to be a lot more closeted than I used to. I am also more disconnected from some of my LGBT friends, so I do not have members of the community near me to make me feel more secure about my sexuality.”
How can we support one another?
It is easy to become hopeless when you are being forced to isolate yourself in an environment that stifles who you are, without being certain of when it’s going to end. The students that shared their experiences in this article only make up a fraction of countless others dealing with the same feelings.
One of the most important things you can do during this time is to use that solidarity to remain connected to others, whether that’s checking in on your LGBTQ+ friends, being open about your emotions, or publicly supporting marginalized groups.