Everyone is having a rough time! But not everyone is having the same rough time.
With a global pandemic preventing us from getting within 6 feet of anyone outside our household and the lethal consequences of unaddressed racism understandably taking center stage for many advocates, the LGBTQ+ community hasn’t been able to recharge our collective emotional batteries during Pride Month.
COVID-19 Has Hit The LGBTQ+ Community Hard
Compared to the general population, The Human Rights Campaign found that LGBTQ+ individuals are more likely to work in job industries highly affected by COVID-19, not have healthcare coverage, and smoke or have chronic illnesses like asthma which increases the likelihood of COVID-19 complications. Similarly, even prior to the pandemic, LGBTQ+ youth were often already in precarious living situations compared to their straight, cisgendered peers, being 120% more likely to be homeless and making up 30% of the population in foster care.
You’ve also likely heard the justified fears about increasing domestic abuse and child abuse during the pandemic. “When individuals are trapped in their homes with the increased stress of health risks, layoffs, and food insecurity, abusers are more prone to violence,” said Kayla Bailey, Director of Prevention and Community Awareness at ChildSafe. These concerns are certainly not limited to the LGBTQ+ community, but the potential flashpoint for conflict is clear.
The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ+ young people, is raising awareness about how the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic could have serious ramifications for the kids they support.
1. Less positive social interactions
While it feels like saying water is wet, it cannot be overstated how important interpersonal connections are to one’s mental health. Social connections “buffer stress, reduce depression, and improve well-being.” Feeling like you belong decreases a person’s risk of suicide.
For LGBTQ+ kids, that sense of belonging can often exist predominantly among peers. Getting breathing room from unsupportive families at school or with friends isn’t an option right now. Home is school and friends can disappear with the literal press of a button.
Staying home is a key component of infection control for COVID-19, which puts an increasingly frightening edge to the worrying statistics about LGBTQ+ homelessness. While only about 7% of minors are part of the LGBTQ+ community, these kids make up about 40% of the homeless youth population.
“My house, my rules” is a taxing standard for teens to meet when the rules say not to explore your identity, so unfortunately LGBTQ+ youth often find themselves without the shelter they’d need to shelter-in-place.
3. Anxiety about the healthcare system
Going to the doctor can be frightening enough without having to worry about your sexuality or gender identity preventing you from receiving adequate care. Unfortunately, 8% of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer people and 29% of transgender individuals reported that a doctor or other health care provider has refused to see them due to their actual or perceived sexual orientation.
4. Uncertainty about the future
The mantra of “it gets better” is unavoidable in LGBTQ+ spaces. When we feel trapped, white-knuckling our way through home, school or work life, believing that the future holds brighter things is necessary to surviving the day.
The future now, however, has become a confusing, amorphous blob in our collective consciousnesses thanks to COVID-19. When will we be able to relax with our chosen family again? When will we be able to go on a date or have elective surgeries or afford our own homes? No one can say.
It (whatever “it” resonates with you) might not get better for a long time.
Pride Comes From Inside
Those prior paragraphs, in true 2020 style, are saddening and exhausting. The weight of how difficult and complex our present situation is feels overwhelming. That is okay. We’re going to get through this the same way we get through everything: with grueling determination and glitter!
Pride Month is our celebration of the fact we exist. We’re here and queer! This colorful (and camp) display lets us enjoy the affirmation of togetherness and the joy of a fearlessly open community. We could use a hearty dose of both right now. Unfortunately, it’s not in the cards due to that pesky little bug!
Instead, this year, the LGBTQ+ community has to face down and tackle a familiar challenge on a whole new scale. In the absence of parades and parties…
Be proud of yourself.
It’s a short sentence and a long assignment. Normally, we have a crowd to remind us that we are worthwhile. It can be easier to fight for the well-being for someone else who is like you, rather than to stick up for yourself. Nevertheless, 2020 is the year that we have to be our own proud champion.
Tips for LGBTQ+ Kids
- Be your own mom friend.
- Remind yourself to get enough sleep.
- Get yourself healthy snacks.
- Make yourself get up and walk around every now and again!
- Journal regularly. Many journal apps are password protected.
- Get the negative out of your system and remind yourself of the positive.
- Write a list of all the things about yourself that are worth liking.
- Come up with personal goals for short- and long-term.
- Ask yourself what advice you’d give a friend in your same situation.
- Learn a new hobby or do arts and crafts.
- Don’t knock DIY slime till you try it!
- Stay connected with friends and community members if possible.
Tips for Parents of LGBTQ+ Kids
Growing up is hard no matter when you do it, but a global pandemic certainly isn’t making things any easier! Even if you are the most understanding, accepting parent in the world, you can’t ignore the fact that your child exists in a society and that society is hurting right now.
- Remind your children that they are loved.
- Love Languages can teach you different ways of communicating your feelings with your loved ones.
- Empathize, rather than problem-solve.
- Sometimes letting off some steam is all your child needs to feel less frustrated.
- Just because a teenager’s problem isn’t actually the worst thing that has ever happened doesn’t mean they aren’t still genuinely affected by it.
- Engage with their interests.
- Find an activity that you and your child both enjoy.
- Regular, low-stakes conversations builds trust and makes it easier for them to open up to you on more serious topics.
- Provide opportunities for them to share their thoughts.
- Taking the lead in a hard conversation can give kids a chance to open up.
- Create a safe space to express negative feelings and help your child work through them.
- Bringing up headlines, movie characters, etc. can open up conversations without you needing to directly ask about COVID-19 or the LGBTQ+ community.
- Let them know it’s okay to not have all the answers.
- Right now, no one does!
Your Health And Wellness Is Essential
To any young LGBTQ+ kids reading this, know that your mental health and physical well-being are essential! The COVID-19 pandemic absolutely does not mean that you cannot seek help from outside sources.
- The Trevor Project has call, text, and chat options available.
- The CDC has a LGBTQ Youth Resources page.
- The Pride Center has an extensive resources page for those in San Antonio seeking help with counseling, health, support, religion, and more.
- Clarity Child Guidance Center is a nonprofit mental health treatment facility for kids ages 3 to 17 with acute psychiatric services, partial hospitalization, outpatient services, volunteer opportunities, and more.
I can’t tell you when or how things will get better. That wedged-inside-a-pressure-cooker feeling that wiggled its way into our lives in March may not leave any time soon. But I can tell you that, even if we only get to see rainbows through a window for a bit, the world remains full of people like us and who love us.
Even when we’re distant, you’re not alone.