There is nothing light or frivolous about claims by LGBT+ groups that the COVID-19 virus: (i) affects LGBT+ people disproportionately; (ii) that public responses often disregard LGBT+ existence; and (iii) that stigma and prejudice against LGBT+ people is only growing as a result of the pandemic and needs to be addressed.
As I have mentioned in several previous posts, LGBT+ people are particularly vulnerable in the context of this pandemic and there is already anecdotal evidence that they are disproportionately affected:
Perhaps, more importantly, their specific needs are often ignored in public response designs. A typical example would be Peru and Panama limiting men and women to alternate days out to stall the spread of the virus without even acknowledging the fact that this won’t help same-sex couples and ignores the reality of non-binary and trans people. Out Leadership is also concerned that treatment availed to LGBT+ people may be interrupted or de-prioritized including – HIV treatment and testing, hormonal treatment and gender-affirming treatments for trans people.
Similarly, the focus on domestic violence linked to confinement which we are starting to see all over the World seems to intentionally ignore intra-family homophobia and transphobia which is highly problematic. First, it does not provide risk mitigation for young LGBT people but more importantly it showcases how family homophobic and transphobic violence remain taboo even in the US or France in 2020.
As LGBT+ people, we are used to being blamed for disasters, whether they are hurricanes, tsunamis or economic crises, and we are already accused by some to be responsible for the spread of the coronavirus. The rationale being that the LGBT+ “way of life” attracts the wrath of God (as if HE had not bigger concerns at the moment – read my post from yesterday on organized religion and COVID-19: Religion, COVID-19 and LGBT+ inclusion).
COVID-19 surveillance, response, treatment, and media coverage should systematically consider the particular vulnerability of LGBT+ people in society, and steps should be taken to ensure that their identities are taken into consideration and their voices heard when creating responses. Inflammatory comments blaming LGBT people for the virus should be condemned firmly.
LGBT+ people should not hesitate to use collective action to pressure Governments and other stakeholders to adequately address the needs of LGBT+ people. In the words of Larry Kramer talking about“how gays simply will not go out there and fight for their own lives.”: “There are 20 million gay people […] in this country. And I wish I had my army of 20 million people out there, instead of the few hundred that we do.”
If you happen to still be employed, have savings or work in a company that is not affected by the crisis, there are several ways you can show solidarity today with marginalized people in our community. Here are three examples of organizations that are taking concrete action to help during the COVID-19 pandemic. [disclaimer: I serve on the Board of all three organizations].
If you know other organizations helping the marginalized during this time, who need our collective support, email email@example.com and we will do what we can to shine a light on their work.
What it does for LGBT+ incarcerated people during COVID-19:
WMI advocates with elected officials for the temporary release of prisoners in settings that are not able to provide adequate protection against COVID-19.
The inspiring Evie Litwok – a–formerly incarcerated and lesbian social justice fighter.
What it does for LGBT+ people abroad in financial distress during COVID-19:
Outright is planning to create a queer COVID-19 emergency response fund. It hopes to raise enough money to distribute grants of $2,500 – 10,000 USD to LGBTIQ organizations anywhere in priority regions whose communities are impacted by the pandemic. The funds could be used by community groups for anything from food to emergency shelter to domestic violence support.
Another high-power lesbian – Jessica Stern – who has almost more LGBTI street creed than Larry Kramer.
What it does to help during COVID-19:
Housing Works provides housing to the most marginalized in New York City people living with HIV or active drug users.
Matthew Bernardo who leads this gigantic operation with poise, charm, and vision.