What is your community?
LGBT marginalized individuals and COVID-19.

LGBT people are overrepresented among the “forgotten of the epidemic”: the incarcerated, formerly incarcerated, homeless youth, drug users and the mentally ill.

Yesterday in my daily COVID-19 roundup I discussed corporate social responsibility. Today the topic will be our own individual responsibility in facing exacerbated inequalities during this global crisis.

As we have discussed before, there is growing global evidence that LGBT+ people are overrepresented in marginalized populations around the world. Here are some stark statistics in the United States supporting this point:

  • Incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people: our partner the Williams Institute pointed out that “over 40% of incarcerated women are sexual minorities”; [read this 2017 post which explains the reasons beyond this disproportionate representation]
  • Homeless people: according to the Williams Institute again “40% of the homeless youth served by agencies identify as LGBT”
  • Drug users: according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the LGBT community is “more than twice as likely as heterosexual adults (39.1 percent versus 17.1 percent) to have used any illicit drug”
  • Mentally ill people: the APA claims that “LGBTQ individuals are more than twice as likely as heterosexual men and women to have a mental health disorder in their lifetime”

This crisis has highlighted inequalities like never before. In our COVID-19 post yesterday, I pointed out growing discontent over the feeling that COVID-19 has become a “poor person’s fight”. You can carry out your own quick survey of the demographics of the people working outside of their home today and you will come to the conclusion that it is anything but a representative cross-section of society.

But beyond workers who should be adequately rewarded for their sacrifice, we need to think of the LGBT+ marginalized people and their wellbeing during this time. Many factors push LGBT+ people into vulnerable situations, but all are rooted in homophobia and transphobia in our societies.

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 info@outleadership.com and we will do what we can to shine a light on their work.

Witness to Mass Incarceration

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.

Executive Director:

The inspiring Evie Litwok – a–formerly incarcerated and lesbian social justice fighter.

OutRight Action International

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.

Executive Director:

Another high-power lesbian – Jessica Stern – who has almost more LGBTI street creed than Larry Kramer.

Housing Works

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.

Executive Director:

Matthew Bernardo who leads this gigantic operation with poise, charm, and vision.

Ultimately, when this crisis has passed, and it will pass, it is inevitable that we will be called to think about inequalities and how we define communities. Because the COVID-19 crisis in its infancy has already highlighted deep currents of injustice in our system.

Individually, we can start the journey to building a more equitable world by showing up for those that were left on the wayside of the pandemic.

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