Community is synonymous with LGBTIQ+ people. It is one of the things we do best, and the coming together of friends and allies is what has seen us through a myriad of unprecedented and challenging times over the course of history. We are no strangers to adversity, discrimination and inequality, but COVID-19 is new territory, even for us.
So, what happens when a global pandemic physically distances us from our community and isolation really does become isolating?
No one is immune to the challenges of COVID-19, but the most vulnerable members of our communities—including not only LGBTIQ+ people, but also people of diverse abilities, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and the people who fit within the many intersections in between—tend to face additional challenges.
So, are you ready to take a walk in someone else’s (rainbow) shoes?
Imagine coming out to your family, who are not accepting of you, and then being forced to isolate with them.
Imagine spending years protesting to be visibly included in all walks of life, only to have the community celebrations of that resilience and visibility cancelled all around you.
Imagine plucking up the courage to donate blood to support the wider community—at a time when donations are needed desperately—only to be told that you are ineligible because your blood poses risks because of who you love.
Imagine going on your daily walk and having to explain your relationship to a police officer who has assumed you are not with the members of your household.
Imagine becoming infected with COVID-19 because you did not believe you needed to take precautions, after being exposed to misinformation suggesting your HIV preventative medication gave you immunity to COVID-19.
Imagine spending years self-editing and covering, because you did not feel safe to bring your whole self to work, only to be ‘outed’ accidentally because your living arrangements were visible on a Zoom videoconference.
Imagine planning and waiting for life-changing surgery for years—surgery that will make you feel more like yourself—only to have it cancelled at the last minute, with no indication of when it might be rescheduled.
Imagine, after scheduling assisted reproductive treatments with one of the few clinics who didn’t discriminate against you for being who you are from the outset, just to be told that the family you have been planning for years will have to wait, because ART has been cancelled.
Imagine fighting so hard to be ‘out’, and then being told you must stay in.
Unfortunately, this will be the experience of many LGBTIQ+ people during this crisis.
With the cancellation of more than 220 pride events around the globe, a reduction in funding for charitable LGBTIQ+ organisations, unconscious bias and discrimination in medical treatment and a lack of inclusive language in COVID-19 guidelines, now is the time to support our community.
So, Where To From Here?
Now, more than ever, is the time for our government and healthcare providers to recognise that the issues facing the LGBTIQ+ community and other vulnerable members of our society are significant. We must find ways to ensure that support is available to the people who need it, and understanding the nuanced challenges faced by each of these communities is the first step. Starting and continuing the conversation for change, is the next.
What Can I Do?
The resilience of the LGBTIQ+ community is amazing and what we do best is come together in the spirit of love and equality. It is critical through these tough times that we still find ways to do just that.
The first online global Pride event scheduled to be held on 27 June 2020 will be one of many events which bring the LGBTIQ+ community together to celebrate its strength and resilience in the face of the pandemic.
Let’s follow that lead and think outside the box. Whether you have the ability to take action personally, professionally, financially, or otherwise in support of the LGBTIQ+ community and the organisations that support it, we urge you to do so. Whether you are a member of the LGBTIQ+ community, or a treasured ally, now is the time to find ways to support one another.
Being part of the LGBTIQ+ community is home for so many of us, and it is the strength of our community that will see us through this. While we may be physically isolated, we are not alone. Together, and with the support of our allies, we will be okay.
If you or someone you know needs support, these services are here to help:
- ACON | A health organisation providing COVID-19 information for people from sexuality and gender diverse communities and people living with HIV -
- QLife | LGBTI peer support and referral service over the phone on 1800 184 527 (7 days a week from 3pm to midnight) or click here for webchat
- Police | Ask to speak to a Rainbow Liaison Officer if you're in QLD. Across Australia, call 000 for emergencies or 131 444 for non-urgent reports.
- DV Connect (QLD) | Phone 1800 811 811 if you are experiencing domestic violence or visit dvconnect.org.
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Image credit: Yoav Hornung