When the dust settles: Sexual orientation

Last updated: 30 March 2020

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ+) people already face health inequalities, including those related to an increased prevalence of smokers and pre-existing health conditions, most notably HIV. These inequalities put some LGBTQ+ people at an increased health risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.

LGBTQ+ people also face inequalities because of relationships with family. Ben Hunte, writing for BBC News, has documented the experience of LGBTQ+ people forced to return home to self-isolate with family opposed to their sexuality. COVID-19 has meant that employment opportunities have collapsed, in-person teaching at college or university has ended and some family members are in desperate need of care and support. This has required some LGBTQ+ people to go back into the closet or face hostility and abuse from family members. LGBT Foundation, which runs an advice helpline and email support, have reported receiving twice as many enquiries from LGBT people in need of support compared to the same period in 2019.

Among some older LGBTQ+ people, COVID-19 has also evoked memories of the HIV/AIDs pandemic. Although caution must be applied in drawing analogies between the two situations, both highlight the role of leadership in times of crisis. In the US, we have also witnessed President Trump describe COVID-19 as the ‘Chinese virus’ – a tactic reminiscent of the scapegoating that once labelled AIDs the ‘gay plague’.

Other documented inequalities include: