TIME will soon show what impact the coronavirus will have on a minority group such as the LGBT+ community.
Globally we’re facing a pandemic that not only threatens our lives but has forced people into isolation to protect their families, friends, colleagues and fellow citizens.
As we’re all very aware ,this isolation period has been tough on everyone’s mental health and wellbeing, but what has it meant for those in a minority group that were already some of the most vulnerable in society?
Before the current pandemic, studies showed that LGBT+ elderly people suffer much higher rates of loneliness than their heterosexual peers. This has been linked to various factors such as the HIV/AIDS epidemic where many in the community lost their partners, and support systems, which had a lasting and damage effect on this subsection of the community. This part of the community also grew up in a time where homosexuality was a criminal offence and those that ‘came out’, to a much larger extent than today, were ostracised by their families and friends.
LGBT Ireland, a national organisation that runs the LGBT Helpline through the support of volunteers consistently receives high numbers of calls from older LGBT+ people struggling with loneliness and isolation. This is particularly an issue faced by many LGBT+ elderly people living in rural areas.
This pandemic has also had implications on LGBT+ young people who have been forced into isolation with families that fail to accept their sexuality or gender identities. These hostile environments can have negative ramifications on a young person’s safety and wellbeing. Where previously these vulnerable young people could seek temporary relief in work, school, college, youth groups or safe community spaces, they are now compelled into 24-hour lockdown with those they previously sought relief and safety away from.
As social outlets such as clubs, bars, community projects and groups, where vulnerable LGBT+ people seek out support and social acceptance, have had to close, where can those most vulnerable in the community turn to in these hard times?
With all this taking place it may not come as a surprise that LGBT Ireland Helpline and similar helplines globally have been under massive pressure dealing with the surge in calls from LGBT+ people seeking out support during this pandemic.
Cork is lucky to have several LGBT+ organisations that strive to reach those most vulnerable in the community. While this global pandemic has put guidelines in place around social distancing and forced these organisations to temporarily close their doors, behind the scenes these organisations have had to become incredibly creative in their approaches to support the community.
The Gay Project is an organisation that supports and advocates for gay, bi+, msm, trans and queer men. They provide weekly events, groups, workshops and supports, some of which have now been made available online. Munster Gayze is a digital space on Facebook developed by the Gay Project to share information, memes, make new friends, find out about upcoming events, and general chat for gay, bi, queer, MSM and Trans men in Munster. The Gay Project’s weekly social café Queer Vibes has also begun meeting weekly online using Zoom.
LINC is a Cork-based community resource centre that supports and advocates for Lesbian and Bisexual women in Ireland. They also offer various supports, events, workshops and groups such as drama, boxing and other sport or hobby groups.
During this period LINC now operates a wide range of online services such as a Virtual Drop In on Zoom three days a week, an online learning space where community members can share, teach and learn new skills with their peers and different online events such as their upcoming quiz night.
UP Cork LGBT+ Youth Project is a support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning young people aged 15-23 years old. The group which is operated by Youth Work Ireland Cork usually meets twice weekly in the Gay Project and LINC.
During this pandemic the group now operates through weekly hangouts on Zoom to provide continued support to LGBT+ youth.
Gender Rebels Cork is a volunteer group set up to support those around gender, gender expression and gender identity. They provide peer support and social events and having support information and training for Transgender and Non-Binary members of the community. They now also have turned to technology to make their services available online through weekly Zoom meetings every Wednesday.
As we face this arduous time in Irish and global history, these organisations and groups like many others, have adapted and evolved exceptionally to ensure that those most vulnerable have access to important supports. Covid-19 may have shut their doors but, dedicated teams have opened them virtually and continue to welcome those in need in.
Gay Project - www.gayproject.ie. Call (021) 430 0430 LINC - www.linc.ie. Call (021) 480 8600
UP Cork LGBT+ Youth Group - www.ywicork.com. Email email@example.com
Gender Rebels Cork - www.genderreblescork.com. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
LGBT Ireland (Helpline) – www.lgbt.ie. Call 1890 929 539 Monday to Thursday: 6:30pm to 10:00pm Fridays: 4:00pm to 10:00pm Saturday and Sunday: 4:00pm to 6:00pm