Celebrating LGBT+ youth in lockdown

August 11, 2020

Collage by Angela Mascolo with original image by PixelAnarchy from Pixabay

Angela Mascolo explores how LGBT+ young people have been dealing with the pandemic and acknowledging their identities

The outbreak of Covid-19 has been challenging for many LGBT+ young people. They are likely to suffer from more mental ill health and domestic abuse since social isolation measures were introduced.

It’s therefore more important than ever to celebrate our diverse identities and make sure we get support when we need it.

Guidance around social distancing and isolation has been a particular concern for LGBT+ people living with an abuser, and lack of physical contact with others can exacerbate fear, loneliness and anxiety.

The LGBT Foundation, a national charity delivering advice, support and information services to LGBT+ communities, highlight that domestic abuse within LGBT+ communities is often overlooked within mainstream services.

Differences between LGBT+ relationships and heterosexual and/or cisnormative relationships can make it harder to identify abuse. For example, abuse may involve someone dismissing your sexual orientation or gender identity.

For some LGBT+ people, lockdown has felt like going back in the closet

I spoke to WiseThoughts, a BAME LGBTQI+ arts charity based at Wood Green Library, who have been supporting LGBT+ people dealing with isolation, homophobic parents and domestic violence. They’ve been tackling these issues by liaising with the police and LGBTQI+ networks.

Niranjan Kamatkar, one of WiseThoughts’ founders, explains that for some LGBT+ people, lockdown has felt “like going back in the closet”. One of the challenges they have faced is: “How do we celebrate Pride and keep identities out in the open?”

Since Haringey Pride on September 5th 2020 was cancelled, WiseThoughts held the first Digital Pride on June 29th 2020.

“Digital Pride was very upbeat. It was a mixed age group of people, some whom we met for the first time and for one person it was their first ever Pride event, which I’m very proud for,” says Niranjan.

It’s been difficult spending so much time at home, when most of my sources of support are based outside the home

If you’re struggling at home as an LGBT+ person, WiseThoughts are offering free physical drop-in sessions on Mondays 3-4pm, as well as online yoga sessions on Wednesdays 3-4pm.

For Exposure journalist Jamie Aldridge, lockdown has been difficult for them to cope with, not only because they’re LGBT+, but also because they’re in the shielding group. They have a heart condition which has made them very worried about catching Covid-19 and becoming ill.

“I felt I’d made a lot of progress towards independence and managing my anxiety in public places, which the lockdown has somewhat undone,” says Jamie.

Jamie adds: “It’s been difficult spending so much time at home, when most of my sources of support are based outside the home. I haven’t been able to see my friends, hear my preferred name, talk about my identity in a positive way. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a place I feel really accepted.”

Jamie has been able to receive support from their akt (an LGBTQ+ youth homelessness charity) caseworker and is in touch with local mental health services. They follow LGBT+ and mental health accounts on social media to keep up to date with their posts and enjoy Pride from afar.

Following trans people on Instagram has been really valuable for learning about the everyday experiences and perspectives of trans people

Jamie has also been coping by staying in regular contact with friends, working from home and keeping up with hobbies, including looking after their plants, reading and making collages and artwork to decorate their room.

For me, Pride month has involved reading more about trans issues. You may be familiar with the controversy surrounding Harry Potter author JK Rowling, who has been accused of transphobia on multiple occasions.

She follows Twitter accounts which undermine trans experiences, has unfollowed people who support trans communities and opposed the term ‘people who menstruate’ (check out Clue’s response for why they consider this to be a better term than ‘women who menstruate’).

Most recently, JK Rowling published an essay on her website which many found offensive, as it suggested that young people who transition will grow out of ‘gender dysphoria’ and will regret their decision.

This really spurred me to read as much as I can about the challenges faced by trans people so that I can become an informed and supportive trans ally.

It is vital that we also support UK Black Pride by donating, volunteering or sharing their work

Following trans people on Instagram has been really valuable for learning about the everyday experiences and perspectives of trans people. They include @munroebergdorf, @jmaseiii and @devinmichaellowe.

Jamie recommends following accounts which support LGBT+ rights, such as @aktcharity, @genderedintelligence, @mermaidsgender, @switchboardlgbt and @gaysthewordbookshop.

“Curate your feed by filling it up with people who inspire you and make you happy,” Jamie emphasises.

I’ve also been carefully selecting who I follow to ensure that I’m learning about the experiences of diverse groups who are facing oppression.

In addition, I’ve been reading books by non-binary authors and which include non-binary characters, including ‘I Must Be Living Twice’ by Eileen Myles and ‘Darling Days: A New York City Childhood’ by iO Tillett Wright.

We need to ensure that LGBT+ communities from all backgrounds are represented in Pride

As the Black Lives Matter movement has gained more momentum following the deaths of George Floyd, Brionna Taylor and Elijah McClain (to name just a few victims of police brutality in America), it is vital that we also support UK Black Pride by donating, volunteering or sharing their work.

UK Black Pride is Europe’s largest celebration of BAME LGBTQ+ people. It is a safe place to celebrate diverse sexualities, gender identities, cultures, gender expressions and backgrounds. They also foster, represent and celebrate Black LGBTQ and QTIPOC (Queer, Trans and Intersex People of Colour) culture through education, the arts, cultural events and advocacy.

On Sunday August 16th, they will be hosting a day of livestreamed celebrations including performances, live DJ sessions and virtual rooms.

Going forward, we need to continue to highlight the importance of intersectional pride and ensure that LGBT+ communities across the spectrum and from all backgrounds are represented in Pride.

If you need support, here are some places you can contact:

  • Your GP
  • Your local mental health crisis team
  • Samaritans
  • akt
  • Switchboard (the LGBT+ helpline)
  • Your local Council’s housing / homelessness team

Organisations to donate to:

Our thanks to Thrive LDN’s Right To Thrive grant scheme for making this project possible.