LGBTQ youth are at a higher risk for harassment, isolation and suicidal ideation while confined at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo Credit: tokyosoo via Adobe Stock)

The coronavirus outbreak is presenting LGBTQ youth with a new set of unique challenges. The widespread school closures throughout the country in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are preventing LGBTQ youth from accessing vital resources provided by schools.

The Trevor Project has reported a dramatic increase of LGBTQ youth requesting crisis-related services through their organization since the outbreak of COVID-19.

“We know the COVID-19 pandemic poses unique challenges for LGBTQ young people,” reports The Trevor Project. “At The Trevor Project, the volume of LGBTQ young people reaching out to our crisis services programs has more than doubled and we are hearing from many LGBTQ young people who feel isolated because they do not have access to their usual support systems.”

Sadly, a number of LGBTQ youth, both in the U.S. as well as around the world, live in unsupportive homes where they are unable to freely express themselves. A 2018 Human Rights Campaign (HRC) study found that nearly half (48 percent) of LGBTQ youth are made to feel bad by their families for being LGBTQ and over half (67 percent) of LGBTQ youth are subjected to hearing their families make negative comments about LGBTQ people.

Due to schools being closed for the remainder of the year resulting from the threat of COVID-19, these youth are now more at risk than ever of facing severe ramifications, as many of them are already subjected to abuse and intolerance within their homes.
“For some, social isolation means being forced to hide who they are in unsupportive, even abusive home environments,” says The Trevor Project.

Another challenge LGBTQ youth are facing brought on by the closing of schools, particularly transgender and non-binary youth, is having access to gender-affirming care, to which many are already burdened with not having sufficient access. Schools often provide these youth with an outlet to services that aid in their gender transition process. And with access to these resources halted from the closing of schools, many are afraid of not being able to continue their journey of transitioning.

“Transgender and non-binary youth may no longer have access to the affirming community they found at school and those who are in the process of transitioning might be afraid that this crisis will interrupt that process,” The Trevor Project says.

While social distancing practices brought on by COVID-19 are necessary precautions during these uncertain times, The Trevor Project says it is also creating a potential health crisis for LGBTQ youth, as connecting and spending time with LGBTQ peers provides a support network that has proven to be life-saving. Without that support, mental health concerns such as suicidal ideation are expected to become more prevalent among these at-risk youth.

“Physical distancing (commonly referred to as social distancing) the practice of avoiding close physical contact with others, is a crucial part of the public health approach to minimizing the impact of COVID-19 on the health of the U.S. population,” says The Trevor Project, “However, physical distancing can impact LGBTQ youth by decreasing their access to positive social interactions and increasing negative social interactions,” the organization added.

Amit Paley, CEO and executive director of The Trevor Project, says LGBTQ youth heavily rely on social connectedness and that COVID-19 has the potential to make the issues they’re already facing much worse.

“LGBTQ youth already face increased risk of anxiety and suicide and disproportionate rates of unemployment and unstable housing,“ Paley adds. “The COVID-19 global pandemic has the potential to exacerbate these ongoing concerns and to create new, unique problems for LGBT+ youth. At The Trevor Project, we know that positive social connections are vital for suicide prevention.”