Young people may be at lower risk of suffering complications from COVID-19, but LGBTQ youth have been hit especially hard by social distancing measures, says The Trevor Project.
The national LGBTQ suicide prevention organization released a new report Friday that spells out how the pandemic is intensifying mental health issues among young queer people.
"LGBTQ youth already face increased risk of anxiety and suicide and disproportionate rates of unemployment and unstable housing,” said Amit Paley, CEO and executive director of The Trevor Project, in a statement. “The COVID-19 global pandemic has the potential to exacerbate these ongoing concerns and to create new, unique problems for LGBTQ youth.”
Among these problems is the loss of social connections that kids make when attending school or joining sports and clubs. Quarantine may also isolate LGBTQ kids in unsupportive or even abusive homes, the organization notes, citing research that found a third of LGBTQ youth were rejected by their families.
“Based on existing research on rates of family rejection, many youth will spend their days confined to places that are unsupportive of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity for an indefinite amount of time,” the report warns.
Queer youth may further struggle in the economic downturn, and many will be among those to lose jobs or face housing crises. Research shows that LGBTQ people experience higher rates of unemployment than their straight peers. In the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 15% of trans people reported being unemployed, three times the national average.
According to a 2017 study by the University of Chicago, LGBTQ youth were 120% more at risk of homelessness than their straight peers. Young queer people are especially at risk, advocates point out, because many can’t turn to homophobic families for support in the event of employment loss.
The Human Rights Campaign reported last month that the top five industries occupied by LGBTQ adults are heavily impacted by coronavirus. More than 5 million queer workers, or 40%, work in industries hard-hit by the pandemic. LGBTQ people are also twice as likely (15%) as their straight peers (6%) to work in restaurants.
The Trevor Project report notes that supportive friends and adults can still help queer youth in quarantine by reaching out via the internet. For those uncertain on how to start these conversations, the organization just released a guide to supporting trans and nonbinary youth.
"It's critical to remember that physical distancing does not have to mean social isolation,” said Paley in a statement. “We're telling LGBTQ youth: Do all you can to stay connected with your friends, family, or chosen family.”