By Abrita Kuthumi
Image credit: Alexander Spatar, Teen Vogue
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people are one of the most discriminated groups around the world. Although the coronavirus does not discriminate against humans based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, the society we have constructed surely does. The LGBT community always had many struggles to face prior to the coronavirus but since then, factors such as lack of access to proper healthcare services, family stigmatization, and socioeconomic slowdown have been aggravating the situation.
LGBT people, particularly individuals living with HIV/AIDS, face stigma, discrimination, and negligence in the healthcare system instead of being provided with more support for being more vulnerable to the coronavirus. During quarantine and lockdown, LGBT people, whose large percent of the people are employed in the informal job market, have been forced by their financial circumstances to return to their family. While there is a lot of romanticizing of family bonding during coronavirus, LGBT people do not have that same privilege because the lack of acceptance runs not only outside in the society but unfortunately within family households. Therefore, they are at a higher risk because of anti-LGBT family members who could physically or mentally abuse them during this stay-at-home era. Patterns of these issues have been encountered in many different countries across various continents.
The Human Rights Campaign found that about among the estimated 16 million queer people living in the United States, approximately one-third of the people are working essential jobs. They work as healthcare workers, first responders, agriculture workers, and so on, being more susceptible to the virus. However, LGBT people do not always visit the doctors because of discrimination, mental health, and poverty. For LGBT people of color, that is especially the case as a study read that “40% of Black trans adults and 45% of Latinx trans adults live below the poverty line”. In the United States, often there is data regarding how people of color and low-income groups have been affected by the coronavirus. However, when it comes to LGBT people, there is no data being constantly collected. Dr. Magfa Houlberg, Chief Clinical Officer at LGBT clinic Howard Brown Health and Chair of the American Medical AssociationsAdvisory committee on LGBT explained the current dilemma that health departments have not tracked LGBT people because of the fear of discomfort, discrimination, and privacy reasons.
The World Bank reports that in Argentina, beyond 80 percent of trans women are engaged in sex work job market and due to lockdown, they have been unable to receive wages and have faced evictions. Beyond the economic detriments, trans people have also endured abuses from the police. There is institutionalized discrimination against especially trans people who, due to lack of proper documentation, are unable to access aid from the government. To combat these injustices, the government has set up the Ministry of Women, Genders and Diversity to collect data on women and LGBT people.
Anti-LGBT has been on the rise during the spread of coronavirus in Eastern Europe and no country has made it clearer than Poland. The Polish President, Andrzej Duda, has expressed his homophobic opinions by stating he would invalidate same-sex marriage and adoption for gay couples as part of his “Family Card” proposal. He has also declared to ban education on LGBT subject matter in schools within Poland to “protect children from LGBT ideology”. Instead of being an ally to the LGBT communities during these times of hardship, his appalling remarks have spread in the country. Churches have blamed the LGBT community for coronavirus despite no evidence linked between gender and sexual orientation to the spread of virus.
IndonesiaIn the archipelago of Indonesia, many LGBT people hold jobs in the informal business. Thus, the coronavirus has made a huge impact among LGBT Indonesians who no longer have the daily or weekly wages through their work in the beauty, arts, sex work, and others. At least 640 trans women have experienced a loss in income which has impacted their ability to put food on table. The government has not been helpful, which does not come as a surprise given the anti-LGBT history of the country which proposed “family resilience” law that would provide rehabilitation to “people who engage in sadism, masochism, homosexual sex, or incest”. Instead of relying on others, the LGBT community in Indonesia has organized to help not only people who identify within their group but also others; in Yogyakarta, trans women have created food banks to support the low-income people in need and in Maumere, trans organizations have helped others with food, masks, and rent.