New coronavirus keeps spreading nationwide despite government efforts to curb it. In an uninterrupted flow of news, studies, briefings we keep hearing how the virus affects different groups of population. While older people are for sure at higher risk of contracting virus and developing worse symptoms they are not the only vulnerable category. From the very first days of the virus being confirmed in the US numerous advocating organizations keep making tremendous efforts to bring government attention to the risks of a new pandemic specifically for LGBTQ community. On March 11, 2020 an open letter was sent to the doctors and media agencies across the country cosigned by over a hundred of LGBTQ rights organizations. The initiative was brought to life by the National LGBT Cancer Network.
So, what are the risks to LGBTQ community in contracting COVID-19? Open letter outlines at least three of them while there could be much more as ther pandemic develops rapidly bringing new challenges to the community. Firstly, the risks of contracting the virus is much higher for smokers. Unfortunately, the rates of smoking among LGBTQ people are much higher compared to other social groups. Secondly, the rates of cancer and HIV are also much higher for the community making it extremely vulnerable to contracting the virus. Finally, the discrimination that LGBTQ in general and trans in particular in everyday life contributes to the quality and accessibility to urgent medical survices.
In fact, for trans people the problems arise at the very first stage if they want to be tested for the virus. For some states, however (including New York that has one of the highest number of infected people) the situation is not that bad. At least, according to officials. For instance, at the meeting with LGBTQ activists earlier this month Gov. Cuomo provided a direct number to contact him in case of any discrimination towards LGBTQ trying to undergo a test for coronavirus.
On top of that there is also a psychological issue. Even without the virus spread LGBTQ people have often experienced difficulties in socialization and acceptance in local communities nationwide. It eventually resulted in increased rates of depression and even suicide. With the state of emergency enacted and stay-at-home orders introduced in an increasing number of states the situation has become even worse. Cut off from social contacts LGBTQ people experience may feel lonely much more than many others. At the same time, this challenge creates an opportunity. The opportunity to establish new means of communication, finding soulmates and making life little bit different.
"I think we're going to see new, really creative ideas on how to connect in the near future. But for now, every single person — especially those who struggle with depression — should remember how vital social connection is to our health,”
says Scout (identified by the first name only) from the National LGBT Cancer Network.
"Use video chat, connect with a community center, connect online with people with shared hobbies. We have to find new ways to connect because that is more important to our health than any of us realize,"
he adds. Not only can it bring some new experience to the community lifestyle but also serve as a valuable and reliable source of up-to-date information about pandemic. It is time for LGBTQ to bring even stronger ties, support each other and get support similar to all other Americans from the authorities at all levels.