The OutLife LGBTQ+ Lockdown survey provided yet more evidence that lockdown has been damaging to our community. Rates of depression and anxiety have dramatically increased, 15% of LGBTQ+ people have experienced violence and abuse in the past few months, and there’s an epidemic of loneliness.

Everyone should be concerned about the long-term ramifications of the Coronavirus lockdown, especially for certain groups of LGBTQ+ people. Our survey clearly showed that young people are experiencing more hardship than people in their forties and beyond, with those under 25 shouldering the largest burden.

Over two thirds of under 18s said they felt lonely “very often” or “every day” during lockdown. Young LGBTQ+ people also reported the highest amount of violence and abuse during lockdown (21%  had experienced some form in recent weeks), and the most anxiety (30% are anxious every day). 

But real lives are more complicated than tick-boxes and percentages. We also asked young LGBTQ+ people to tell us about their wellbeing in writing. It’s here that we should be paying attention, and heeding the calls for help. We received hundreds of written responses, which make for a complex snapshot young queer people’s experiences.

So what are they saying? Young LGBTQ+ people response's echo many of the universal experiences of lockdown: queer youth feel trapped, they feel isolated, and they’re desperate to return to the routines that allow them to cope with daily life. This is expected, and are experiences we can all relate to after months of country-wide lockdown.

What calls out as unique to queer youth, and was echoed among so many of the responses are two things: a lack of safety, and a lack of control.

“I miss my girlfriend immensely” wrote one young person “I think if I was with her things would be better. I commonly feel lonely at home because my family and I don't really talk. And they also don't fully accept me being gay, so it feels like I can't be myself, either.”

“I’ve been incredibly stressed out all the time” wrote another. “I’m really, really worried that I won’t be able to move out by July and I’ll be stuck in this house with my family for another 6 months. I’m desperate to get out of here. I miss my friends, I miss my boyfriend, and I’m scared all the time thinking about the future.” 

Young LGBTQ+ people, without the material resources many older adults have, are being forced back into family homes, often with dire consequences for their mental wellbeing. This story is repeated many, many times across our data. 

Sometimes these are happy reunions, but all too often they are traumatic. Dozens of young LGBTQ+ people have shared their stories of abuse. Homophobic families and flatmates are subjecting them to verbal assaults, misgendering and dead-naming them, and refusing to afford them basic dignity.

“My parents have an extremely toxic relationship and are constantly using me as a tool to go between them”, says Andy. “My sister is also incredibly abusive and I have had to do with the aftermath of her ripping into my step mom. The constant passive aggression gets directed at me a lot, on top of the general emotional abuse I get for being a gay trans man.”

“It was mostly just verbal and mental abuse” writes another young person. My dad makes me feel horrible about myself and stupid almost everyday and shouts at me a lot even when not needed.”

“I haven't been physically abused in a year or two now, but I do suffer emotional abuse from my mother,” says one 15 year old. “She tries to enforce her religious ideologies and tells me how disgusting being gay is and how I'm awful and sinful for even thinking I might be. She does say other things, but this one effects me the most.”

 “I am living with some very toxic family members, who have increased my feelings of isolation and anxiety as I need to hide in one room to keep away from them” wrote another young person in their early twenties. “Their toxicity, in a large part, is related to my sexuality and the way I plan to live my life once I am independent of them.”

In normal circumstances it’s hard for young LGBTQ+ people to escape these abusive homes, but for many this is now impossible. It’s not just the lockdown: distance learning at universities and the collapse of the jobs market are making young queer people extremely worried for their future, because the coronavirus crisis is denying them independence.

“I have lost a lot of money, lost my job, I had to leave the country I was living in, leave many belongings behind, leave my long term partner behind. I built myself just for years to a great life and now I have nothing. I will have to start from a fresh when lock down lifts” writes one 24 year old.

“I have had a couple of anxiety breakdowns due to not knowing what would happen in the future and me going to university like I had planned and having no control any more over these matters” writes another.

In our survey 69% of LGBTQ+ people under 25 said they were worrying about their future. 32% said they were worrying about their personal safety, and 29% said they’d been worrying about money. Young queer people already made up a quarter of homeless youth before the Coronavirus lockdown, often because their circumstances were often unliveable. Now, crisis risks becoming the “new normal” for LGBTQ+ young people.

The potential of a jobless, socially isolated future is horrendous for any young LGBTQ+ person, but the particular circumstances of queer youth make it even worse. Without the freedom of independent living, and distance from towns, families and former lives which have stifled their identities, they find themselves trapped, re-closeted, or subject to the same abuse from which they were desperate to escape. 

We must ask ourselves serious questions as a community, and as a society, about why this is still the case in 2020. Acceptance of queer identities has come a long way, but not far enough. These homes should be a refuge for queer youth, but still, young LGBTQ+ people are facing violence and abuse that belongs well in the past. 

Any remedy for this situation is going to be complex. It must begin with easing the current pressure on LGBTQ+ youth by finding them stable, nurturing environments, and giving them access to the community support which will let them thrive.

In the long term, our community must redouble its efforts to eradicate homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia. Lockdown made these problems worse, but it wasn’t the cause. With supportive families, or households in tow, who knows how improved the lives of young people could be? 

Ian Howley, Chief Executive of LGBT HERO (the parent org of OutLife) said, “I think that although we are coming out of lockdown, we don’t forget how difficult it has been for many young LGBTQ+ people. There’s nothing to say what is going to happen later in the year and we may end up in lockdown again. If this happens we must listen to what young LGBTQ+ people told us during lockdown and implement support services to help them through this and any future lockdown." 


What Next?

Support

If you have experienced violence or abuse and are looking for assistance you should contact Galop, the LGBTQ+ anti-violence charity. Tel 0800 999 5428, email: [email protected].

The OutLife Forums are also a great place to seek support. We have a friendly, non-judgmental community where you can talk about how you're feeling.