Daniel Danso

Covid-19 is more than just a health pandemic, it has been a complete change of life that is affecting many communities across the globe.

With lockdowns and social distancing measures in force in numerous countries, each community is experiencing the impact of these measures differently. The LGBT+ community will experience a variety of distinct challenges and it’s critical to really look at these to understand how and what your LGBT+ colleagues might be experiencing during what is already a difficult time.

For example:

  • LGBT+ people/professionals who have been able to live openly in our city businesses may potentially have to go back into the closet during lockdown or isolate with unsupportive families.
  • We have heard about the rise in domestic violence when talking about the straight community, but this is also something that happens in same-sex relationships.  Many in the LGBT+ community resist reporting incidents, have difficulty in recognising what it could look like in their relationships and may be limited in accessing support for it.
  • With isolation also comes challenges to mental health, a potential increase in substance abuse, and health challenges for those in recovery due to increased risk of contracting COVID-19 and limited or no access to support lines.

In addition to the above, the Trans community face specific challenges, including:

  • Medical facilities are overloaded with COVID patients and medical care of the Trans community may be deemed non-urgent and postponed or cancelled. This includes access to the continuation of ongoing hormonal therapy and surgical aftercare. Delays or cancellations potentially lead to complications such as infection, surgical scaring and re-injury sometimes requiring additional surgical correction.
  • Travel bans prohibiting foreign transition surgeries and the potential for heightened scrutiny on travel documents when travel is allowed again is also a concern. Many fear stigma and a lack of education when confronted with frontline staff at borders and medical facilities to get the care they need.

Maintaining sexual health is also a concern for many in both the LGBT+ and the straight community for example:

  • Many worry about access to PrEP and sexual health screens due to sexual health services having been closed.
  • For many living with HIV, access to medication is a concern for maintaining a healthy immune system.  Many who haven’t yet started treatment will be affected by a lack of care and are navigating being in vulnerable categories for COVID transmission.

For LGBT+ parents, the examples include:

  • Many expectant mothers will have gone through pregnancies without access to routine medical care, let alone their families at a time when extended family support is most needed.
  • People going through surrogacy are unable to greet their new babies if not born in the UK. Expectant parents have been managing the closure of Passport Agencies in many countries, thereby shutting down the only quick way to bring a baby born through foreign surrogacy home to the UK. They monitor travel restrictions, establish emergency guardianship so someone appropriate can care for their child if they can’t get there for the birth and are making Wills to ensure their child is protected if anything happens to them.
  • IVF is a mentally and physically challenging process already. In April, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) ordered private and NHS clinics to stop treating patients who are in the middle of an IVF cycle. This affected existing and new treatments from happening till clinics reopened in May and thousands of couples may have missed their last chance of conceiving.

These are just a few of the challenges the LGBT+ community is having to deal with during the COVID-19 pandemic.  As we grow closer to “a new normal” it’s important that we learn from these experiences.

Furthermore, it’s vital for businesses to understand what their people are going through, and how they can use this understanding to look after and retain talented individuals from LGBT+ backgrounds in times of crisis.

Daniel Danso is global diversity manager at Linklaters