Queer Aussies reveal biggest struggles during COVID-19 isolation

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Transgender people have had gender-affirming medical procedures delayed and young queer people have returned to unsupportive home environments due to COVID-19, according to a community survey.

The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (NSWGLRL) surveyed the LGBTIQ community about the economic, health and safety impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The groups reported 65% of respondents experiencing “less than good” or “poor” mental health after social distancing and isolation restrictions began. A quarter also reported accessing mental support services.

Sixty-one per cent of those surveyed said their personal relationships were impacted “often”.

Domestic and family violence was also reported as an issue as relationships deteriorated due to social distancing, living indoors, unemployment and other compounding factors.

Many young people have returned to their family home during the crisis, due to financial strain. Others have spent more time at home as schools and employment have shifted to at home arrangements.

NSW GLRL co-convener Jack Whitney said mental health and safety were significant issues for their members.

“[One] young gay man had to go back home to his family, who are not supportive. He has had to stop talking to his boyfriend and friends,” Whitney said.

“This issue is worsened as social networks have shrunk and more time is necessarily spent with family.”

Trans and gender diverse respondents said delays in gender-affirming surgeries and medical procedures had impacted their wellbeing.

One respondent said two major transition-related surgeries were “postponed indefinitely and may end up being cancelled.”

Whitney said trans and gender diverse people “require extra support to manage their healthcare during this complex time for public health.”

Fourteen percent have lost employment due to COVID-19

Of the survey’s respondents, 14% reported losing employment due to COVID-19.

“The majority of job losses are in financial services, community services, travel and tourism, fitness and communications,” Whitney said.

But he warned the government should end the program allowing early access to superannuation.

Instead, the government should replace it with an expanded social security program.

“We hold serious concerns about the reduction of super balances for LGBTIQ people who face existing employment challenges which disrupt their ability to accrue super,” Whitney said.

Another economic issue was the lack of accessibility for asylum seekers and temporary residents seeking support.

Many survey respondents also cited a fear or apprehension when dealing with police, particularly at a time of increased police powers.

LGBTIQ inclusion needed in the Census

The NSW GLRL has submitted the research to a Senate inquiry into the federal government’s COVID-19 response.

However Jack Whitney said accurate data collection on LGBTIQ populations is also an ongoing issue.

He slammed the federal government’s continued exclusion of questions of sexuality and gender from the national census.

“Data on LGBTIQ people is sorely missing and seldom collected,” he said.

“This is why it is so crucial that we are counted in the Australian Census.

“If we aren’t counted, how will we ever be able measure community wellbeing and improve outcomes for future generations?”

If you need someone to talk to, help is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

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