LGBTQ youth find new ways to connect during COVID-19

Erin Laforet / May 8, 2020

LGBTQ organizations are shutting their doors in a time where the community is struggling the most.
(Erin Laforet / BCIT News)

As the COVID-19 health crisis continues, many LGBTQ support groups have shut their doors in order to adhere to social distancing practices. However, for youth that are seven times more at risk for suicide than their straight peers according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Centre, current isolation may only make matters worse.

While in quarantine, Casper Fordy struggles with who he can reach out to as he continues his transition. He said while he is able to keep himself sane through the help of his supportive family and friends, not everyone is as lucky.

“When people are forced into lock down with their families, specifically if young LGBTQ people are closeted and unable to see their friends… they have to spend that time basically disguising themselves. As well as those who are out who may have abusive families are in a dangerous situation.” – Casper Fordy, Transgender Youth

A recent study conducted by LGBTQ activist group Egale showed a greater impact on the community’s overall mental health due to the virus, among other concerns. In the same week as the study was released, nearly a hundred LGBTQ organizations sent an open letter to the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion asking for a dedicated emergency fund for LGBTQ not-for-profits serving the community.

The results of a survey showing the impact of COVID-19 on LGBTQ Canadians’ mental health.
(Erin Laforet / BCIT News)

The report from Egale shows that LGBTQ Canadians are facing significant challenges when it comes to their financial stability, as well as their physical health compared to the national average.

Approximately half of Canada’s LGBTQ households have faced lay-offs or reduced employment hours as a result of the pandemic, compared to 39% of households overall. In addition, 21% of LGBTQ people with chronic illnesses report a significant impact on their physical health with that number expected to rise to 43% in the next two months.

Fordy explained that COVID-19 has not only put him out of a job, but made it difficult for him to get regular access to his testosterone shots, having gone as long as two weeks without.

Fordy after top surgery, getting ready for a long recovery process.
(Casper Fordy / Facebook)

How educators are stepping in

This has caused teachers to seek out help to hold online meetings, also known as distance GSAs, to help provide their queer students with support during these difficult times. ARC Foundation created a program called SOGI 1 2 3 specifically for this reason.

“Students really need to see themselves reflected in the world around them and they need to be connected with people who share their identities and share their experiences. It’s an amazing opportunity that they are able to continue to connect with their peers during this time of remote learning and isolation.” – Scout Gray, SOGI 1 2 3 Lead

That online connection with their peers is the best hope right now, as schools remain closed to the end of this term and possibly into fall.