COVID-19 and LGBTQ People

COVID-19 and LGBTQ People

The COVID-19 global pandemic exacerbated the already disproportionate rates of economic and housing instability, intimate partner and domestic violence, and mental and physical health concerns impacting LGBTQ people. COVID-19’s impact on the LGBTQ community will be undercounted, as there was no federal or state requirement to include sexual orientation and gender identity in data collection efforts until several months into the pandemic, and even then, it was only implemented by a few states. LGBTQ nonprofits, community-based organizations, volunteer data scientists, and community organizers have surveyed and collected data within the community to highlight and raise awareness of the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ people during the pandemic. (See: NPR, HRC, MAP, Trans Lifeline)

Economic impact
LGBTQ people, particularly those of color, faced significantly higher rates of unemployment or reduction of work hours in comparison to their straight counterparts, according to a survey of 22,000 LGBTQ adults by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and PBS Insights. Additionally, LGBTQ people reported having their employment hours reduced at higher rates than their straight counterparts. A GLAAD survey in November 2020 found that 29% of LGBTQ voters lost their job or had their work hours reduced.

In a report published by the Williams Institute, using data collected by Axios-Ipsos from 11,000 LGBTQ adults, researchers found "LGBT people of color are more likely to experience the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 than non-LGBT white people. They are also more likely to follow public health measures, such as getting tested for COVID-19, social distancing, and wearing masks than non-LGBT white people." The same study showed that LGBTQ people overall were more likely to follow COVID-19 protocols like wearing a mask and practicing social distancing. Both the findings in this report and data released by the Census Bureau indicate that LGBTQ people faced increased economic and food insecurity, difficulty in affording essential household items and paying their rent or mortgages. 

Compared to the general population, LGBTQ people have a higher likelihood of both contracting COVID-19 and of facing more serious complications from the disease. Reasons include working in highly affected industries such as healthcare and restaurants/food services, lower incomes than non-LGBTQ people, andfacing stigma and discrimination when seeking healthcare, or having limited or no healthcare coverage.

Mental health and quarantine safety
Trans Lifeline, a nonprofit that runs a crisis hotline for transgender people, reported that calls about suicidal ideation have increased by 89% since the start of the pandemic. Similarly, The Trevor Project released data around LGBTQ youth not feeling safe at home when Americans began quarantining. Sixteen percent of LGBTQ youth, including 29% of transgender and nonbinary youth, reported that they have felt unsafe in their home since the start of COVID-19 compared to 10% of cisgender straight youth. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs has detailed how COVID-19 created significant barriers for LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors to access the services of anti-violence programs.

And a GLAAD poll of LGBTQ voters in the 2020 election found that 36% experienced increased mental health issues in the first year of the pandemic. A KFF poll found that three-fourths of LGBTQ people (74%) reported that worry and stress from the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health, compared to 49% of those who are not LGBTQ, and are more likely to say that negative impact has been major (49% vs. 23%).

LGBT people and vaccinations
Vaccines are safe and highly effective against the COVID-19 virus, making them the fastest way to end the pandemic. According to a survey conducted by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, a majority (92%) of LGBTQ people are vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. The study results of 15,000 LGBTQ people indicated that most LGBTQ people had received at least one dose of a vaccine.

Many continuing vaccination and COVID-19 data reporting efforts have been community-led. In August 2021, a gay data scientist alerted the CDC to a cluster of COVID-19 breakthrough cases of vaccinated LGBTQ people in Provincetown, MA, which led to further discoveries on the Delta variant and helped inform CDC guidance. Many coalition efforts currently pushing for free and equitable access to vaccines have overlapping goals with LGBTQ and HIV advocacy groups, such as the breaking of patents on vaccines to allow for more global distribution. COVID-19 vaccinations and testing efforts are also often folded into pre-existing testing frameworks from HIV advocacy efforts. (LINK TO HIV SECTION)

Please reach out to the below organizations — or GLAAD ( — to learn more and connect with spokespeople:

Movement Advancement Project (MAP)
National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs
Williams Institute

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