Some lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) people are hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The global crisis has worsened the difficult situation for many LGBT people. From Hungary to Uganda, Poland to the United States, LGBT people around the world are facing imprisonment, harassment and a rollback on their rights. On International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), it’s vital that we speak up against this.
Today, four young activists are sharing how they are Breaking The Silence – and how you can, too.
Ellie, Eddy, Li and Axelle attended our Young Campaigners programmes for Disabled young LGBT people, and young LGBT People of Colour (PoC), funded by Comic Relief. They met other young people like them making change in their communities.
We are not silent
‘I’m thinking a lot about the incredible LGBT+ campaigners who came before me,’ says Ellie. She is a writer, producer and reproductive rights activist. In lockdown, she is ‘trying to both make noise and listen’ and find new ways to meet up with other activists.
Ellie is very aware of the context we’re in. One in five LGBT people has experienced a hate crime in the last 12 months, but four in five hate incidents go unreported, with younger LGBT people particularly reluctant to go to the police. Ellie campaigns so that LGBT people don’t have to wait their turn to be heard.
Silence isn’t something that can be broken by one person… Breaking the silence demands we amplify the voices of the past whilst making our own noise, too.
Ellie, Pronouns: she/her
Creating safe spaces
In the absence of physical spaces, young people are seeking to create their own virtual spaces. Li is a Brazilian non-binary artist, creative producer and activist feeling the impact of isolation. Online spaces are necessary to them, ‘now more than ever… to strengthen our community and continue highlighting our need for rights.’
Stonewall’s research shows that 26 per cent of trans people faced abuse online in the last 12 months. Li appreciates the work of gal-dem, Gendered Intelligence and Far & Pride in countering this through creating inclusive spaces for LGBT people.
In the UK, living as a trans person comes with navigating hostile environments, isolation and violence
Li, Pronouns: they/them
For Axelle, a Black, queer, non-binary activist, it’s not just about having safe spaces, but being empowered to thrive in them. Safe spaces offer them ‘a break from the loneliness that often stems from the rejection of difference’ to ‘celebrate ourselves unconditionally’.
Young LGBT people should be celebrated.
Eddy is a printmaker, and works for NHS England and NHS Improvement, and Trans Leeds, and is interested in accessibility. He has successfully campaigned to get pronouns included on the popular ‘Hello, my name is…’ badge, first introduced by the late Dr. Kate Granger MBE. As of March this year, anyone can have their pronouns included on these name badges, which Eddy says might sound like a small thing, but has a huge impact.
Fear, of not being seen, understood or respected, is one thing that holds us back from accessing services.
Eddy, Pronouns: he/him
Eddy describes how ‘the barriers faced by LGBTQ+ people, and particularly by trans people, mean that we are likely to experience inequalities when it comes to accessing health services. The current situation, when many more of us are likely to need to access healthcare, only makes the need to speak up even more important.’ Speaking up, like Eddy, creates change.
Our voices matter
It’s not always ‘easy or safe to break the silence’, says Axelle, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. Even being out is ‘revolutionary, because visibility is connection, and connection is validating.’
Axelle explains that ‘being Black, queer and trans [means that] a lot of the time you’re silenced by those who don’t want to even acknowledge your identity.’ They have taught themself that it’s okay to need time to be out, and it’s ‘liberating… [because] once you’re ready, there will always be someone out there to accept you.’
When I’m celebrating the truth of myself, I’m never doing it alone. I break the silence by uplifting those just like me.
Axelle, Pronouns: they/them
In Axelle’s terms, their ‘freedom always comes in community.’ Being visible on TikTok is one way that Li is proudly showing the world that ‘not all non-binary people are white and androgynous’, uplifting others to speak on their own terms, too.
There are people like Axelle, Li, Eddy and Ellie doing whatever they can to break the silence. As Ellie says: ‘I’m lucky enough to have a group of amazing young campaigners I can turn to when I get lost.’ Breaking The Silence is not something we have to do on our own; it’s something we can do together.
How Stonewall is breaking the silence
To make your voices heard, we’re submitting evidence to Government inquiries into the impacts of COVID-19 on LGBT people. We’re also calling for Government funding for LGBT organisations doing essential work to relieve pressure on stretched frontline services.
Take 10 minutes to fill in this survey so we can share your experiences of COVID-19 with the Government.
Whatever your situation, you’re not on your own. Our Information Service is here to help with any issues affecting LGBT people or their families. We’ll do what we can to help or point you in the right direction of someone who can.