Impact on LGBT communities | Stonewall
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Impact on LGBT communities

The COVID-19 pandemic and the health and economic effects of the lockdown are having a big impact on all people who already experience deep and systemic inequality.

Some LGBT people – including LGBT people of colour, trans people and people living in poverty - were already more likely to experience poor mental health, difficulties accessing healthcare, the risk of domestic violence and homelessness, and discrimination and unemployment.

This health and economic crisis will make these problems worse. And governments across the world are using this crisis to roll back LGBT rights.

This page highlights the inequalities that already exist, and how particular groups of LGBT people are disproportionately affected. Read and share these impacts and join Stonewall in calling for action to address these inequalities.

Access to healthcare

LGBT people already had challenges accessing healthcare.

Many people are not seeking health support during this crisis. Unequal treatment and fear of discrimination may stop LGBT people from seeking health support when they need it.

  • A third of trans people (32 per cent) have experienced unequal treatment in health settings. Twenty percent of LGBT disabled people and nineteen percent of Black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBT people, including 24 per cent of Asian LGBT people, have experienced this. (LGBT in Britain: Health Report, 2018)
  • One in seven LGBT people (14 per cent) avoid seeking healthcare for fear of discrimination from staff (LGBT in Britain: Health Report, 2018)

There are particular challenges for trans people who rely on support from specialist health services.

  • The waiting list for an initial appointment with specialist trans health services was already over two years long, far exceeding NHS patients’ legal entitlements.
  • Trans people are already finding COVID-19 has disrupted access to adult Gender Identity Services (GIS) and Gender Identity Development Services (GIDS), leading to even longer waiting lists for support and difficulty accessing treatments like hormone prescriptions.
Mental health

LGBT people were already more likely to experience poor mental health.

The crisis threatens to make it worse, with a huge impact on the general population’s mental health and well-being through worries about the health and well-being of our families and friends, financial uncertainty, changes to routines and disruption to health and support services.

  • More than half of LGBT people have experienced depression in the last year, and three in five had anxiety. Non-binary people (79 per cent), bi women (72 per cent) and LGBT people in lower income households (70 per cent) were among those most likely to have experienced anxiety in the last year. (LGBT in Britain: Health Report, 2018)

  • Twelve per cent of trans people attempted to take their own life, compared to two per cent of LGB people who aren’t trans. Almost half of trans people (46 per cent) have also had thoughts about taking their own life. (LGBT in Britain: Health Report,2018)

  • More than four in five trans young people (84 per cent) have self-harmed. For lesbian, gay and bi young people who aren’t trans, three in five (61 per cent) have self-harmed (Stonewall School Report, 2017)

This is made worse for LGBT people where lockdown means increased isolation and more challenges getting support from friends, community groups, and public services.

Difficulty accessing trans-specific health services and support is having a major impact on mental health for many trans people.

Safety at home

Many LGBT people were not safe in their home before the crisis.

Lockdown has forced more LGBT people into unsafe home environments, and made it harder for people to access the support they need.

  • Only two in five LGBT young people (40 per cent) – including only 28 per cent of LGBT young people of colour – have an adult at home they can talk to about being LGBT (Stonewall School Report, 2017). This can have a profound impact on LGBT young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

  • A third of bi people (32 per cent) aren’t open about their sexual orientation to anyone in their family, compared to eight per cent of lesbians and gay men. One in seven trans people (14 per cent) aren’t open about their gender identity to anyone in their family (LGBT in Britain: Home and Communities, 2018).

  • More than one in ten LGBT people (11 per cent) have faced domestic abuse from a partner in the last year (LGBT in Britain: Home and Communities, 2018). This includes 19 per cent of trans people, 17 per cent of LGBT people of colour and 15 per cent of LGBT disabled people. 

  • Bi people are more likely to experience domestic abuse from a partner than gay men and lesbians. Thirteen per cent of bi women and 10 per cent of lesbians, and 12 per cent of bi men and seven per cent of gay men, have experienced domestic abuse from a partner in the last year.

LGBT people experiencing lockdown in these situations may feel they have no choice but to stay in an unsafe home, or leave their home and become homeless. Akt research found that a quarter of the British youth homeless population (24 per cent) is LGBT, with 69 per cent of LGBT youth homeless having experienced familial rejection, abuse and violence.

Keeping up with essential costs

LGBT people already experienced discrimination at work, finding a job and accessing welfare and support.

With unemployment rising, many LGBT people could face additional barriers getting into work and keeping up with their finances.

  • Almost one in five LGBT people (18 per cent) looking for work said they were discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity while trying to get a job in the last year (LGBT in Britain: Work Report, 2018).

  • More than a third of LGBT people (35 per cent) looking for work are worried about being discriminated against or harassed at work due to their sexual orientation or gender identity (LGBT in Britain: Work Report, 2018).

  • One in eight black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBT employees (12 per cent) have lost a job in the last year because of being LGBT, compared to four per cent of white LGBT staff.  Eleven per cent of trans employees and nine per cent of LGBT disabled people say they have lost a job in the last year because of being LGBT (LGBT in Britain: Work Report, 2018).

For LGBT people who can’t access public funds as a condition of their immigration status, unemployment at this time could be devastating, as it would mean not being able to access safe housing, local authority support, Universal Credit and Statutory Sick Pay. It would put these individuals at greater risk of contracting – and becoming more ill with – COVID-19.

Global picture

These inequalities affected LGBT people in countries across the world before the crisis, and are being made worse through pressures on health services, lockdown reducing people’s access to support, and mass unemployment making it hard for people to get by.

Governments across the world are also using the crisis to target LGBT’s rights, freedoms and dignity.

  • Hungary – After the Hungarian parliament agreed to extend the Prime Minister’s powers to grant him the right to rule by decree indefinitely, the Hungarian government submitted a bill to parliament to replace “gender” with “birth sex” in all legal documents. That bill has become law and has stripped trans people of legal recognition.

  • Panama and Peru – Quarantine measures based on gender (days for essential activities are assigned to men/women) have led to the targeting of trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people, who have been arrested, temporarily imprisoned, and fined.

  • Poland – A law amending Poland’s Criminal Code was intended to create better conditions for overcoming the COVID-19 crisis, but has also included a number of provisions that increase the penalties for HIV exposure, non-disclosure, and transmission, exacerbating stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV.

  • Uganda – Directives to limit public gatherings have been used to target people in a homeless shelter that serves LGBT people. 20 individuals were imprisoned – increasing the likelihood of contracting COVID-19, as well as the possibility of being subject to state-sponsored homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. HIV medication and testing kits were also seized, and shelter residents living with HIV were put at risk due to compromised immune systems.


Want to help?  Please share your experiences in our survey to tell us how LGBT people are being impacted by this crisis.

Perhaps you – or your friends or loved ones - feel cut off from LGBT venues and support networks? Anxious about delays in medication or long-awaited appointments? Unsafe in the streets or online? Stuck in a home where you can’t fully be yourself. Share your experiences in this survey.