The LGBTQI movement in the time of COVID-19

The LGBTQI movement in the time of COVID-19
May 4, 2020 Hannah Stevens

In this blog, Ariadne member Claire Tunnacliffe looks at the unique challenges faced by the LGBTQI community during the COVID-19 pandemic, and shares what GiveOut is doing to support the movement.

This blog is the third in a series which marks the release of the 2020 Ariadne Forecast, and looks at the challenges and opportunities identified by funders through the lens of the current pandemic.

The start of 2020 marked two years since the launch of GiveOut, a charity working to support the global movement for LGBTQI human rights by pooling donations from individuals and businesses, and providing unrestricted funding to LGBTQI organisations around the world. This was a moment of reflection and strategic thinking for the year ahead. LGBTQI people continue to face huge challenges globally, from criminalisation and discrimination, to widespread human rights abuses, and the movement remains woefully underfunded, particularly in the Global South and East. These challenges were already significant, but little did any of us know what lay ahead when on March 11, 2020 the World Health Organisation officially classified the spread of COVID-19 as a pandemic.

As the virus continues to cause devastating loss, everyday life has changed in unprecedented ways. Lockdown, restricted movement and curfews have been imposed across the globe. People’s usual ways of working, consuming, spending leisure time, and creating community have all come to a screeching halt. And it is an undeniable fact that COVID-19 leaves vulnerable communities the most at risk.

LGBTQI people around the world are being affected by the pandemic in particular ways. In the past few weeks, we have heard stories from LGBTQI individuals who are being forced to quarantine in homes where their gender-identity or sexuality is denied or rejected, with negative mental health implications. There is an exponential need for shelter and food as LGBTQI people lose their jobs and homes.

We also know that trans people are being persecuted through stop and searches, and that gender reassignment procedures are being cancelled and deemed ‘non-essential’. Extremist religious leaders are scapegoating LGBTQI people as the cause for the pandemic. LGBTQI people are also affected by the increase of domestic violence during the pandemic. And in many countries, police forces are specifically targeting LGBTQI shelters, using the lockdown as a reason to disperse safe spaces. Unfortunately, this list goes on.

In the face of these new challenges, LGBTQI activists are reorganising and adapting their ways of working, developing new services and approaches to activism in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, GiveOut is supporting ASEAN SOGIE Caucus’s (ASC) emergency response to the emergent needs and concerns of local LGBTIQ organisations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in Southeast Asia. ASC anticipates that the support needed by local LGBTIQ organisations to ensure their resilience and sustained operations will be needed for a prolonged period.

Additionally, GiveOut is supporting TransWave who through their Trans Emergency Fund are providing vital financial support to trans people who are unemployed or otherwise impacted by COVID-19 in Jamaica. This mutual aid fund responds specifically to the COVID- 19 crisis, which has gravely impacted the trans community and their ability to take care of themselves.

During this crisis, our community around the world is relying more than ever on the support and protection of LGBTQI organisations. And, in turn, these organisations are relying more on the support of our community globally. For this reason, GiveOut launched the first COVID-19 LGBTQI Global Solidarity Fund, a new emergency fund to help ensure that LGBTQI organisations around the world have the resources they need to support their communities in the face of the unfolding COVID-19 crisis.

Claire Tunnacliffe is GiveOut’s Grant-making Officer. Her background is in urban planning, environment and sustainable development, with a particular focus on public interventions in public spaces. She is currently undertaking a part-time PhD at the Bartlett School of Architecture in LGBTQI+ activism in London as a queer practice of placemaking.

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