March 11 marks the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring COVID-19 a global pandemic. A year on, news reports seem hopeful. In the US, the Biden Administration promises that every person will have access to a vaccine by the end of May. In parts of Europe too a return to some semblance of normalcy appears within reach.
Yet, the news we hear from LGBTIQ people around the world couldn't be more different. LGBTIQ people appear to be worse off than a year ago.
From early on in the pandemic LGBTIQ people faced higher rates of domestic violence, amplified challenges accessing healthcare, a devastation of livelihoods due to overrepresentation in informal sector jobs lost over night, and scapegoating for the crisis. Moreover, LGBTIQ organizations, which are a lifeline to LGBTIQ people, have also been struggling to survive, having to adjust to working remotely, to address new demands from communities, while facing reduced budgets due to a mounting financial crisis.
Compounding that, and preventing recovery, is the fact that humanitarian responses tend to exclude LGBTIQ people by using narrow definitions of family, binary views of gender, unsafe locations, or biased staff for emergency interventions. In Sri Lanka, for example, food aid was distributed in police stations. In a country which criminalizes same-sex relations, these are not safe locations for LGBTIQ people. In the Philippines, aid was often distributed to families, but we heard from lesbian couples that they were turned away for not constituting a family.
OutRight launched a COVID emergency fund in April 2020 to support LGBTIQ organizations on the frontlines. Since then we have distributed over $1 million, to over 120 organizations in 63 countries. But that has not been enough. Because we are not seeing our communities recover, we have just released a new call for applications. Within days of the launch we received almost two hundred applications telling an alarming story of communities in severe crisis. Worse than a year ago.
If you know of organizations which would benefit from support at this time, please share the call, available in seven languages, with them.
We are also continuing to fundraise for the fund. If you would like to contribute, please get in touch!
OutRight Action International
P.s. If you would like to read more of my reflections on this anniversary, have a look at this opinion piece published on Openly by Thomson Reuters.
Published on March 10, 2021 | OutRight Action International an LGBT human rights organization