COVID-19’s Impact on the Black LGBTQ+ Community Creates New Traumas

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm May 27, 2020

Not many reports have made been public regarding COVID-19’s outsize impact on the LGBTQ+ community, but the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC) published a brief stating that the novel coronavirus puts gender nonconforming people at heightened risk because “LGBTQ Americans are more likely than the general population to live in poverty and lack access to adequate medical care, paid medical leave, and basic necessities during the pandemic.” On May 25, Vice published a story in which they examined how the pandemic is affecting Black LGBTQ+ people in particular.

Pittsburgh-resident Aiden James Nevils, a transgender man who works as a retail sales manager for a telecommunications company, told Vice he worried about being doubly discriminated against for being queer and wearing a mask while Black. 

“Because my queerness is outward, people think, ‘Clearly you’re different and you’re also Black,’” Nevils said. “Now that I wear a mask, they’re even more like, ‘Ooh, I’m afraid about this.’” Now add an additional layer of avoidance by White coworkers, as they wear full-on ski masks, and discrimination can feel like outright racism. “That’s just the Black experience of wearing a mask,” Nevils said. “It makes me feel like even when I’m trying to be safe just like everyone else, that my safety is less important.”

The struggle to publicly and safely protect oneself against COVID-19 while Black comes at even higher stakes for LGBTQ+ adults, where 23 percent are likely to avoid doctor visits because of costs, according to HRC. A 2017 University of Illinois at Chicago study found that Black people made up 26 percent of the nation’s asthma patients and more are losing work hours (30 percent), compared to the general population (22 percent). When combined, these issues, including racially segregated housing, makes the community more vulnerable to a contagious virus.

“When you live in dense housing, your chances of contracting coronavirus are probably higher than if you live in your own home with a yard,” Sean Cahill, director of health policy research at Fenway Health told Vice. “It’s hard to socially distance when every time you leave your apartment, you’re running into neighbors in the hallway, in the stairway, and in the elevator.”

As a result, some politicians, medical professionals and advocates are pushing for more COVID-19 data that includes the LGBTQ+ community. As Leslie Herod, the first Black LGBTQ representative elected to Colorado’s General Assembly, said, “If you don’t see the data, people ignore the information.”