CEO, Pride Foundation
Since the very beginning of COVID-19, the LGBTQ+ community has had a unique and difficult relationship to the very notion of a pandemic. Despite the many significant differences between the AIDS epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic, this is not the first devastating health crisis that the LGBTQ+ community has had to navigate.
LGBTQ+ people have been especially hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to early research from Movement Advancement Project — from healthcare access, job loss, and greater economic upheaval, to increased struggles navigating work, school, childrearing, and social isolation. And this is only compounded for Black, Indigenous, and other people of color who are LGBTQ+. Recent data from the Williams Institute also shows these communities are twice as likely as non-LGBTQ+ white people to test positive for COVID-19.
But LGBTQ+ communities have deep experience fighting to survive and thrive in the midst of extraordinarily challenging circumstances. We have a rich history of building the resilient support systems our communities need and taking care of one another through everything, often while facing isolation, rejection, and discrimination, including from our government. In the past year, our communities have drawn strength from this history and the networks of care and support we have created out of decades of necessity.
It’s not just LGBTQ+ individuals who have been hard hit by the pandemic. It’s also the community-based groups and nonprofit organizations who support us. Grassroots groups who work with and support LGBTQ+ people on the frontlines had to pivot quickly in response to COVID-19, the ensuing economic devastation of the pandemic, and uprisings for racial justice across the country.
These organizations not only continue to provide the services and support they did prior to COVID-19, they’ve also expanded their work. They’ve started mutual aid networks to help pay medical bills and rent. They’ve established food banks and pantries, clothing drives, sliding scale mental health services, and even mobile vaccine clinics. They’ve navigated major shifts in their work, often after losing the vast majority of their fundraising revenue when in-person events were cancelled. And all of this within the harsh reality where LGBTQ+ communities continue to be severely overlooked and chronically underfunded in traditional philanthropy, which has limited progress since long before the pandemic hit.
Even prior to COVID-19, these trusted community-led organizations have been critical, as mainstream service organizations are so often not inclusive of LGBTQ+ people. If not for these community-led organizations, LGBTQ+ people may delay getting healthcare, food, and other necessities out of legitimate concern for their safety and inclusion.
It’s true that our country and our world are now unrecognizable compared to February of 2020. But so much of the beauty that remains is due to LGBTQ+ nonprofit organizations that are showing up for the health, basic needs, and well-being of our communities day in and day out. These organizations’ resilience and care has flourished even in the midst of scarcity. These groups are caring for one another because that’s what our community has always done.
They’ve been there every step of the way, making sure LGBTQ+ people and our families not only survive, but thrive into the future.