The coronavirus pandemic is disproportionately pummeling LGBTQ+ communities, leaving a population already vulnerable with increase struggles, through health issues related to bias, access to care, and mental health. Many feel as if they have lost support through school and community closures, loss of jobs, and isolation from social groups.
In this ask me anything format, Dr. Jack Turban answers audience questions about LGBTQ+ mental health and addresses the mental toll that COVID-19 has had on the community:
- How have you seen the community be negatively affected by COVID-19, and do you know if there any lasting effects that might be coming from this?
- What do you suggest as a good place to start for a coping mechanism for somebody who has lost their sense of community? Especially for college students, even post-grads, who have a really strong network, and it’s been removed for the time being since they’re stuck at home.
- Are privacy concerns a big question?
- Do you have any suggestions for people who feel like they might actually be “losing it” a little bit by being stuck at home with people who don’t necessarily agree with their lifestyle?
- Has there been any research done around disparities related to segments of LGBTQ communities, specifically black LGBTQ individuals?
- If a student is in transition at home, and their family isn’t supportive—whether it’s transportation, prescription, or continuous care—are there any resources that would be available to help support them, not only during COVID, but also beyond?
- Do you have any resources suggestions around transportation or medical costs if somebody is legally recognized to be able to make their own decisions without parental consent?
- Do you have any tips for teachers or counselors that want to support LGBTQ+ students so they can help form their identity and themselves outside of what might not be an encouraging or validating environment?
- If teachers or counselors aren’t providing resources to students to support them in the summer, do you have any other suggestions for places where they can go online that would be a safe space besides the Trevor Project? Are there any that you would recommend?
- How do adolescents start communicating gender identity with other people in their lives?
- Is there an appropriate age to start talking about transitioning?
- There is household support for having a gender-assigned six-year-old boy wearing a dress, letting them experiment with a different name or different clothing, etc., but what happens outside of that environment? How do you protect them? How do you talk to them about other kids, other adults who might bully or not understand or be just straight-up discriminatory?
- Do you have any suggestions for parents whose kids don’t have any of the traits of transgender and you just want them to be inclusive? How do you encourage them, even at a young age, to become allies and be more open-minded?
- Do you have any advice or tips about what pronouns are now included as part of the spectrum?
- There are older demographics and LGBTQ folks who have been deeply affected by isolation and the loss of community. Do you have any suggestions for their connectedness and maintaining their sense of identity if they have to be isolated/quarantined?
- Do you have any suggestions for emergency mental health preparedness for older LGBTQ folks?
- Can you speak to how religious or spiritual communities can or have supported LGBTQ populations?
- A clinician has some patients who have been reckless with their approaches to HIV and other STDs, but they’re behaving differently with respect to COVID. They’re self-isolating and are very fearful when they’ve previously been engaged in risky behaviors. Do you attribute this to the publicity around COVID, or do you think that there’s anything else that might be underlying?
- Do you have any recommendations for people who are struggling to refrain from anonymous sex behavior, besides abstinence or phone sex? Do you have any recommendations for things that similarly feel good without necessarily being so risky?
- For a teacher or a guidance counselor, when they’re back in the classroom, do you have recommendations for connecting with students, specifically in public schools, and especially if the student hasn’t come out to their parent or guardian? Do you have any advice for connecting with them without disclosure or permission from a parent?
- Are there any places for allies specifically to learn more information, be more supportive, and be continuously learning?
- An individual’s son is looking for gender transitioning therapy at the age of 21. They want to be supportive, and their son wants to talk to a therapist about it, but they’re not sure where to start. Is there an organization that they could speak with or reach out to?
About Dr. Turban
Jack Turban, MD, is a researcher, medical journalist, and resident in psychiatry at McLean Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, where he researches the mental health of transgender youth. His original research and writing have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Vox, Scientific American, The New England Journal of Medicine, The American Journal of Public Health, JAMA Psychiatry, JAMA Pediatrics, among others. Dr. Turban is regularly consulted by the media to comment on issues regarding the mental health of LGBTQ youth.
More COVID-19 Resources
It’s important to think about ways to manage your mental health during these difficult times. McLean is committed to providing mental health and self-care resources for all who may need them. You and your family may find these strategies from McLean experts helpful to feel mentally balanced and safe during the coronavirus outbreak.