Metro Weekly

LGBTQ youth should “press pause” on coming out during coronavirus, charity warns

AKT is advising that COVID-19 and related stresses could increase the risk of family rejection

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Photo: Cecilie Johnsen / Unsplash

An LGBTQ charity is suggesting that young people “press pause” on coming out during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Albert Kennedy Trust (AKT), a British charity that serves homeless LGBTQ youth, said that young people should “think hard” before coming out amid the United Kingdom’s COVID-19 lockdown.

AKT CEO Tim Sigsworth told Sky News: “If you’re a young person and you’re thinking of coming out, press pause on that until you get support.”

He noted the potential for a negative reaction from family members, particularly if they are more stressed than usual due to the pandemic.

That, in turn, increases the risk for a young person to be rejected and made homeless.

“You can’t predict at these completely unprecedented times how your parents will react,” he advised youth. “They, like you, are under a lot of stress and they may not react in a positive way. We’re all being told to self-isolate, so being on the streets, it has to be the most dangerous place for a vulnerable young person at the moment.”

Sigsworth added: “Talk to somebody, get some advice. Maybe pause for the minute and let’s look at what your situation is.”

The Human Rights Campaign’s 2018 LGBTQ Youth Report found that less than a quarter of youth in the United States feel they can “definitively” be themselves at home, and two-thirds have heard their families make negative comments about LGBTQ people.

“I’m not out to my parents for safety reasons,” one youth told HRC. “If they found out I was gay, they would kick me out or force me into conversion therapy.”

Sigsworth noted to Sky News that being rejected by family during the pandemic could leave homeless LGBTQ youth with nowhere to turn to for support.

Councils in England have been ordered to find accommodation for homeless people during the pandemic, but Sigsworth said AKT knew of a young person who, at the start of the pandemic, “was staying in a hostel, but then started to show symptoms and the hostel asked them to leave.”

“They had nowhere to stay and no family; their family had rejected them,” he said. “They had no work, no options other than the street.”

LGBTQ youth make up a quarter of young homeless people in the UK, according to AKT, and more than three-quarters of homeless LGBTQ youth said their main reason for being homeless was family rejection.

A study led by AKT last year found that a quarter of adults in the United Kingdom would be “ashamed” to have an LGBTQ child.

Last month, a gay man spoke out about being forced to spend lockdown in his family home with parents who call his sexuality an “evil disease.”

A dancer whose national tour was canceled due to COVID-19, he was left with “no choice” but to move home with a mother who believes that homosexuality “is an evil disease” and who “loudly prays every day that I’ll be delivered from sin and find a wife.”

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