LGBTQ+ People and COVID-19

Some people are understandably worried about how COVID-19 (the novel Coronavirus) might affect us and our communities

LGBTQ+ communities may be particularly vulnerable

LGBTQ+ people experience health disparities. Barriers to care cause us to be less likely to get medical care; and mean we're more likely to have compromised health in general. Health disparities magnify the impact COVID-19 could have on us.

These are among factors that can increase our risk:

  • COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, and LGBTQ+ people smoke tobacco at much higher rates than our heterosexual cisgender peers.
  • LGBTQ+ people experience higher rates of HIV and of cancer. This means more of us may have weakened immune systems that can make us more vulnerable to COVID-19.
  • LGBTQ+ people regularly experience discrimination and lack of cultural competence when seeking health care. As a result, many avoid or delay seeking health care even in emergency situations.

Our amazing and diverse community also includes over 3 million LGBTQ+ elders here in the US alone. Our LGBTQ+ elders are less likely than other older folks to use health and wellness services like meal programs and senior centers due to anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination and harassment. Since this virus affects older people more severely, this a serious issue for our community.

Are there any special precautions that LGBTQ+ people should take?
LGBTQ+ individuals who have cancer, smoke, are HIV+, are over 65 years old, or who have another health condition should take additional steps to reduce the risk of infection. Anyone who interacts with folks in these categories - that's everybody! - should also take these additional steps:

As LGBTQ+ people, we are far too familiar with discrimination and stigma  - and with epidemics. We urge everyone involved in the response to COVID-19 - including treatment, education, and media coverage - to take steps to ensure LGBTQ+ communities are equitably served.

What can you do?

  • Appropriately serving our communities could include:
    • For student journalists, be aware of and include the risks facing individuals with chronic illness, a weakened immune system or who use tobacco, in your media coverage. Similarly, help stop the spread of fear and misinformation by acknowledging and addressing racism, xenophobia and bias directed at Asian and Asian American people and communities.
    • For students in health promotion and education, make sure health messaging includes information specifically inclusive of communities at more risk, including LGBTQ+ communities. For example, including imagery of LGBTQ+ people and LGBTQ+ symbols in graphics and educational resources. Help health providers and organizations partner with LGBTQ+ community-based organizations and LGBTQ+ community leaders to get messaging out through channels we trust.
    • For students in health professions, help identify welcoming providers and help LGBTQ+ people find them, if they need medical attention. Understand how to provide equal, respectful and safe care to everyone regardless of their race, ethnicity, actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, ability, age, national origin, or immigration status.
    • For students studying grant writing, public policy, business and finance, consider and assist in funding efforts for community health and social service resources that are distributed in ways that account for the additional burden anticipated by LGBTQ+ health centers and LGBTQ+ welcoming providers and services.
    • For students in research methods and in epidemiology, learn ways to create surveillance efforts that respectfully and accurately capture sexual orientation and gender identity as part of routine demographic data collection.
  • For everyone:
    • Be sure to help LGBTQ+ health and community leaders, along with all health care providers and community leaders, get timely and accurate information to share with our communities.
    • Be aware of and center the most vulnerable members of our LGBTQ+ communities: our elders, Black and brown transgender, nonbinary and gender nonconforming people, bi people, people who are incarcerated or detained, people who are undocumented. Know and practice how to act in solidarity in everyday interactions, and within your area of study.
    • Asian and Asian American communities are being heavily impacted by racism, xenophobia, misinformation and hate. Know and practice how to act in solidarity in everyday interactions, and within your area of study.

Let's learn from history and not allow any community or individual to be disproportionately affected or stigmatized by a virus.

We are grateful for national leaders and organizations who prepared the information and open letter from which this info was adapted, including the National LGBT Cancer Network and GLMA.

The staff of the Center for LGBT Education, Outreach and Services know uncertainty and a different routine can be stressful! The list of resources below can provide information and support.

Safer Sex in the time of COVID-19, from the New York City Department of Health

  • You are your safest sex partner. 
  • The next safest partner is someone you live with.
  • Having close contact — including sex — with only a small circle of people helps prevent spreading COVID-19.
  • You should avoid close contact — including sex — with anyone outside your household.
  • If you do have sex with others, have as few partners as possible.
  • If you usually meet your sex partners online or make a living by having sex, consider taking a break from in-person dates. Video dates, sexting or chat rooms may be options for you.

For People Living with HIV

Interim Guidance for COVID-19 and Persons with HIV 

For transgender people, and everyone who has transgender loved ones

Know Your Rights Guide for Transgender People Navigating COVID-19 from Trangender Legal Defense and Education Fund

Una guía para que las personas transgénero navegando la COVID-19 conozcan sus derechos  from TLDEF

What Trans People Need to Know About COVID-19 from National Center for Transgender Equality

  • Remember: There may be things you will need specifically if you or a loved one is trans, such as:
  • Sufficient supply of hormones and syringes
  • Vaginal dilators or other medical items
  • Specific grooming or beauty items: razors, make-up, wigs, binders, packing equipment, etc.
    • Note: Chest binding does not increase one’s odds of getting sick with COVID19. If you get any respiratory illness, do not wear a binder so tight it reduces chest capacity.
  • When possible and applicable, make sure you have access to legal documents, IDs and prescriptions

What to do if you're trans and need to go to the ER, from NewNowNext

For LGBTQ+ Families

The Neighborhood: A Virtual Hub for LGBTQ+ Families by Family Equality offers LGBTQ+ families and those who wish to form them a robust calendar of activities from toddler dance parties to creative writing workshops for teens. Sign up for email alerts to be notified each time a new event has been added to the calendar. Tune in live here, participate on Facebook, or re-watch later on YouTube.

In a pandemic, we are only as healthy as the most vulnerable among us. Read more about how queer and marginalized communities can take care of one another during COVID-19.

Your Holiday Mom Springs into Action During Social Distancing

Our favorite folks of Your Holiday Mom are here for us during this time too! They're providing daily messages for LGBTQ people of all ages for the next thirty days because of COVID-19. In addition they’re giving us a sweet talk and goodnight every night on the Goodnight Robin podcast. Search on any podcast platform, as well as youtube, or visit for more. Thank you Your Holiday Mom! 🌈❤️

Center for IDEAS - here to support you as we adjust and take necessary precautions for safety and wellness.

 Office of Religious and Spiritual Life 

Ithaca College Form to Appeal for On Campus Housing
The college understands that leaving campus may not be possible or prudent for everyone. We encourage any student with significant concerns to complete a request for approval to stay on campus.

Additional ways LGBTQ people may be at risk, from HRC analysis

Many LGBTQ people work in the most affected jobs
Jobs that are heavily impacted right now by COVID-19 related issues - restaurants, retail, hospitals, education - make up 40 percent of the positions in which all LGBTQ people work. Because we're more like to be employed in these jobs, we're more likely to be exposed to the virus through work, and to be at more risk of being laid off. That's 5 million LGBTQ Americans working in jobs where they're more likely to sustain health risks and financial risks. Only 22% of all cisgender heterosexual people work in these same fields.

Poverty prevalence
More than one in five LGBTQ adults in the United States experiences poverty, compared to about 16% of heterosexual cisgender people. Within LGBTQ communities, some are even more likely to experience poverty including

  • transgender people(29%)
  • bisexual cisgender women (29%), and
  • Black (40%) and Latinx (45%) transgender people.

Lack of Health insurance
Seventeen percent of LGBTQ adults do not have any health insurance coverage, compared to twelve percent of cisgender heterosexual adults. Again, within LGBTQ communities, some people are even more likely to lack health coverage, including

  • Twenty three percent of LGBTQ people of color
  • twenty two percent of transgender adults, and
  • thirty two percent of transgender adults of color.

This can lead to delaying or going without medically necessary care. It can also cause extreme financial hardship when medical care is required.

Inequities in Paid Leave 
Many people in the nation do not have paid leave from their workplace. LGBTQ people face additional barriers and inequities because of this. Still today, may workplace policies do not extend paid leave equitably across gender. Many also don't take into account the ways people build their families (through birth, adoption and foster care). For LGBTQ people who do have paid leave available through their workplace, a significant number worry that in order use this leave they'd have to share their LGBTQ identity or relationship status - and risk workplace discrimination and even being fired. When it comes to COVID-19, this means they might not be able to take time off to take care of themselves or their family and reduce the spread of illness.

LGBTQ youth homelessness
LGBTQ youth are more likely than cisgender heterosexual youth to experience housing insecurity or live in foster care, often because of family rejection.

See their methodology and references here.