What matters most to LGBTQ+ people during times of pandemic are a sense of authenticity, belonging, and connection to Queer life in a straight world – as told in a synthesis of the COVID-19 qualitative research conducted by Queer and allied researchers in Deakin University’s Institute for Health Transformation, the School of Health and Social Development, and the School of Nursing and Midwifery.

This first of its kind qualitative evidence synthesis explored published research from across the globe that reported on LGBTQ+ people’s loss and grief experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Approximately 2,533 LGBTQ+ voices aged 15-94 years were represented across the studies. Participants’ self-reported sexuality and gender identities were diverse, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit, and (Badhai) Hijra.

Key lived experiences across the participants:

  • loss of work and livelihood,

  • loss of social and kinship connection,

  • loss of LGBTQ+ community connection,

  • loss of physical and mental health supports, and

  • loss of LGBTQ+ identity authenticity, affirmation, and visibility.

These losses were reported to compound the effect of each other, taking various forms from the concrete (e.g. lost work, income, and housing) to the more subtle relational, symbolic, metaphorical losses (e.g. lost opportunities, future plans, and a sense of community).

In the face of such loss, there were instances where LGBTQ+ people drew strength and resilience from individual and collective memories or ‘Queerstories’ of previous pandemics, most notably the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s-90s.

A gay cisgender man in one study stated: “[My experience with the HIV epidemic] has given me greater perspective and hope. An example of heroism and bravery to look back on.”

Another gay cisgender man in the same study said: “Working in HIV research and studying the AIDS epidemic has given me hope that collective action on the local level helps people’s wellness and survival in the face of an epidemic.”

LGBTQ+ people also drew strength and meaning in community and cultural values.

For example, a pansexual nonbinary person in another study said: “My queer community values loves and authenticity, so I’m practicing acceptance of my own emotions and needs as well as acceptance and support for the emotions and needs of others”.

A lesbian cisgender woman in the same study also shared the importance of being visible and of LGBTQ+ culture in being their authentic selves: “I literally just bought a shirt that says ‘I am a lesbian.’ I mean – this shit helps!! It tells me that I can be myself, and that help[s] during quarantine.”

In this way, meaning is created from adversity – with the result – hope.

LGBTQ+ people are no strangers to loss and grief – and what matters most during times of pandemic is maintaining a sense of authenticity, belonging, and connection to Queer life in a straight world. Through this, meaning and hope are felt.

Want to learn more?

More action is needed to elevate LGBTQ+ people’s individual and collective lived experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic in research and advocacy work, making visible the rich Queerstories of strength, meaning, and hope.

For more information, the article can be accessed in Qualitative Health Research.

Article Details
LGBTQ+ Loss and Grief in a Cis-Heteronormative Pandemic: A Qualitative Evidence Synthesis of the COVID-19 Literature
James J. Lucas, Stéphane L. Bouchoucha, Rojan Afrouz, Kirk Reed, and Sharon L. Brennan-Olsen
First published online November 7, 2022
DOI: 10.1177/10497323221138027
Qualitative Health Research

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