One in three gay men feel unsafe at home during coronavirus

by Hugo Greenhalgh | @hugo_greenhalgh | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 12 May 2020 17:50 GMT

A Nigerian man arrested on charges of public display of affection with members of the same sex, poses for a photograph in his bedroom at his home in Lagos, Nigeria, February 18, 2020.REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja

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COVID-19 lockdowns have impacted mental health, with 72% experiencing anxiety

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By Hugo Greenhalgh

LONDON, May 12 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Almost a third of gay and bisexual men report feeling vulnerable at home during the new coronavirus pandemic, with Brazilians particularly concerned, a global survey found on Tuesday, highlighting its wider mental health impacts.

According to research conducted by the U.S.-based gay social network Hornet for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, 30% of almost 3,500 respondents, which included transgender men, said they felt physically or emotionally unsafe in their own homes.

"Think of how it feels to be 21 years old and living with a family that is unsupportive and constantly haranguing you about marrying a woman," said Alex Garner, senior health innovation strategist at Hornet.

"We have to challenge ourselves to think of how to support people in environments where they feel unsafe."

Coronavirus restrictions have seen billions of people - both gay and straight - sequestered under tight stay-at-home rules, leading to a rise in domestic abuse, with particular pressure on LGBT+ people in conservative families that do not accept them.

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Garner said he was hopeful that the community would rally round, as they did during the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s.

"Gay and bisexual men do have the skills to get through this, but we do need to prioritise the mental health of our LGBTQ community," he added.

Hornet sent the questionnaire to its 30 million users worldwide, with 18% of responses coming from Brazil, a further 10% from France and Russia respectively and 9% from Turkey.

Many said lockdowns had impacted their mental health, with 72% experiencing anxiety since the pandemic began and 24% feeling very lonely.

Will Nutland, co-founder of PrEPster, a British LGBT+ sexual health organisation, said the true scale of mental health issues would only be revealed after restrictions were lifted.

"If we think we have mental health problems now, wait until post-lockdown," he said. "(We will see) post-traumatic stress disorders not just from the LGBT+ community but society as a whole.

"The fallout of this is going to be huge."

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(Reporting by Hugo Greenhalgh @hugo_greenhalgh; Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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