The COVID-19 Pandemic Changed Everything
New public health precautions to combat the virus quickly became part of our everyday lives. The way we work, learn, and socialize seemingly changed overnight. Strains on essential services created new barriers to accessing basic needs. The nation plunged into an economic crisis. And a growing nation-wide movement for racial justice underscored the urgency of eradicating systemic racial inequities, many of which had intensified through the pandemic.
For those focused on Central Indiana’s LGBTQ+ population, it quickly became clear that these multi-layered challenges were disproportionately affecting the LGBTQ+ communities they serve. To better understand COVID-19's impact on Central Indiana’s LGBTQ+ community, a dynamic coalition of more than a dozen LGBTQ+ focused organizations –including the Damien Center, BU Wellness Network, Gender Nexus, The Glow Up Projects, Indiana Pride of Color, Indiana University's Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs, Indiana Youth Group, Indy Pride, Indy Rainbow Chamber, the IUPUI LGBTQ+ Center, Never Alone Project, OutCare Health, and Step Up –joined efforts in late summer 2020 to complete a community-wide assessment.
Between October and December 2020, this coalition of partners conducted a COVID-19 Impact Survey that garnered input from 336 individuals in and around Marion County.
While these responses represented just under half of the sample size of responses captured in the LGBTQ+ Community outreach of partnering organizations, Deep Divides highlights the results of this COVID-19 Impact Survey of Central Indiana's LGBTQ+ community.
While the long-term impact of COVID-19 is yet to be seen, it is abundantly clear that a deep divide exists between the effect COVID-19 has had on LGBTQ+ populations and how it has impacted their cisgender heterosexual counterparts. In comparison to the reported impact COVID-19 has had on cisgender heterosexual survey respondents, LGBTQ+ individuals in Central Indiana are 65% more like to have had a decline in their health, 23% more likely to have experienced a decline in mental health, 143% more likely to be unemployed, and 21% more likely to feel socially disconnected.
This deep divide suggests that COVID-19 response measures must include a specific focus on programs and services that are culturally competent and accessible for the LGBTQ+ population, with particular attention on the following:
To address both the current and long-term health disparities within the LGBTQ+ community, it is clear that increasing community-wide access to comprehensive, LGBTQ+ competent healthcare and mental healthcare is absolutely essential. Furthermore, programs and services that provide support for the economic wellbeing of LGBTQ+ individuals – such as employment services and assistance meeting basic needs – will be just as vital to strengthening the entire community’s wellbeing throughout and beyond the pandemic.
Providing more safe and accessible LGBTQ+ focused spaces and places will be a vital step toward re-building the social connections and sense of belonging that the COVID-19 pandemic has eroded, a critical step toward supporting the wellbeing of population particularly vulnerable to the devastating effects of isolation and discrimination.
As an integral part of these approaches to meeting the needs of the community, it will be necessary to focus on reaching those in the LGBTQ+ community with intersecting marginalized identities for whom the negative impact of the pandemic is intensified – particularly Black and African American LGBTQ+ individuals and LGBTQ+ youth and young adults under 25.
Whether the community works to address these needs through increased services from existing agencies, the launch of an LGBTQ+ Community Center, or other collaborative efforts, these implications make clear what partnering agencies have known from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic:
The disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on Central Indiana's LGBTQ+ community simply cannot be ignored.
The late 2020 COVID-19 Impact Survey was distributed both electronically through email and social media channels and in-person through service locations of partnering organizations. Given this approach, responses are likely limited to those individuals who are connected to participating community agencies. Based on these limitations, survey responses may not represent the full diversity of the LGBTQ+ community within Greater Indianapolis.
PUBLIC RELATIONS AND COMMUNICATIONS
LGBTQ+ Needs Assessment
Gathering Community Feedback
Launched at the beginning of Pride Month 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic gripped our community, the report identifies critical needs, opportunities for improvement, and gaps in available services that presently exist for persons who identify as LGBTQ+ in the Greater Indianapolis area.
While a variety of needs emerged, the majority of survey participants said access to healthcare and mental healthcare, youth support, and hate crime protections ranked as the most important issues needing to be addressed. The report also underscores the importance of creating an LGBTQ+ community center located in Indianapolis.
“LGBTQ+ people face discrimination on multiple fronts and may often lack the needed resources to overcome barriers to achieving success.,” explained Alan Witchey, president and CEO of Damien Center. “The findings showed a critical need to decrease health inequities and under and unemployment, while increasing educational attainment, basic needs, and social connectedness.”
Greatest Areas of Need
- Mental Health
- Youth Support
- Legal Protection
Thank you to all of the Central Indiana-based organizations whose efforts were critical in gathering community input through the LGBTQ+ Community Needs Assessment throughout 2020 and into 2021.