Social distancing is incredibly difficult for everyone, but it presents an especially intense challenge for young queer people quarantining with their families.
According to Dominic Arnall of charity Just Like Us: “LGBT+ young people are far more likely to confide in friends than a family member.
“Because of this, being confined to your family home when your family aren’t supportive or even aware of your identity can mean you’re separated from the people who understand you the most.”
Lukasz Konieczka of Mosaic LGBT+ Young Persons’ Trust, which runs a queer youth group in central London, says that 98 per cent of young people who get in touch express feelings of isolation and loneliness – and that’s before the added stress of lockdown. He points out that young queer people may be experiencing “heightened online bullying” right now simply because we’re all spending more time online.
This combined with “a lack of personal space” and “parental presence that’s overwhelming at best and abusive at worst” can form a toxic cocktail that makes lockdown feel “completely impossible”. Because of this, Mosaic has moved quickly to take its usual face-to-face support services online.
Here, three LGBTQ young people isolating themselves with their families share the daily challenges they’re facing.
Charr, 21, identitifies as non-binary masc and bisexual
“I’m currently off from college and living with my family, which is four others, and it’s a bit uncomfortable. I’m only out as bisexual to my mum and sisters because my dad is homophobic – every time he even hears the word ‘gay’, he’s grossed out.
“I’m not out to my family gender-wise, so I have to deal with that as well. The hardest part is probably the deadnaming and them not using my correct pronouns. It feels unfair to be upset about it because I haven’t told them I’m non-binary, but I haven’t told them because I know they won’t respect it anyway, so I feel like I’m kind of trapped. There’s literally nowhere to go if anything goes wrong. Usually I have friends I can go and stay with if I have to, but with this pandemic it’s basically impossible to go anywhere else.
“I’d say my mental health could be better right now. I’m a huge extrovert and I miss socialising with my queer friends so much. I’ve been getting stoned a lot which helps and I know that things could definitely be worse, so I’m trying my best to look at the bright side of it all.”
Pixie, 18, identifies as trans non-binary and agender
“I’ve come out of my student accommodation and I’m back with my mum and sister in the small village where I grew up. I’m out to both of them but my mum doesn’t understand [my identity] very well and she doesn’t use my correct pronouns. She’s just not very respectful about things. I’d like to have a conversation with her about it, but because we’re on lockdown I don’t want to take the risk. Our house is really small so it’s hard to escape to a different room if you have a row or anything. And when I try to bring it up, she tends to be quite dismissive about it.
“It can be difficult talking to my queer friends on the phone or Zoom because the walls are really thin. But at least I know I can message them privately. I know some parents will, like, monitor their kids’ phones so I’m really grateful my mum never tries to do that.
“I think what I’m finding hardest is going from living in London with people who really know who I am and always respect my pronouns to being stuck in a place where I don’t feel entirely welcome. My mum’s present all the time and it can be quite suffocating. Normally when I’m home for the holidays or whatever I bounce between friends’ houses but I’m not able to do that right now.”
Dani, 19, identifies as a trans woman
“I live with my parents anyway but I’m with them constantly now. Wednesday is usually a day for me: I go to Mosaic [in central London] and I have a whole routine of getting ready before I go out. I really love that time because I get to pick my outfit and express my artistry with my make-up. But now my mum and dad are off work, I don’t have that freedom one day a week just to be me.
“I know I’m lucky because my parents have been really supportive. I came out to them as bisexual three years ago and as trans two years ago, and they’re great about it. But like most parents of trans kids, they still get it wrong a lot. One positive thing about this situation is because I’m home all the time now, they’re getting more used to calling me “she”. If they misgender me at the moment, it’s usually just the once and then they use “she” for the rest of the conversation.
“I really hate being away from other LGBTQ people. I’m very sociable and I love seeing my friends – I know I can message them on social media or video-call them, but it’s not the same as being in the same room and being able to give someone a hug. I’ve been coming to Mosaic since last June and I’ve made a lot of friends there. It’s so lovely to go into a safe space where you can be yourself all the time – just sitting and having a cup of tea with someone who understands you and won’t misgender you is a big deal. For me, it’s a place where I have less fear than in the “normal” cishet world. It’s like a community within the LGBTQ community and that’s what I’m really missing right now.”