As the COVID-19 pandemic continues for the foreseeable future, experts and organisations are warning LGBTQI Australians to be careful if they plan to come out during self-isolation.
The warning in Australia comes after a UK charity that cares for LGBTQI homeless youth, The Albert Kennedy Trust (AKT), warned young people to “think hard” before coming out during self-isolation with abusive family-members or partners.
Self-isolation over the COVID-19 pandemic means that many LGBTQI individuals have been forced back into the closet, while also facing severe financial issues due to the pandemic’s economic fallout.
One individual who understands the importance of coming out in a safe space, Jayke Burgess, told Star Observer that the risk isn’t worth the reward.
Jayke had been outed as queer to his family by his previous partner, and says that he cannot imagine the stress of being made homeless during a time where the whole of Australia has mostly stopped running.
“It’s very complex, and there’s no right or wrong answer, but there is a real risk, and you need to be safe right now,” he said.
“You need to not lose your housing because there’s not a lot of options. There’s not a lot of housing that’s being advertised because people are aware that people can’t just come and look at a house.
“If you’re young then you won’t be able to afford living completely on your own right now.”
Jayke also warned for people who are self-isolating in a domestically abusive relationship, urging those that their sexuality or gender identity can be used as a tool in a seemingly inescapable abusive relationship.
“Some people who are in DV are not out,” he said.
“There’s a huge risk in leaving those relationships of becoming homeless, or even having their identity used against them – for example in my situation, being transgender, there’s a huge danger there if I wasn’t so lucky.”
A new survey of domestic and family violence (DFV) services across NSW has already found an increase in client numbers since the outbreak of COVID-19, according to a report from the ABC.
In a survey of 80 frontline workers coordinators and service providers from metropolitan and regional parts of the state, more than 40 per cent of respondents said that they’re experiencing an increase in client numbers since the outbreak of COVID-19.
Across the globe, LGBTQI helpline’s are also experiencing an increase in new clients, and calls seeking help, support and information – in some cases, these numbers have even doubled compared to the same period last year.
ACON’s Director Community Health and Regional Services, Sarah Lambert, told Star Observer that added tension in relationships due to the pandemic are sure to become a catalyst for domestic abuse, and advised of services that are available for those currently seeking support.
“We recognise that it is a dangerous time for many people who are experiencing DFV,” she said.
“Spending more time under the same roof, restrictions on where we can go and what we can do, job insecurity and money pressures all add strain to relationships, even more so if there is abuse and violence.
“ICLC, Qlife, 1800RESPECT and R&DVSA are among the services that can provide support. ACON also has counsellors that may be able to provide support. In an emergency, you should contact 000.”
Thorne Harbour Health CEO, Simon Ruth also affirmed that while everyone’s coming-out experience is different, it’s paramount that you take into account every self-isolation factor before deciding to come out to those closest to you.
“Everybody’s circumstances are going to be different. However, it is worth considering that coming out is often just as much a process for family members as it is for the individual. Family members often need separate time and space to process their own feelings and reactions,” he said in an email.
“This period of processing may be more difficult when outside social supports are limited and time away from each other isn’t as readily available – and that’s true under the current circumstances.
“It is also worth considering that the reactions of family members and housemates can be hard to predict. You won’t necessarily have any control over who they then share the information with.
“We would recommend talking over your situation with supportive friends, or services such as Thorne Harbour Health or QLife if you have concerns about whether this is the right time to come out to the people you live with.”
If this story has affected you or someone you know, you can contact these services for further help and support.
Lifeline: 13 11 14
ACON: (02) 9206 2000
1800RESPECT: 1800 737 732 (24 hr counselling)
Twenty10 inc. GLCS: (02) 8594 9555