LGBT community experiencing hardships from COVID-19 pandemic

Founder and Managing Director of the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) in Guyana Joel Simpson

June is Pride month but there’s been little to shout about for some members of the Caribbean’s LGBT Community who are currently dealing with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Founder and Managing Director of the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) in Guyana Joel Simpson told BUZZ that over fifty per cent of LGBTQ members in Guyana had to close businesses and are still seeking humanitarian assistance. 

“We conducted a study on how the pandemic has affected people in four countries: Barbados, St Lucia, Guyana and Grenada, and the findings were significant. Over seventy per cent of our LGBTQ population have lost their jobs or significantly lost income because their businesses had to be closed,” he said.

The study, conducted through the University of West Indies revealed that the working hours of those in the community were significantly reduced and due to the high COVID-19 infection rates in Guyana, assistance with welfare is still needed more than ever.

Simpson proposes, “food hampers, cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment are needed because a lot of people have not recovered. People have not gotten back their jobs, their businesses have not bounced back as yet and we think the disproportionate effect that the pandemic is having on our [LGBTQ+] population needs to be addressed by the Government.”

Mental health

Simpson emphasized that the mental health of gays and trans persons is also being affected:

“There is significant mental health stress and burdens being experienced by LGBT Community in Guyana due to the pandemic and more so in Guyana than in Barbados, Grenada and St Lucia. The stress of having to deal with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic is what is driving mental health challenges right now,” he said.

“A lot of people are saying that they are stressed out because they are not making money, their businesses have not bounced back, all the informal jobs have not completely returned so the stress is another added layer to the other mental health burdens that they have because of homophobia and transphobia in their homes,” he added.

The LGBT advocated explained that the 10:30 pm to 4:00 am curfew is putting some sex workers in the community out of business.

“Sex work and persons who do street-based sex work obviously that is severely affected because a person is not able to go out to their usual hotspots- the red light districts in Georgetown to conduct street-based sex work where they would meet clients.“

He added that organizations fighting for equality of people within the community like SASOD are doing their best to refer persons for help and humanitarian assistance.