Queerantine Blues: LGBTQI+ Community Hit Hard by COVID-19

By Ed Kimble

Last week, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) published findings that LGBTQI+ communities of color have been economically devastated by COVID-19 shutdowns across the United States. Key findings included:

• 38% of LGBTQ people of color have had their work hours reduced, compared to 29% of white LGBTQ people, and 24% of the general population
• 19% of LGBTQ people of color have asked for delays in payments on bills, compared to 14% of white LGBTQ people and 12% of the general population
• 14% of LGBTQ people of color have asked for delays in rent payment, compared to 8% of white LGBTQ people and 7% of the general population

The HRC report is the latest in a growing list of studies showing disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 shutdowns on queer Americans. In late April the HRC had already found that “30% of LGBTQ respondents have had their work hours reduced, compared to 22% of the general population, and 20% of LGBTQ people say their personal finances are ‘much worse off’ than they were a year ago, compared to only 11% of the general population.”

Many other studies have documented vulnerabilities of LGBTQI+ communities to COVID-19, most notably an early May report by OutRight Action International which raised alarms about abuses of state power against LGBTQI+ people as well as the breakdown of organizations that are vital to our communities due to funding cuts. The San Francisco Bay Area Reporter echoed concerns about the financial dangers to LGBTQI+ organizations with alarming interviews with leaders of Equality Arizona and CenterLink, which connects gay community centers around the world.

Among the gay places closing due to pandemic losses is San Francisco’s iconic Stud Bar which announced last week that it is closing. Other gay bars, which in some areas represent the only LGBTQI+ address available, may not be able to bounce back from COVID-19 shutdowns either, but even temporary closures cost bar employees and vendors much needed income.

When will our Queerantine be over and how will we be sure it’s safe to go out are the questions most asked in recent weeks. On Saturday, the Arizona Daily Star went with this tantalizing headline: New coronavirus cases in Arizona may have peaked, citing the first weekly drop in new cases since the pandemic began, from 2,786 the week of May 4-10 down to 2,666 the week of May 11-17.

Not so fast there, pardner! In her Director’s Blog on Tuesday, Arizona Department of Health Services Director Cara Christ, M.D, M.S., painted a hopeful picture for the state’s ability to meet hospital resource needs which she expects to peak in mid-June. But the data modeling she cited from healthdata.org and COVIDActNow.org both place Arizona in the elevated risk category with healthdata.org predicting a surge of COVID-19 deaths during the summer that could elevate Arizona’s COVID death rate to 85 per 100,000, fifth in the nation just below the high death rates in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut!

That bewildering projection comes despite Arizona having a case rate lower than 34 other states, half that of the top 17 states this week and a positive test percentage below 7 percent with recent tests coming in below 6%. CovidActNow.org faults Arizona for a poor contact tracing program but reports, “On average, each person in Arizona with COVID is infecting 1.04 other people. Because this number is only slightly above 1.0, it means that COVID is growing, but slowly.”

If these kinds of conflicting COVID-19 data projections make you crazy, you are not alone. Tuesday’s Washington Post explores the ups and downs of science reporting about COVID-19 and the confusion it has been generating. This report from the World Health Organization will help you weed your way through the nonsense you might be reading on social media or that conspiracy website you can’t resist checking. And these roundups of resources from Lambda Legal and Arcus Foundation to help you keep yourself safe and sane through it all.

P.S. The word “queerantine” hit Urban Dictionary on March 20 with the definition, “When you’re part of the LGBTQ community and are in quarantine due to the COVID19 virus.” As in “No worries, I’m staying homo sweet homo in self queerantine!” But it splatted the silver screen with the 2009 ultra-low budget spoof “Queerantine”, a short film about a high school that goes queer and has to be locked down by police after same-sex marriage is taught in sex ed class! If you can locate a copy of this gem, let us know. Meanwhile, to keep yourself amused, search #queerantine on Instagram for 25,000 posts sure to put a smile on your face.