An LGBTQ+ organisation believes it may be best for LGBTQ youth to delay coming out while they are forced to stay home during the coronavirus crisis.
Amid the pandemic, millions around the world are under some form of lockdown or isolation, leaving vulnerable people at the mercy of those they live with.
Tim Sigsworth, CEO of the Albert Kennedy Trust (AKT), a UK support organisation for LGBTQ+ youth, has warned that this could put those who are thinking of coming out at more risk.
“If you’re a young person and you’re thinking of coming out, press pause on that until you get support,” Sigsworth told Sky News.
“You can’t predict at these completely unprecedented times how your parents will react. They, like you, are under a lot of stress and they may not react in a positive way.”
He added: “Talk to somebody, get some advice. Maybe pause for the minute and let’s look at what your situation is.”
Sigsworth also noted that many LGBTQ youth are already dealing with homelessness because they may have been thrown out of their homes.
“We’re all being told to self-isolate, so being on the streets, it has to be the most dangerous place for a vulnerable young person at the moment,” he said.
While there are no statistics on LGBTQ-specific homelessness in South Africa, international studies have shown that LGBTQ youth are more likely to end up on the streets.
In the UK, for example, 24% of young people facing homelessness are LGBTQ, and 77% of those experience homelessness because of familial rejection, ejection and abuse. In the US, around 40% of the 4.2 million youth and young adults who experience some form of homelessness each year are believed to be LGBTQ.
South Africa only has one shelter for LGBTQ+ people in crisis. Known as the Pride Shelter, it is located in Cape Town.
If you need phone or Skype support or counselling on coming out, contact OUT in Pretoria on 012 430 3272 / 066 190 5812 or call the Triangle Project Helpline on 021 712 6699 in Cape Town.