CORONAVIRUS: LGBT COMMUNITY REACT TO ‘NEW WAY OF LIFE’

It’s been a pretty unbelievable week for most of us in Scotland.

With unprecedented public movement restrictions amid the looming threat of COVID-19 spreading through the population, the outlook is alarming and our governments are moving to provide reassurance to everyone, while mobilising emergency healthcare for the most in need.

As the limits on social interaction come into force, with more potentially on the way, LGBT events organisers and service providers have been reacting to the news.

Late last week, as the pandemic threat ramped up, we took the decision on Friday 13th March to help protect those who use our services, those who are involved in projects we provide, or whose services we use out in the community and decided to pause all our work. This means work on our filmmaking classes with young people, our audio project for LGBT elders and our community development work supporting organisations around Scotland now have stopped.

We’ve offered our limited resources to our local NHS in Fife, including the use of storage facilities, our marquee for outside triage or testing and any of our digital resources to help our fantastic healthcare staff do what they can in extremely difficult circumstances.

We’ve also been in touch with all our LGBT national partners at Equality Network, Scottish Trans, LGBT Youth Scotland, LGBT Health and Wellbeing and Stonewall, as well as HIV Scotland, Waverley Care and THT Scotland, to make similar offers of support as we all try to pull together in this difficult period.

But with 10 Pride events so far cancelled or postponed in Scotland, and many more likely, we face an incredibly difficult and uncertain future as a charity. The impact is real – with Pride events cancelled we face an enormous hole in our funding of over £20,000 this summer alone through the loss of revenue from merchandise sales. We’ll be looking at ways we can mitigate the risk, of course, but it won’t be an easy task.

There are so many other organisations facing similar uncertainty.

First to call off their event, in what must have been an extremely difficult but understandable decision, were the team at Trans Pride Scotland, which had been due to take place in Paisley on 28th March.

In the capital city, a year of celebration marking the 25th anniversary of Pride is now over, as the team behind Pride Edinburgh announce its cancellation. The event is to return in 2021.

In Aberdeen, local LGBT charity Four Pillars have announced changes to how they run the Four Unity hub within Aberdeen Market, as well as the postponement of Grampian Pride. The hub will continue to open on a daily basis to support community members, until such time as social movement is restricted further.

In Inverness, the volunteer team at Highland Pride, one of the largest Pride events in Scotland in 2019, have announced the complete cancellation of the event, with its return expected in 2021.

Similar news has come from Oban Pride and St Andrews Pride. New events planned in Dunoon and Lochaber are cancelled or postponed too, with other organisers considering events planned later in the year.

Equality Network and Scottish Trans staff are now working from home and are available via email until further notice, with colleagues at LGBT Health and Wellbeing (who provide the LGBT Age service in Edinburgh and Glasgow for older people) also ceasing face-to-face services. Similar working changes have been introduced in other organisations too.

In order to support those who are more at risk of coronavirus, HIV Scotland opened a helpline (0131 558 3713) on Monday 16th March to provide advice and support for those living with HIV. The service is open Mon-Fri 10am til 6pm. They are also asking those who can volunteer to deliver emergency supplies for those who are self-isolating to get in touch either by calling the helpline or by emailing info@hiv.scot for more information.

The data and the official advice indicate this crisis could last for some time. The advice remains to self-isolate for 14 days if you or anyone in your household has any symptoms; for those with underlying health conditions to prepare for 12 week isolation from this weekend; and for everyone to continue to wash hands regularly and work from home where this is possible.

As we worry for those who are estranged from their families, who live alone, who perhaps have significant medical issues which put them at risk, we’ll need to come together and demonstrate our humanity as never before.

We will get through this, but life may never be quite the same again.

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