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By Stuart Duffy, Founder of Pink Saltire

“We’re supposed to be a community – that’s what we say anyway.”

And when our diverse community are challenged, we pull together and support each other, don’t we?

Since the virus was declared a pandemic, countries across the world have stepped up to support communities at risk during the most challenging of times for us all.

LGBT+ relief efforts are underway globally, including appeals in Argentina, the Philippines, the US, Indonesia, Japan and closer to home, our cousins in Ireland.

Yeah, we’ll always have those ‘Why do you need a special LGBT relief effort?’ folk, but this isn’t about being special (nor is LGBT+ activism either) – this is about every asset in the wider community mobilising at once and supporting some people going through a hellish time.

In the 40 days since lockdown in the UK, support for LGBT+ identities in Scotland has so far focussed on providing immediate support to several core service providers – namely, the LGBT Helpline to extend opening hours and befriending, cash for a digital youth work platform for LGBT Youth Scotland and free Zoom video accounts from Equality Network. We welcome the Scottish Government contribution of £55k for those groups, part of an announcement of £8m to support charities, but there’s so much more to be done.

Our own survey of Scottish LGBT groups, taken between 27th March and 2nd April, showed that people around the country are at risk of isolation as social activities, support networks and everyday contact are reduced significantly.

The responses also showed that the priority in communities, after befriending and access to digital spaces, were about providing support for estranged people and those facing financial hardship.

LGBT folk around Scotland are already contributing, in so many ways, to the fight against an enemy which doesn’t discriminate in its aggressive spread.

Whether in our NHS or care sector, in our key worker population, or by volunteering in the community, us queer folk are doing our best to look out for our family, our pals, our neighbours, and complete strangers – we’re all genuinely in this together.

We already know from the daily government briefings that we’re all at risk of COVID-19, there is no silver bullet vaccine and that social distancing, furloughing and unemployment will go on for some time to come. The consequences of the pandemic are not just on our physical health, as painful and traumatic as it must be, but on the risk of longer and deeper poverty for hundreds of thousands of people across Scotland.

There are people in need in our communities and we MUST surely make an effort to help – it might be your neighbour, your granny left alone, the couple who are shielding because of serious illness, your pal who has HIV, the elders often left out of the digital world, the person who has their care services removed, the asylum seekers you’ll never know.

We could talk at length about worse health inequalities for LGBT+ folk, the rates of poor mental health, the substance abuse issue, higher unemployment levels, homelessness, stigma, bullying – not to mention the hell which trans and NB folk have been living through in recent times.

But the reality is the consequences of this virus are affecting us all and we simply want to do something to help those most in need.

So, with some typical cheeky Scottish banter and spades of solidarity, we’re launching The Dorothy Relief appeal.

Please help if you can.

It’ll help us expand our relief effort from Fife to other parts of Scotland and provide support to local community efforts already underway in places like Dumfries & Galloway, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

When one day someone says “What did you do during the COVID-19 pandemic?” what will your answer be?

I want it to be that we did something. We DID something. Together. As a community.

I urge you – step forward, lets get organised and help those who need a hand across Scotland.

Sign me up, I want to be a community response leader.

Take my cash, take a donation, you had me at ‘Dorothy’.

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