3 Apr 2020

Concerns for LGBTQI people in unsafe homes during Covid-19 lockdown

4:47 pm on 3 April 2020

Queer and trans support organisations are concerned about the impact lockdown is having on some of the country's most vulnerable communities.

A couple holding hands on a couch.

Photo: The Gender Spectrum Collection

For many people in the queer and trans communities, being in lockdown means navigating complex issues that have become exacerbated by the current Covid-19 climate.

Support organisations working with these communities are concerned that many people are now finding themselves stuck in difficult or unsafe housing situations.

For young members of these communities, being in lockdown will likely mean staying with family - but not all family situations are safe or supportive.

Being with queerphobic or transphobic families adds additional barriers to accessing external support networks that help protect them against a difficult home life.

RainbowYOUTH said it was telling that a lot of the support it was providing now was chat-based or over email.

"Young people who we would usually be able to call or who would talk to us in person are now at risk of their whānau overhearing their conversations.

"Being isolated with family or whānau that are unaccepting, with no avenue to safely express your identity will definitely take its toll on mental health."

A survey on the health and wellbeing of gender diverse New Zealanders, Counting Ourselves, found that of all people surveyed whose family were aware they were trans or non-binary, a quarter were not allowed to wear the clothes that matched their gender, and 9 percent had a family member who was violent towards them.

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP - don't show up at a medical centre

For trans and gender diverse people especially, housing discrimination had already forced people into homelessness, and precarious housing situations - one in five trans people experience homelessness in their lifetime.

It's something Gender Minorities Aotearoa national coordinator Ahi Wi-Hongi said was particularly concerning right now.

"It's things like housing discrimination, emergency shelters for men and women which don't allow for trans people, being disposable tenants when transphobic neighbours make petty complaints," Wi-Hongi said.

"Violence against trans people is more common, including partner violence, so trans people might be living with that during lockdown, or might be fleeing from that."

While the moves to stop evictions and rent increases would help some, Gender Minorities Aotearoa has called for a rent holiday during the lockdown period.

The medium income for trans and non-binary people was between $15,001 and $20,000 - making them less likely to have food in the pantry or medicine reserves when the country was not in a national emergency, Wi-Hongi said.

"We urge the local and national government to address trans housing needs now and in the future," they said.

"As with other marginalised groups, both the social and economic impacts of Covid-19 have real potential to exacerbate the existing issues which affect LGBTQI+ people and their physical and mental health," OUTLine general manager Claire Black said.

The organisation has echoed concerns that people in these communities may be stuck in difficult or unsafe living situation or become isolated. Isolation and disconnection was a problem faced by many older rainbow folks in particular.

During a normal week, without the pressure of Covid-19 or in a nationwide lockdown, trans and non-binary people were four times more likely to feel lonely most or all of the time, compared to the general population.

Black says queer and trans people needed to do what would keep them safe and help them make it through this time.

"Where you can, reach out to rainbow people, or other people in your life who support and affirm you, in whatever way works for you."

Be kind to yourself, she said, try to create private spaces and self-care routines that help you to be yourself.

"And remember that lots of people, including all our rainbow organisations are here for you."

RainbowYOUTH said its main message to queer and trans young people was to remember that this was a temporary situation, and that we will get through it.

"Our communities are made up of so many strong, supportive and giving people - so until the lockdown is over, make sure you reach out for support, check in with your friends and fellow community members and do the things that make you feel more yourself as best you can."

How to access help during the Covid-19 lockdown


All usual services are now fully operational via remote means.

Trained peer support volunteers are taking calls remotely on 0800 OUTLINE (688 5463) between 6 and 9pm every day and responding to voicemails if people can't get through or call outside these hours.

Specialist counselling services are also running via video chat, and more information about this can be found on the OUTLine website.

The Auckland Trans Peer Support Service, run alongside RainbowYOUTH is continuing to operate using remote alternatives.


RainbowYOUTH are still offering 1:1 support for rainbow young people and their whānau - it has just moved online. The organisation is asking people what kind of communication works for them - emails, phone calls or txt, or online chat.

"If anyone wants to talk with one of our support staff about any topic - such as identity, whānau relationships, transitioning, mental health needs, or accessing WINZ - you can use our online self-referral form here. If you're not sure about this, or maybe just need a friendly chat from another rainbow person, every weekday afternoon during the lockdown we offer anonymous online chat - you can find out more about it and sign up for a chat here."

Gender Minorities Aotearoa

Running at reduced hours but emails are cleared daily.

"Folks can get still in touch by email or mobile phone listed on our website. They can also join our online Facebook peer to peer infoshare group Transgender & Intersex NZ, which is the largest trans forum in the country.

"We want to make sure that trans people can access the wage subsidies and other support, which is available for all kinds of workers, whether or not you have been paying tax. We have a guide to getting financial support which we will be publishing shortly on our blog at genderminorities.com"

* Queer and trans are used in this article as umbrella terms that capture all sexuality and gender minorities.

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