Staying well and keeping connected during the pandemic as an LGBTQ+ student

Chloe is an Education Programmes Officer at Stonewall. She identifies as queer.

Find out how the pandemic has affected LGBTQ+ students, and their tips for staying connected with their communities.

Over the last year, as we’ve lived through the coronavirus pandemic, the ways that we stay connected to each other has shifted dramatically.

For those of us who are LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer or questioning, ace and other sexual and gender minority identities), it can be harder to connect with our communities, and that can leave us feeling isolated or lonely.

We got in touch with LGBTQ+ students from across the country to find out about the creative ways that they’ve stayed connected throughout the pandemic.

Loneliness and mental wellbeing

Being LGBTQ+ is something to be proud of. Finding friends, family and communities who embrace us for who we are can be life-changing and can help us know that there is beauty in being yourself.

But we know that LGBTQ+ people face specific challenges, and that many LGBTQ+ people today are still held back because of who we are. For those in our communities who face multiple and overlapping forms of discrimination, these challenges are particularly difficult. For many of us, finding a community of people like yourself can make all the difference!

Positive changes in LGBTQ+ communities

We reached out to LGBTQ+ students who have experienced mental health challenges at two universities to find out about their experiences of staying in touch with LGBTQ+ communities over the pandemic.

Those we heard from found that online communities have become more supportive over lockdown. From more positive and active discussions about pronouns, to greater support for Black LGBTQ+ communities, people have been showing solidarity and pushing for equality together.

4 ways to keep connected to your communities

While lockdown has made it even more difficult to keep in touch with friends and community networks, the students we spoke to shared many creative ways that LGBTQ+ communities have kept each other going. Read about the 4 ways they kept connected below and make a note of those you’d like to try!

1. Engage with LGBTQ+ communities online

Whether it’s joining your LGBTQ+ student society, contacting a local youth group, going to LGBTQ+ workshops and events, or interacting with LGBTQ+ content creators, here's what some students said about their experiences with online communities:

“The take-home success from the past year has to be our LGBTQ+ student society’s Discord channel and the sense of community that came from it. We can’t go for coffee in the Student Union, however, being able to say, ‘Yes, these are my people’, is amazing.”

“I don’t have to try to find the words to explain how I feel because I’m having conversations with like six other trans people. And they just get it. You don't have to explain it.”

2. Plan in time with friends

It can be stressful to return home to live with family who aren’t accepting or aware of your identity. Many of the students that we spoke to said that spending time with friends and loved ones - who embrace your identity - is a really important form of self-care:

“I arranged weekly online movie nights with friends. To be honest it wasn’t about the movie, but just sharing time with each other – that made the difference.”

“Keep talking with friends, keep planning for when you can meet up, and keep thinking of a positive future, knowing this moment will not last forever and that we are all in this.”

3. Get some fresh air or exercise

Between studying and social distancing, it can be easy to stay inside for long periods of time. Some of the students we heard from really valued taking regular breaks with friends and switching up their environments:

“Regular fresh air away from my room, speaking with my flat mates, even when I feel I want to lock myself away, pushed me to continue on, taking each day at a time, not looking too far ahead.”

“Doing exercise routines in your flat and setting up team or zoom group exercise sessions was helpful, it helped motivate me and gave a sense of being together.”

Tips for getting more exercise

4. Get creative

With fewer activities available, routines can quickly become repetitive or boring. Here are a couple of ‘outside of the box’ ideas the LGBTQ+ students shared to try out either by yourself or with friends:

“Having a song playlist night, or creating digital drag shows online.”

“At times I had no one who I could talk to. I was encouraged to try new things each week, and over the last few months I’ve discovered a variety of creative things that I like. I would never have known these or even thought to try them otherwise.”

Ways to find community

We know that it’s not always easy to find like-minded people, particularly during a global pandemic. So, if you feel like you’ve struggled with your mental health or felt more isolated during the pandemic, remember that you’re not alone.

Recent research by Just Like Us, an LGBT+ young people’s charity, highlights that a lot of young people have faced similar challenges.

To discover local LGBTQ+ community groups and services, check out:

Find out about support services at your university.