QueerCOVID–TO is a study of the mental health of sexual and gender minority people living in Toronto during the COVID-19 global pandemic. In Spring 2021, with support from the University of Toronto and University of Toronto Scarborough, our team of University of Toronto students and faculty launched a survey of self-identified 2SLGBTQIA+ (2 Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex, Asexual/Agender) people to help us document their mental health experiences in the context of social isolation, social distancing, and other mandated safety measures. We followed up with semi-structured interviews with many of our survey respondents; in these interviews, we sought a deeper understanding of those experiences—what it did mean to be queer and trans in isolation from the community? what did social distancing mean for maintaining community? How were 2SLGBTQIA+ people experiencing and reinventing family and social intimacy as they spent their days at home?
We began exploring these questions with an understanding from existing research: members of queer communities and people of diverse sexual and gender identities disproportionately experience a range of stresses, including isolation, higher rates of experiences of homelessness and houselessness, and other profound psychological challenges. For many 2SLGBTQIA+ people, intersecting forms of social marginalization and oppression—for example, settler colonialism, racism, sexism, transphobia, poverty, and ableism–exacerbate these challenges.
Through our research, we aimed to better understand these challenges—and people’s responses to them—by focusing on the shared and disparate experiences of queer and trans people during a time of immense social and economic uncertainty. Our team knew that, inevitably, the COVID-19 pandemic will have an impact on all communities around the globe; our research wanted to highlight the specific impacts felt by 2SLGBTQIA+ people living in Toronto.
We had a few specific aims that guided our work together:
- document the impact of public health measures (for example, social distancing and self-isolation) on 2SLGBTQIA+ mental health and well-being;
- identify how 2SLGBTQIA+ people experience current government and public health responses to COVID-19;
- document 2SLGBTQIA+ people’s knowledge, practices, concerns, and resilience around COVID-19;
- explore socioeconomic factors shaping 2SLGBTQIA+ mental health and well-being during the COVID-19 crisis;
- recognize differences and variations among SGM communities’ experiences of COVID-19; and
- raise awareness among (and issue a call to action to) policymakers and health service sectors regarding 2SLGBTQIA+ health and socioeconomic concerns.