What We Know 2 Years Later: COVID-19’s Impact on LGBTQ+ Communities

We’ve known since the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that one essential factor would have a profound effect on our understanding of the impact of this virus: data collection.

One of the many challenges in addressing the many systemic injustices impacting our communities is the lack of data that exists around sexual orientation and gender identity. While data never can tell the full stories of our lives and experiences, not being represented in data across a wide variety of issues hides our community’s experiences and the very real systemic challenges and barriers we face. It makes it harder for funders and government to see the impact on LGBTQ+ people, and contributes to chronic underfunding and lack of awareness of the true breadth and nature of our experiences. This is especially true for data that includes more nuance for the experiences of LGBTQ+ People of Color.

Given this, it’s unfortunate but unsurprising that most of the data that exists on COVID-19 has not included sexual orientation and gender identity, and so data on the pandemic’s impact on LGBTQ+ communities is extremely limited. But thanks to our friends and colleagues at amazing data-focused and -driven organizations like The Williams Institute and Movement Advancement Project (MAP), we do have some key data points that help paint a picture of the impact of this pandemic on our communities. It is important that we understand the data we do have so that we have a better picture of what LGBTQ+ people are facing, so that our responses and the support we are offering is impactful.

In general, the data we have confirms what we already knew anecdotally to be true—that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the challenges and inequities that already existed for LGBTQ+ people and communities. Across all social indicators wherein LGBTQ+ people were already impacted by inequities—health, healthcare, housing, employment, child and family care, and more—the data indicates COVID-19 has only compounded those already existing inequities.

Before we dive in, an important note about data. Whether in a pandemic or not, we don’t love the idea of listing stats without providing context—without causal explanations of what leads to the disparities you see in the numbers. Every time we see data like what see below, it’s up to us to interpret it with an understanding of the nuanced, overlapping, systematic factors that result in these realities.

It’s important to underscore that the inequities LGBTQ+ people and communities face are the result of systemic discrimination and oppression. For example, queer and trans young people have a higher probability of becoming houseless because the systems around them (parental, educational, justice, societal, etc.) are failing to support their needs and identities. The cause is the systems, not our identities.

After two years of COVID-19 data collection, here’s what we know. For visual representations of this data, infographics, and full reports click the source links below.

Pandemic Impacts on:

LGBTQ+ communities

  • Since the beginning of the pandemic, LGBTQ+ people have been especially hard hit, particularly related to job loss, greater economic upheaval, healthcare access, and increased struggles navigating work, school, childrearing, and social isolation (1)
  • This impact has continued throughout the pandemic, and was exacerbated by the Delta variant (7), resulting in:
    • More challenges accessing health care
      • 28% of LGBTQ households have been unable to get medical care for a serious problem in the past few months, vs. 17% of non-LGBTQ households
      • 77% of LGBTQ households have had serious problems with depression, anxiety, stress, or sleeping in the past few months, vs. 48% of non-LGBTQ households
    • Serious financial problems
      • 52% of LGBTQ households have had a serious financial problem in the past few months vs. 36% of non-LGBTQ households
    • Increased challenges navigating working and having children at home
      • 58% of LGBTQ households with children in K-12 last year reported their children fell behind a lot, vs. 35% of non-LGBTQ households with children
      • 46% of LGBTQ households reported serious problems meeting both their work and family responsibilities vs. 23% of non-LGBTQ households
    • Greater employment disruption
      • 61% of LGBTQ households experienced employment or income loss since COVID began, vs. 40% of non-LGBTQ households
      • 91% of employed LGBTQ people say their employer does not require employees at their workplace to be vaccinated, vs. 74% of non-LGBTQ employed people
    • Additional stress on LGBTQ+ youth (4)
      • Many have lost contact with systems of support, especially once school groups and community orgs limited operations
      • Prior to the pandemic, LGBTQ+ youth were already three times more likely to attempt suicide. Elevated stressors associated with the pandemic such as social isolation, the loss of family members or friends, and economic reverberations are known to increase the risk of suicide and suicidal thoughts

LGBTQ+ People of Color

  • Economic impact on LGBTQ+ People of Color (2):
    • LGBTQ People of Color are more likely than their white counterparts to have lost work hours or become unemployed. LGBTQ people generally were far more likely to have had to take unpaid leave
    • LGBTQ People of Color are more likely to have asked for delays in paying bills, and are twice as likely as the general population to have asked for delays in paying their rent
  • Economic Impact on Transgender and Transgender People of Color (3):
    • More than half of transgender people lost work hours, while one in five have become unemployed. Transgender people are also more likely to have taken unpaid leave or a pay cut
    • 59% of transgender people and 67% of transgender People of Color are very concerned they cannot pay their bills

COVID-19 and LGBTQ+ Community Behavior, Incidence, & Vulnerabilities:

  • LGBT communities are more likely to report mask wearing, practicing social distancing, getting tested for COVID-19, and being concerned about getting sick from COVID-19 (5)
  • Gay and lesbian adults have higher vaccination rates than heterosexual counterparts (85.4% of gay and lesbian adults over 18 had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine compared with 76.3% for heterosexual adults). There were no significant differences in vaccination rates based on gender identity (8)
  • BIPOC LGBTQ+ people are twice as likely as non-LGBTQ white people to test positive for COVID-19 (5)
  • Trans communities in particular were vulnerable to COVID-19 given pre-existing conditions and health and economic factors (6)
    • People over age 65 and those with underlying medical conditions are most at risk of serious COVID-19 illness
      • 319,800 (23%) transgender adults in the U.S. have one or more of the following conditions: asthma, diabetes, heart disease, or HIV
      • 217,000 (15.5%) transgender adults in the U.S. are age 65 or older
      • 278,000 (20%) transgender adults in the U.S. are current smokers
    • Trans people face heightened barriers to accessing healthcare
      • 137,000 (10%) transgender adults in the U.S. do not have health insurance
      • 450,400 (32%) transgender adults in the U.S. have not gone to the doctor in the last year because they could not afford it
    • Many transgender people have experienced homelessness, putting them at significant risk during the pandemic
    • Home may not be a safe place for many transgender people, who report conflict with their families and intimate partner violence at higher rates
      • 801,100 (57%) transgender people report their relationship with their family is strained or conflicted
    • Transgender people are more likely to report social isolation
      • An estimated 294,800 (21%) transgender adults in the U.S. live alone
    • 667,100 (48%) transgender adults live below 200% of the poverty line

This data not only helps inform our efforts and funding approach as a grantmaking organization, it shines a light on the impacts of the pandemic on LGBTQ+ communities across the philanthropic sector as a whole.

Data never tells the full story—but we know just how much data (or the lack there of) can impact our stories. With this information in hand, we hope you’ll join us in sharing widely and advocating for the rights, lives, and needs of our communities.


  1. MAP – The disproportionate impacts of covid-19 on LGBTQ households in the U.S.
  2. HRC and PSB – The impact of covid-19 on LGBTQ communities of color
  3. HRC – The economic impact of covid-19 intensifies for transgender and LGBTQ communities of color
  4. King5 – COVID-19 pandemic puts additional stress on LGBTQ+ youth
  5. Williams Institute The Impact of the Fall 2020 COVID-19 Surge on LGBT Adults in the US
  6. Williams Institute – Vulnerabilities to COVID-19 Among Trans Adults in the U.S.
  7. MAP – The Delta Variant & the Disproportionate Impacts of COVID-19 on LGBTQ Households in the U.S.
  8. CDC – COVID-19 Vaccination Coverage and Vaccine Confidence by Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity


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