With the UK on coronavirus lockdown, some young people have been forced to isolate alongside parents who don’t accept their sexuality.
After the coronavirus outbreak suddenly ended a UK tour he was performing in, Sam, 23, a dancer, from Birmingham, says he had “no choice” but to move back to his “strict” Christian family home.
“I saw the career I love disappear overnight, and now I’m stuck in isolation with homophobes.”
Even though Sam chose to return home, he says he is “struggling” because he can’t be himself.
“My mum says that homosexuality is an evil disease and that the devil is making me gay. She loudly prays every day that I’ll be delivered from sin and find a wife.
“I genuinely have nowhere else to go during this mad time, so I’m just putting up with the abuse.”
Sam came out to his mum and dad while at university, thinking he would never live with his parents again.
“They didn’t take it well at all and time hasn’t changed things,” he adds. He says when he started working in the theatre, his dad told me him be “careful” of homosexual men.
Sam says he feels like the LGBT community has forgotten people like him.
“I see on social media that people are so busy filming home workouts, and holding online parties, that they don’t realise there are people like me struggling to stay alive right now. Not because of the coronavirus, but because of their sexuality.”
‘If I walk into a room they leave’
Nicky, 19, is a marketing assistant from London. In January, she was “outed” as gay by a family friend.
Her mum and her mum’s partner immediately asked her to leave their home, saying they did not support her “lifestyle decision”. They only allowed her back after she experienced mental health problems.
“Living with my homophobic family is like having flatmates you don’t like. You don’t talk to them, you just get on with your life.”
Nicky’s work schedule meant she previously got up early and returned home late. She rarely saw her family.
“I used to spend as much time out of the house as I could. With the lockdown, everything has changed. I can’t believe it.
“I’m not allowed to eat the food my mum and her partner buy. My mum’s partner talks about me as if I can’t hear him. He says I’m disgusting and he hopes he doesn’t catch what I have.”
Nicky had planned to move out in April, but after losing shifts at work she is now unsure where she stands.
“As bad as it is at home, I just can’t afford to move out. I’m using the deposit I saved up just to get by. I need to wait for all of this virus stuff to be over before I start trying again.”
Lucy Bowyer, director of services at akt, which supports homeless young people in the LGBT community, says the charity is currently supporting between 120 and 130 young people.
That includes an increased number of 16 to 17-year-olds who have contacted them in the last week.
“Over the last few weeks we have been receiving an especially high volume of referrals from young people,” she says. “Our services team is adapting to the current climate by providing e-mentoring services, live chats and online hubs to ensure we are there when young people need us.”
She said the charity is providing emergency safe housing with host families, as well as providing access to food, phone credit top-ups and vital resources.
Paul Martin, chief executive of LGBT Foundation, says some young people currently feel “they have nobody to turn to”.
“I strongly encourage them to reach out to us, where they will find a listening ear. We’ve got a helpline helping highly vulnerable people and providing that support at an increasingly challenging time.”
He said the charity was also “launching a telephone befriending service to support LGBT people who are highly vulnerable.”