Beyond a Shared Experience: Queer and Trans Youth Navigating COVID-19

Qual Soc Work. 2021 Mar;20(1-2):97-104. doi: 10.1177/1473325020973329. Epub 2020 Nov 16.


As queer scholars engaged in research and practice with queer and trans youth across the United States and internationally, we are deeply concerned about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on this vulnerable population. Physical distancing, social isolation, and school closures create challenges for adolescents as they navigate increasing independence from caregivers and more intimate relationships with peers. The challenges of the ongoing pandemic are exacerbated for queer and trans youth as they as they negotiate their sexuality and gender identit(ies) in addition to typical developmental activities. Simultaneously, social work practices that provide critical and lifesaving support for queer and trans youth have been hindered by the closures and other pandemic-related changes to schools and community programs. We present this reflexive essay to deconstruct the notion of a shared experience during this pandemic and elevate the voices of queer and trans youth during this unprecedented moment in time. Through engagement with a small, local group of queer and trans youth, we share the challenges they are facing--particularly the consequences of social isolation and lack of identity-affirming support caused by physical distancing measures. We end by sharing their ideas for social work practice and how they can best be supported during this time. We do this to emphasize variations in the shared experience of a global pandemic and ensure the experiences of queer and trans youth are documented during this moment in history.