Community-based research is a powerful tool for Two-Spirit, queer, and trans people. This methodology positions us to better understand our communities and make positive changes in the world around us. With this in mind, we launched Our Health 2022 last year, the largest multilingual community health survey dedicated to Two-Spirit, Indigiqueer, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, and other sexually and gender diverse people (2S/LGBTQQIA+) in Canada. From April to September 2022, the CBRC team surveyed 2S/LGBTQQIA+ communities online about their health and well-being, including experiences with COVID-19 and chronic health. In total, we heard from 4044 2S/LGBTQQIA+ folks from across Canada.
As we continue to analyse this data, our research principles guide us to make these analyses accessible, and empower our communities with information about their lives. Drawing on Our Health 2022, we’ve released a set of data highlight sheets focused on mental health and COVID-19. These data highlight sheets, tailored to both academic and non-academic audiences, are part of a set of new and upcoming resources available at cbrc.net/mentalhealth.
Click here to read the first data sheet
Prior to these analyses, we performed a scoping review of the existing literature on 2S/LGBTQQIA+ experiences related to mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our review validated much of our own experiences as 2S/LGBTQQIA+ people. For example, our unique connections to community in a cisheternormative society were particularly impacted by physical distancing.
Following the scoping review, we analyzed Our Health 2022 data to garner descriptive insights into specific experiences of 2S/LGBTQQIA+ communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. These analyses focused on four primary areas of interest that were identified earlier on in the project and reinforced in the literature: social isolation and connection; coping and resilience; barriers in mental healthcare; and specific impacts on trans communities and care. Drawing on our lived experiences, we aimed to describe mental health amongst 2S/LGBTQQIA+ communities in a way that does not stigmatize or reinforce harm, but rather, unpacks the challenges that our communities face while acknowledging how perseverance, cohesion, and collective organizing keep us moving forward.
Our findings were numerous. We found, for instance, that despite facing barriers to connecting in person, Two-Spirit, queer, and trans communities continued to garner social support from those in their networks and through other outlets, including 2S/LGBTQQIA+ activism, organizations, or cultural activities. Despite facing challenges to their mental health related to increased isolation, 2S/LGBTQQIA+ communities implemented diverse coping strategies to maintain their mental health. However, we found that almost three quarters of these folks faced barriers to accessing services associated with long wait times and difficulties getting an appointment. As well, more than one third of our sample described facing discrimination in a healthcare setting since the start of the pandemic. These experiences were more common for trans and gender expansive folks compared to cisgender queer folks, signalling the need for greater 2S/LGBTQQIA+ and gender affirming competency training for providers.
Over the coming months, we’ll be launching additional resources and programming that will create more opportunities for 2S/LGBTQQIA+ people, health care providers, researchers, and organizations to better understand and respond to community health needs . From skills- and capacity- building opportunities for care providers, to campaigns on mental health policy priorities, we’re excited to be rolling out new initiatives that will centre our communities in the work to strengthen 2S/LGBTQQIA+ mental health in Canada.
Funding for CBRC’s new mental health initiatives is provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Supporting the Mental Health of Communities Most Impacted by COVID-19. For more information, please see the Government of Canada’s press release.