A sense of social disconnect has become far too familiar for many Canadians amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, but rings even more true for LGBTQ+ youth, according to a recent report released by a group of Trent researchers.
The report, coordinated by M.Sc. Psychology student Bre O’Handley in collaboration with Dr. Karen Blair, professor of Psychology, and the Social Relations, Attitudes and Diversity Lab at Trent, highlights how the pandemic has left many young LGBTQ+ Canadians feeling isolated and disconnected from the communities of support they have created at their postsecondary institutions.
“When students were sent home in the spring of 2020 in response to the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, many LGBTQ+ students had to leave the support systems they had built at university,” explains Professor Blair, who also teaches in Trent’s new Interdisciplinary Social Research Ph.D. program. “For some students, being sent home meant going back into the closet, without the usual mental preparation that they may have engaged in when usually going home for the summer.”
The findings in the report underscore the importance of support and acceptance, and Prof. Blair hopes that the information will allow both universities and families of LGBTQ+ individuals to better support their students.
Opportunities for collaborative research
The LGBTQ experience report, which was recently profiled in the Globe and Mail, forms part of a multi-institution project – the COVID-19 Interpersonal & Social Coping Study, a daily diary study, led by Prof. Blair, aimed at learning more about how Canadians coped on a day-to-day basis during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking of working alongside Prof. Blair on the project, Ms. O’Handley notes: “Prof. Blair’s lab at Trent University is one of only a handful of LGBTQ+ psychology labs in Canada and so it made a lot of sense for me to conduct my graduate studies here. One of my favourite things about working in Prof. Blair’s lab is the opportunity for collaboration and hopping in on many fascinating research projects, since the lab connects researchers from multiple institutions, primarily Trent, Acadia, St. Francis Xavier, and Waterloo.”
Under the guidance of Prof. Blair, the research team, including Ms. O’Handley, continues to analyze the data collected through the COVID-19 Coping Study.
“I’m working with others in the lab to write and publish our findings related to LGBTQ+ Canadians’ experiences during the pandemic,” says Ms. O’Handley “.I’m also working on projects examining the link between femmephobia, personalization prejudice and sexual prejudice, barriers of desired gender expression of sexual minority women, and the impact of “cancel culture” on the LGBTQ+ community and feelings of belonging.”