Globally, sexual and gender minority (SGM) children and adolescents suffer disproportionately from gender discrimination inflicted by entrenched social inequalities. They are at higher risk for experiencing bullying, truancy, violence, unstable housing, substance abuse, cyberbullying, and suicide.

COVID-19 exposes and worsens this suffering and inequality. Yet much of the initial pandemic response looked at infection and death rates only through the narrow lens of the male and female gender binary. This leaves out almost entirely the impact of COVID-19 on SGM children and adolescents.

Moreover, legislative and nonlegislative policy attacks are escalating against transgender children in the United States and other countries. In this context, Population Council researchers call on the global community—governments, human services workers, researchers, public health professionals, and teachers—to come together, prioritize, and advocate for the distinct needs and protection of SGM children and adolescents.

Here are a few ways we can work together:

  • Partner with community-based SGM organizations and follow their lead. Build alliances with local SGM organizations to conduct more research to improve the health and well-being of millions of adolescents around the globe.
  • Co-design research directly with SGM adolescents. To prevent further erasure of SGM individuals, capture demographic data about sexual orientation and gender. Work with SGM children and adolescents to adapt survey questions for local context and to self-describe identities.
  • Co-design innovative approaches directly with SGM adolescents. Work with SGM adolescents in making social connections as well as providing mental health support while schools are closed and as they reopen.
  • Broaden frameworks. Ensure international public health policies include SGM adolescents by broadening frameworks that are cisgender and heteronormative.
  • Advocate based on evidence. Commit to well-designed studies to understand the specific needs and vulnerabilities of SGM children and adolescents in a post COVID-19 world.