Artwork highlighting LGBTQ Xmas loneliness epidemic and helpline number hits London

19% of LGBTQs aren't going home this Christmas because family members respond negatively when LGBTQ issues discussed, survey finds


Words: Jamie Tabberer; pictures: provided (artwork by Pegasus)

A 'physical manifestation' of LGBTQ Christmas loneliness has popped up across the streets of London.

The piece - by artist Pegasus, and titled 'Lonely Human' - also highlights a helpline LGBTQs can call if they're struggling this festive season.

The helpline, which can be reached at 0300 330 0630, is a result of a Direct Line partnership with Switchboard.LGBT.

An increase in calls is expected and prepared for following the announcement of new coronavirus restrictions this week - including a new tier 4 and the scrapping of five-day Christmas bubbles in some parts of the country.

A campaign rep added: "Tens of thousands of British LGBTQ+ people will be alone this Christmas Day due to their family’s negative attitudes towards their sexuality."

They added: "Switchboard, a charity which operates a confidential helpline for LGBTQ+ communities across the UK, has this Christmas partnered with insurance company Direct Line to ensure helplines stay open during their busiest time of the year."

Furthermore, research by Direct Line has shown that as a result of the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns, 38% of 16-35-year olds who identify as LGBTQ+ say they’re more nervous about going home this year than in previous ones.

Meanwhile, 19% aren't going home at all because family members respond negatively when LGBTQ issues are discussed, the survey found.

Ashley Hind, Switchboard Listening Volunteer and Trustee told Attitude: "This has been an undeniably challenging year and Switchboard has been able to continue supporting LGBTQIA+ communities every single day, from those facing increased isolation and loneliness, to people who have been in lockdown in situations they don’t feel able to be their true selves. The winter period is always a complicated and difficult time for many, with 2020 certainly being no exception, it’s so important to reach out for support when you need it. Our partnership with Direct Line is an invaluable way for Switchboard to not only ensure that our phone line stays open during the winter period, but also to raise vital awareness of our services, helping to get our name and number out to those who need it. Here at Switchboard we have been supporting the LGBTQIA+ communities since 1974 and we have no plans to stop now!"

Switchboard calls have gone up 17% year-on-year, and up 15% month-on-month in December, costing on average £6 a call. As such, Direct Line has pledged to fund the lines over the festive period to look after those in need of someone to talk to.

Switchboard Co-Chair Natasha Walker said: “Tens of thousands of people are now in lockdown once more, in situations that are difficult or complicated due to negative attitudes towards sexuality and/or gender identity. Christmas and the winter holidays can already be a lonely and isolating time for many. In addition the pandemic has kept families, friends and communities apart for many months and at this time of year people are anxious to be home with their loved ones. It’s vital that our helplines stay open for those who need someone to talk to during the winter holiday and working with Direct Line has ensured we’re able to keep them open as call numbers rise."

"Many members of the LGBTQ+ community face a Christmas alone because family issues stand in the way"

Simon Henrick, at Direct Line said: “2020 has been difficult enough as it is and has made many of us realise that, especially at this time of year, we shouldn’t take our time with family for granted. We’ve found throughout our campaign to solve everyday problems and champion heroes within our communities, that loneliness was a major point of worry for a lot of us. Unfortunately for some, December will make that worse. So many members of the LGBTQ+ community face a Christmas alone because family issues stand in the way. By keeping the phones open, at least they now have someone to talk to.”

Pegasus said of the Installation: “Loneliness has been a worry for everyone during the pandemic and helplines like Switchboard make those in need feel like someone is there to listen. Visualising and understanding the problem of loneliness is hard. The Lonely Human was created to bring home the feeling that even in the country’s most populous city, it’s easy to feel alone.”

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