As the COVID-19 pandemic began to sweep the globe, the lives of trans and gender diverse people in Asia and the Pacific also began to change rapidly.
Throughout this crisis, the Asia Pacific Transgender Network has continued to monitor the developments and think about how it has affected trans communities and organisations throughout the region.
On 27 March 2020, we began a COVID-19 Rapid Assessment to document the challenges faced by trans and gender diverse people during this health crisis. This assessment consisted of an online survey, as well as direct interviews with some of our project partners.
The online survey was undertaken by 133 respondents from 42 countries, of which 100 were from 17 countries in Asia and the Pacific. 72.9% of respondents were 25 to 44 years old.
42.9% identified as trans women or trans feminine, 28.5% as trans men or trans masculine, and 11.3% as gender diverse or gender non-conforming. Direct interviews involved 10 partners from 9 countries.
The results were striking, and the impact and effects of COVID-19 are likely to have intensified since then. Here is a selection of the data.
When the survey was conducted, 32.95% of respondents were already struggling financially. Of the others, only 11.4% were able to sustain themselves beyond 7 weeks.
67.1% of the respondents do not have national health insurance, and 72.9% do not have private health insurance.
A question in the survey also asked what resources members of the community felt would be most useful at this time.
Some of the responses that country groups and organisations have undertaken are:
Country groups and organisations expressed these urgent needs:
It is this data that helped shape the development of the APTN COVID-19 Community Support Fund, which provides funding to community groups and trans human rights defenders across Asia and the Pacific to help meet community realities and sustain their organisations’ operations and functions.
However, there is a lot more work that needs to be done, and greater financial investments and support are needed to address the structural and systematic barriers trans and gender diverse people face.
In fact, in one case study, one government has taken the opportunity to further extend discrimination against gender and sexual minorities.
We call for greater support from funders, donors, and other organisations to take into consideration the realities of communities on the ground and reprogramme and allocate resources to where it is most needed at this time, so that organisations can continue the critical work that they do in, and in spite of, this global pandemic.
We also conducted a joint survey with UNDP Thailand to assess the impact of COVID-19 on LGBT communities in Thailand. Read about some of the findings here: Joint Survey with UNDP Thailand on the Impact of COVID-19 on LGBTI Communities Findings