Virtual Camp: LGBTQ Youths’ Collective Coping During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic prompted school closures across the United States, removing important social support sources for many LGBTQ youths. The current research examines the collective coping of young LGBTQ people (majority transgender/nonbinary) who participated in the first known virtual camp program for pandemic-affected youths. In Study 1, in-depth, semistructured interviews with 15 youths (aged 14–20) revealed youths used the virtual camp space to develop unique support networks, maintain connections with trusted individuals, dwell where LGBTQ identity is celebrated, find grounding through synchrony, and fill unscheduled time. In Study 2, 41 participants in a second virtual camp session (aged 12–19) were longitudinally surveyed. Findings demonstrated youths experienced reduced depressive symptoms, and new friendships made through virtual camp influenced self-esteem. Results across both studies indicate the importance of tailored virtual spaces in facilitating social connections, providing a sense of safety and belonging, and addressing LGBTQ youths’ mental health during a collective crisis.