In these difficult times, it is important to remember that most LGBTQ+ people do not have a family, church communities or nearby allies to lift them up.
The onset of the Coronavirus came with little time to steel ourselves against the ever shifting circumstances shaping what our lives will look like tomorrow. In our lifetime, most of us have never experienced a global crisis of this magnitude, mired in uncertainties, riddled with implications; and as we huddle on our sofas in front of the television or in bed before the glow of our phones watching it escalate, it can feel utterly terrifying. For everyone.
However, among the most vulnerable to both the emotional and psychological impact are LGBTQ+ people. Our community has spent decades dedicating time and resources into establishing places that are safe for Queer individuals; Community centers, night clubs, peer groups, pride parades. Our focus has been on resisting everything systemic that has attempted to make us invisible and be present in spite of an onslaught of opposition from one sector or another. It has always been the purpose of our earliest advocates to get us out among our LGBTQ+ family; to make the isolation and alienation that all to often accompanies acknowledging one’s sex or gender feel a little less cumbersome. Many folks rely on friends within the community to supplement what we’ve been forced to live without- loving family units and traditional avenues of social interaction that were blockaded or denied us altogether.
This is why we paved our own avenue, carved our own path, and our friends became our family and belonging to this diverse community where there are people like ourselves was freeing- affirming even. We were not one against the world, we were an army for each other.
Many of us do not have access to that now, especially those who live in conservative areas or rural locations.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, LGBTQ+ youth are more
likely than non-LGBTQ youth to struggle with their mental health. Trans youth are four times more likely to experience depression.
The National Center for Transgender Equality conducted a survey showing 40% of transgender adults reported serious psychological distress in the month before they took the survey, dramatically higher than the 5% of the entire US population who said the same.
As we navigate the uncharted waters of a global pandemic and see families rallying around each other or college friends calling to check in on a loved one, for many queer folks, there is nobody calling.
Social media has lessened the impact of a quarantine, but frequently these online environments are cesspools of abuse for LGBTQ+ individuals. While quarantine is being more broadly imposed each day to reduce the spread of the highly transmittable virus, feeds and timelines can feel no more intimate than watching the evening news and even lend itself to feelings of helplessness, inducing further panic and tremendous anxiety. It can feel like a lifeline has been severed at the worst time possible.
In the years leading up to this pandemic, LGBTQ+ people have been the subject of heightened and relentless political attacks and religious persecution which can result in a slow erosion of mental health quality. We rely on each other for support, companionship and oftentimes, just being in the company of a safe group can keep one from forgetting they are human, too. This moment that will forever change the terrain of society as we know it comes on the heels of so much struggle and community-wide trauma imposed by a hostile administration where we have been left asking the question long before now, “Who is looking out for us?”
With so many opportunities to socialize in familiar ways or satisfy our inherent desire for human interaction and acknowledgement, quarantine can unwittingly steer one into a dark place, a place where the silence can be deafening and the solitude can be crushing. It’s manageable for awhile, but the majority of us understand that we have no answers. There is currently no end-date for this rapidly spreading virus that is claiming lives around the globe.
We’re scared, too. We need someone to remember we’re here, too. A lot of us don’t have that. As a week reaches into two weeks and then a month and perhaps longer, the chasm between ourselves and a life as we once knew it can appear too wide to ever cross again.
How to we hold ourselves together, alone?
LGBTQ+ people need to know it’s okay to be afraid. It’s completely natural to fear a situation beyond our control. It’s okay to be anxious while alone, it is not needy to desire a conversation, companionship, or for someone to hear your voice while acknowledging your distress and maybe even share their own.
Many people have started up an array of social groups online to draw the LGBTQ+ community closer together. Drag Queens, including Bella Noche, Ani Manildoo and stars of the reality television show RuPaul’s Drag Race have hosted live performances via Facebook and Instagram.
Some LGBTQ+ folks have started Snapchat groups where they share their coping mechanisms and daily activities.
The Rainbow Academy is a group of LGBTQ+ gamers who are using their quarantine time to socialize virtually while playing in co-operative game settings.
There is no reason for anyone to feel left behind or alone during this difficult time. It is imperative that we take care of each other. Don’t presume everyone has someone checking in on them, take it upon yourself. You might be that welcome voice that breaks the quiet.