For members of the LGBTQ+ community, the Coronavirus pandemic has been particularly challenging. Queer people suffer from far higher rates of mental health problems such as depression and anxiety than their cishet counterparts and naturally, this has been made worse by restrictions imposed as a result of the pandemic. Some have been forced to stay for extended periods in environments where they are not comfortable, or it is not safe for them to be themselves.
On a far more superficial level, the already challenging dating world for queer people and the limited queer spaces have been further affected by the pandemic. Dating for queer people is hard with a more limited dating pool and fewer opportunities to meet potential partners organically – so in a world where you can’t even go on a date nor go-to venues to meet people organically, queer people are struggling even more.
In addition, for the short period where we have been able to go out in between lockdown #1 and #2, given the few open nightlife venues, there has been a higher proportion of cishet patrons in LGBTQ+ spaces, which are already few and far between.
Yet lockdown #2 doesn’t have to be as hard. With the appropriation of the infamous American suburban mom catchphrase “Live, Laugh, Love” and the addition of ‘learn’, I have some suggestions for my fellow members of the LGBTQ+ community on how we can make the most of this time and look out for ourselves, each other and ultimately advocate for ourselves better.
Step 1: Live – as yourself.
It is often a journey to come to terms with your identity as a queer person in a world full of homophobia, transphobia, sexism and toxic masculinity. Whether you have been through that journey and have lived openly as yourself, are still going through it or re-entering it as you question your identity, it is important to take this time, where we are more isolated, inside, to reflect and remember that you are valid. No matter what the expectations of this hetero- and cis-normative world have told you, YOU ARE VALID.
This weird period indoors, with fewer interactions with the outside world and therefore avoiding constant microaggressions, can give us the space to learn or remember it so that we can live our best lives as queer people on the other side of this lockdown.
Step 2: Laugh – spread positive energy throughout the community.
As mentioned before, the Coronavirus pandemic has hit the LGBT+ community particularly hard and this lockdown can be a challenging time as some struggle with or question their identity. Especially at this moment, It is important to remember that we are a community and despite our different experiences we should be there for each other. Reach out to your queer friends and check in on them, send them jokes and memes, and make them laugh and smile so that together as a community we can get through these hard times.
Even if you don’t have any queer friends, you don’t know many queer people, or would like to meet more, take advantage of the internet – there are LGBT groups across the internet, including ones specific for Oxford and maybe even your college! Dating apps, while not always the best, can be a great way to just chat to other queer people so take advantage of these virtual spaces to spread positive energy and discuss our shared experiences and struggles so that we can help each other through this hard time and any struggles that we are facing at this moment.
Step 3: Love – show your love for the community by advocating for those facing discrimination and challenges as a result of their identity both at home and abroad.
While as Oxford students we suffer from our tremendous workload, this increased time inside does lend itself well to activism. For many of us, Oxford might be the most queer-friendly place we’ve ever lived yet this might not be true for everyone and the whole world isn’t like Oxford – and it’s important not to forget this.
If you are able to, get involved with activism, whether it’s on the university level with the SU LGBTQ+ Liberation Campaign or overseas such as in the 72 countries where same-sex relations are criminalised or in Poland where there has been a massive, state-endorsed anti-LGBT+ wave of discrimination and help make this world a better place for all of us.
Step 4: Learn – our history
In the same vein as step 3, it is important now to learn and reflect on our history. In a time where people of colour are affected worse by the current pandemic and trans women of colour are most at risk of violence because of their identity, it is vital for us to learn and appreciate the role of queer women of colour in pushing for our rights and developing our culture.
Even if it is in a more casual setting, such as in Netflix’s Pose, which focuses on the Black and Latinx LGBTQ+ ballroom culture in New York, we should take this time to learn about and appreciate the struggles and efforts made by our predecessors and also how they have influenced queer culture (and it’s been later appropriated).
Lockdown #2 is going to be hard, for queer people especially, but hopefully with these suggestions, it can be a little easier. As queer people we should all take the time to “live” and “laugh”, and if we have the energy “love” and “learn” so that we can be there for ourselves, our community and reflect on our history and current struggles as a group – to come out the stronger, happier and better connected as a community.