Ugla Stefanía on the effects the corona-virus pandemic has on queer lives.
OPINION As a self-declared hermit and introvert, the government advising people to stay at home couldn’t actually have been better news for me. While I definitely enjoy going to events, meeting people, speaking publicly and so on, I honestly cannot think of anything better than staying at home under government instruction. Never before have I enjoyed as much JOMO (joy of missing out. Opposite of FOMO; fear of missing out) as in the past few weeks.
I’m a bit homebody and I love to sit at home and read books, play video games, cook nice food and spend time with my partner and dog. I am not too worried about my family at the moment, as most of them are healthy, already live quite rurally and are at a low risk of contracting the virus. I mostly work from home, although the income I make through film making as taken a hit—surprisingly no one really wants to be filmed during a virus outbreak.
“A lot of queer life is dependant on larger gatherings … social interactions and meeting in safer spaces. For queer people this has been absolutely essential, because it’s where people go to escape a world that doesn’t necessarily accept them for who they are.”
I realise though that this is quite a privileged position, as this is affecting the lives of many in serious ways. There are people who cannot lose out on work to make ends meet, people with underlying health conditions that are terrified of getting the virus as they might actually die and many people all around the world have already died.
It’s a global pandemic that is having serious consequences and effects on our health care systems and society in general. Those who are disenfranchised will be disproportionately affected, such as the elderly, chronically ill, refugees, people of lower classes and homeless people. It’s a real serious issue, and the best people can do is to follow instructions, stay at home as much they can (especially if you have any symptoms) and avoid infecting others and spreading the virus. Staying at home for a few weeks can drastically reduce the spread of the virus and save lives.
One of many consequences this lockdown is having is on queer life. A lot of queer life is dependant on larger gatherings, clubbing, events, social interactions and meeting in safer spaces. For queer people this has been absolutely essential, because it’s where people go to escape a world that doesn’t necessarily accept them for who they are. These spaces are where people explore themselves and are allowed to express however they want in terms of their queerness. So what happens to people who need these spaces when they close down?
Well, isolation and loneliness is inevitably one of the consequences. For those of us who depend on those spaces, it’s going to be quite tough, especially if you are living in a place where you cannot openly be who you are. This won’t only affect people because they are queer, but anyone living in an environment where they might not be safe—including people living in abusive relationships.
This is why it’s incredibly important that we check in on the people around us, see what services are available online or via the phone and keep in touch with people we know support us. This is also an optimum time to binge all those shows you’ve been wanting to watch, especially ones with queer characters. There are also so many books you can read, exhibitions you can watch online or entertainment that you can access. I was delighted to see this wonderful bookshop offer trans teenagers my book The Trans Teen Survival Guide for free, so if you’re feeling really low and need some affirmation, check them out!
I know that things might seem tough right now, but it’s also a time for us to reflect as a society, slow down and realise the extent of which our current economic system has controlled our lives and even affected the planet. I hope that despite all the bad things that are going to transpire because of this virus, that we will use it to learn a lesson, slow down and be kinder to each other, to ourselves and to the planet. The way in which we’re currently living isn’t sustainable and perhaps this virus will be the wake up call many of us need.
I’m at least going to use this opportunity to binge Star Trek and the Real Housewives (I love a good contrast) and master how to bake gluten free scones. This isn’t going to be an easy ride, but at least we can try to make the best of it while we can.