COVID-19 has been a global leveling force. All people around the world must reckon with the risks of the virus and the requirement to keep physical distance from others. We’re also being reminded that these risks and the ability to keep distance can differ among certain populations, for example: the elderly, those have no homes, and those in heavily populated areas.
LGBTQ+ Christians aren’t usually the first group that comes to mind when we consider the differing effects of COVID-19. Still, as I’ve connected with folks in the Generous Space community over the last month and a half, I’ve found some broad advantages and disadvantages we face in this “queerantine” we’re under. We have our collective superpowers, and we have our collective kryptonite. Let’s begin with the latter, with the caveat that these are broad generalizations and don't apply to all of us! (With thanks to members of the Generous Space community for contributing their ideas!)
Our Kryptonite – 4 LGBTQ+ challenges in the “Queerantine”
- Pre-Existing Vulnerabilities. Sadly, due to the effects of past trauma and the ongoing homophobia/transphobia we face, we are already more likely to experience physical and mental health challenges, precarious housing, and precarious employment. This puts us at an increased risk in our current health crisis and deteriorating economy.
- Unsafe Quarantine. Some LGBTQ+ people, particularly children & youth and those who are low-income, are facing a worst-case scenario: being stuck in quarantine with family members who don’t affirm or accept their gender identity or sexual orientation. The resulting harms can range from small comments or actions (“microaggressions” that build up over time) to more “macro” acts of violence.
- Re-Closeting. Even if we’re not forced back in the closet by our quarantine situation, being physically isolated from our LGBTQ+ community can make us feel like we’re back in our closeted state. Expressing our queer selves becomes more challenging when we’re on our own, and events like Pride are being canceled. As one person in our community said, “once you’ve experienced the rainbow, it’s harder to hide in the dark.”
- Triggers around Contagion. Those in our community who lived through the 80s and early 90s may be flashing back to the last time fear was rampant, their friends were dying, and no one was immune: the AIDS crisis. For others, the triggers are more abstract; the COVID-19-related reminders about handwashing, impurity, and being potential vectors for disease bring resurgences of old messages around uncleanness, contamination and shame associated with our queerness. This can make us feel even more “untouchable” in this time of touch starvation.
Our Superpowers – 4 LGBTQ+ advantages in the “Queerantine”
- This is Not our First Rodeo. Our coming out journeys have included seasons of loneliness, isolation, rejection, sacrifice, grief and unmet expectations. We have courageously faced the unknown, and surrendered to our lack of control over other people’s responses to our coming out. The inadequacy of our societal supports does not come as a surprise; we know marginalized people will be failed by systems that privilege the “normal,” and that we'll have to take care of each other. If we’ve survived these things already on an individual level, we can push through similar circumstances collectively.
- Coping Skills. Many of us have sought professional and community help to cope with the stress of reckoning with our gender and sexuality. We’ve been learning how to name and process our feelings, how to be mindful and recognize when we’re numbing and running away from pain instead of facing it. We’ve held space for those who process pain in different ways and at different paces than we do. We’ve been seeking and creating spaces of safety and “home,” whether physical or virtual, and we know what self-care strategies tend to work for us. We’ve been building systems of support and looking out for others. When it comes to coping, we’ve got some practice and a head start.
- Long-Distance Community. LGBTQ+ people make up less than 10% of the population, and when you add the filter of those with Christian faith, you get a much smaller number, scattered across the globe. Due to our geographical diaspora, most of us have sought out some form of community online. Many of us have dated long-distance partners. Some of us have lacked local churches that affirm our relationships, so we found livestreams or recordings from affirming churches. We have experience setting up boundaries for healthy vulnerability in virtual spaces. It’s no surprise that one of the first daily online quarantine dance parties came from the queer community. Our pre-existing online community was there for us at the start of the pandemic, and many of us already had the tech tools to move toward online relating in other parts of our lives.
- Creativity. All that media you’ve been consuming to pass the time cooped up at home? There’s a high chance that LGBTQ+ people played at least a small part in bringing it to fruition. Our community has long relied on the arts as an outlet for our self-expression, and we will continue to create beauty and meaning as a means of surviving and empowering one another.