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Coronavirus Disease 2019

Queerantine: Being Queer During the Coronavirus

Self-isolation can be tough for LGBTQ folks.

Source: IStockock by Getty Images; Credit:claudenakagawa

These are tough times for everyone, but for LGBTQ people, the quarantine (or queerantine as I’ve been calling it) presents additional layers of difficulty.

Growing Up LGBTQ Promotes Distancing

To begin with, most of us who are LGBTQ already grew up feeling isolated and emotionally distant from mainstream society. Seen as “other,” rejected, vilified and bullied, we’ve learned to seek out a community that we consider our “family of choice” rather than our “family of origin” that may not have been supportive. We have also learned from childhood that the world is dangerous to be out and open, and now the world really is dangerous due to the pandemic.

Social contacts through bars, community centers, potlucks, and other supportive places and events have provided our emotional lifelines for LGBTQ. These communities we created give us connection, a closeness, and a sense of belonging. With quarantine, this has been taken from us leaving many to regress to old feelings and old fears.

Now we’re stuck at home, sometimes haunted by feelings of grief and loneliness, reminders of how we might have felt before we actually came out. When you experience feelings that are exaggerated and leave you immobilized, this often means they are related to other issues you may have, as well as unresolved issues from the past. These feelings can be emotional memories.

Consider the anguish of the LGBTQ teen who is now forced 24/7 to be with a family that has never accepted them for who they are, or maybe they’ve never even come out to them. Research by Caitlyn Ryan shows that family rejection is the number one predictor of how an LGBTQ individual survives their childhood. High rejection leads LGBTQ youth to be eight times more likely to attempt suicide, six times more likely to report high levels of depression, three times more likely to use illegal drugs, and three times more likely to be at higher risk of HIV and STIs.

Trans teens now have to wait longer and put on hold the various hormone or medical treatments as not to risk going to a hospital and exposing themselves to the virus. Some hormone treatments that are regularly shipped may be taking longer than normal to arrive. Much of this can throw the trans teen into crisis and depression.

Gay men who went through the AIDS crisis may be having painful memories of helplessness, hopelessness, and powerlessness that accompanied that time. They are currently describing feelings of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The memories and emotions are like ghosts of the past.

Risk Factors for LGBTQ

On top of that, national health organizations have warned that some members of the LGBTQ community may be “particularly vulnerable” to the effects of COVID-19, including having a higher risk for cancer, HIV, and smoking, as well as suicidal ideation and discrimination by health care providers. The suicide rate for lesbians, gays, and bisexuals is 30 percent while it is 41 percent for transgender. In addition, a high number of LGBTQ teens are homeless with nowhere to adequately shelter and no health insurance.

Many gay men—and many men in general—habitually equate sex with intimacy. Gay and bisexual men are reporting that they are struggling to not reach out sexually, as this the main way they know how to feel connected.

Intersectional Identities

LGBTQ individuals of color experience all of this in addition to the other risks. The Washington Post published an article on how COVID-19 is infecting and killing black Americans at an alarmingly higher rate. The article talks about how African Americans have higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease. These health problems make people more vulnerable to this new respiratory disease.

Older adult LGBTQ individuals already feel disenfranchised and left behind. Quarantine is making this worse.

Surviving Queerantine

There are LGBTQ hotlines if they’re feeling suicidal, and online communities and apps like Houseparty that allow you to connect with groups of others to join in conversations and trivia and drawing games. LGBTQ teenagers can call or text the suicide hotline to get the support they need at 1-800-273-8255. Specifically for LGTBQ teens, there is the Trevor Project, which states on its homepage that LGBTQ youth may be particularly vulnerable to negative mental health impacts as it relates to COVID-19.

On YouTube, there is the “It Gets Better Project,” founded by sex advice columnist, gay activist, and author Dan Savage, to uplift, empower, and connect LGBTQ+ youth around the globe to help them deal with non-supportive households. Also, there are online concerts, AA meetings, book groups, and more. There are now so many things online. Now is a great time to take advantage of them.

For gay men, queerantine provides an opportunity for gay men to realize that sex is not the only way to connect; that there are other ways to come together (no pun intended). This is a time to learn how to flirt. Slow down the process of hooking up and rather than move quickly to meeting and being sexual, take some time to get to know the other person on the apps.

Something else I’ve noticed over the past few years: Even though we as LGBTQ people talk about being part of a community, in many ways we aren’t, or at least don’t act that way. There are divisions between gay men and lesbians, rejection and alienation of bisexuals, and judgment toward transgender people. While this is changing with the younger millennials (which I’m very happy about) there still exists too much tension, including a growing division over turf—“If you aren’t in my specific community, don’t speak for me and stay in your own lane.” This is an ideal time to begin to erase the lines between us and realize that we are all just people trying to deal with life.

One of the oldest and wisest bits of wisdom out there is this: When we’re feeling isolated and consumed with our own troubles, the surest way to overcome is reaching out to others who may be struggling with their own set of problems.

  • Ask others how you can be of help to them.
  • Rather than simply typing on social media and texting, connect with others' voices over the phone or face-to-face while camming.
  • Reach out to old friends or colleagues who may be alone and out of work.
  • Deliver groceries to an elderly neighbor living alone and perhaps a listening ear.
  • Ask people if they need anything or if there’s any way you can help.

In short, get out of your own head! We have a chance to change our minds and our world. We are currently spotlighting heroes such as doctors, nurses, grocery store workers, and those working in delivery services while we are in quarantine. Become your own hero by doing something good for someone else. Empower yourself. You have the resiliency.

Meanwhile, remember: This too shall pass. It will undoubtedly take a while, but in the meantime, let’s take the opportunity given us to make a better, more connected, and loving world.

Being queer will last forever, but queerantine is soon to pass.

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