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Self-isolation, self-realisation, self-affirmation…
This month Gareth Longstaff reflects on the unprecedented nature of 2020 and suggests that seeing social distancing, self-isolation and lockdown as affirming parts of queer life and activism may well teach us all a thing or two about each other and the days ahead.
We are living in complex, uncertain and challenging times. Self-isolation, social distancing and more or less the entire planet in a state of lockdown are in themselves difficult things to cope with and even believe. This has also instilled fear and anxiety into both individuals and collectives of people and in so doing brought out the very best and at times the very worst in them. There has been a greedy insistence towards self-centredness, and this is frustrating to observe and powerlessly endure. We all know them – the people that have been panic buying hundreds of toilet rolls, selling hand sanitizers for £20 a pop or bundling several children and the contents of their garage into a car to visit a beauty spot they never knew existed the week before! We are seeing that for those who are not used to the contexts of being isolated that their life becomes farcically intolerable when they close McDonald’s and Nando’s.
I think that LGBTQI+ communities have the capacity to rise above this and that we have the insights and proficiency to both educate and share our experiences of how sacrifice, isolation, and anxiety have empowered us. For those that now find themselves having to locate community and belonging in new and unusual ways its less of a ‘been there done that’ or ‘told you so’ narrative and more of one that could connect and allow new bonds to form. Perhaps the HIV and AIDS crisis is the most powerful example of this where queer communities were forced together by devastating loss, lack of state support and toxic discrimination. Many of us bear witness to that recent history and were forced to create and sustain resilient queer communities to resist but also to demonstrate ingenuity and care for everyone within them. The now familiar phrases like ‘We will get through this’ can’t help but resonate with echoes of how queer people had to tackle the HIV and AIDS crisis and so much more in the face of adversity.
In times of crisis it’s us queers that seem to affirm and create new ways of working, communicating and being. We have constantly been forced to relocate, resituate and rearticulate our identities, bodies and desires in ways that might not be as obvious to our non-queer allies. Amidst all of this we might well see that the Coronavirus pandemic and the various aspects life that it has interrupted and undermined are for some queer citizens familiar and that all of us feel a little queerer and a lot less selfish after it subsides.