LGBTQ+ people are disproportionately affected by loneliness, mental ill-health and social isolation. Lee Williscroft-Ferris suggests some strategies for surviving and thriving during the COVID-19 lockdown.
This is a challenging time for all of us. As the UK approaches the end of the first week of ‘lockdown’ during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we find ourselves living in conditions unimaginable a mere two months ago. Restricted movement and limited social interaction are certain to affect some people more than others. We know that LGBTQ+ people are disproportionately impacted by social isolation, mental ill-health and family estrangement. We also know that older LGBTQ+ people are largely neglected in terms of service provision and research on issues affecting the ageing population.
The Queerness has always prided itself on being an intersectional, inclusive platform for all the wonderful individuals gathered underneath the LGBTQ+ umbrella. We have also long supported the concept that it’s ‘OK to not be OK’. Self-care is more important than ever as we adjust to a new reality. Here is our guide to not just surviving the COVID-19 lockdown, but hopefully thriving too.
1. Make the most of your daily exercise
Exercise is a broad concept. Getting out for your daily exercise does not necessarily mean strenuous activity such as running or cycling. Going for a 30-minute walk with your favourite music playing through your headphones can be as beneficial to some people as a fast-paced jog is to others. Regardless of your chosen activity, fresh air is beneficial to us all. Try to maximise your time outdoors by planning a route that will lift your mood while observing social distancing.
2. Put together a go-to playlist
We all have songs that soothe us, bring back precious memories and/or make us smile, dance or even cry. Identify the tracks that you find yourself playing on repeat when the chips are down and put them into a handy playlist for those low moments we will all inevitably experience. Alternatively, compile a YouTube playlist of videos that make you laugh and revisit it whenever you feel your anxieties rising.
3. Optimise your social media engagement
Social media can be an incredibly powerful tool for LGBTQ+ people. Genuine friendships can be forged on platforms like Twitter and keeping in touch with loved ones on Facebook can be an invaluable lifeline. This is especially true at time like this, when face-to-face interaction is severely restricted. Sadly, as we know, social media can also be toxic. There has never been a better time to ‘curate’ your social media and shield yourself from negativity. Be selective in who you choose to interact with and remember, the ‘block’ and ‘mute’ buttons are there for a reason. Also, be wary of ‘fake news’ around the COVID-19 outbreak and question the motivations behind the coronavirus-related meme or status updates flooding your timeline. Follow the official guidance and stay alert to conspiracy theories and blatant untruths.
4. re-engage with lgbtq+ history
Now is an ideal time to learn. Our community’s history has entered the mainstream and there is now a plethora of books, films and TV series offering an insight into how queer people have evolved and fought for equality. We recommend starting with Pose, a heartwarming, informative and extremely entertaining study of New York’s LGBTQ+ ball scene in the 1980s and 90s. Led by a cast of trans women of colour, you will laugh and cry in equal measure. If you’re more of a bookworm, try Paul Baker’s Fabulosa! The Story of Polari, Britain’s Secret Gay Language. You can read our review of the book here.
5. Trust your feelings and instincts
There is no single correct way to handle this crisis. We are being bombarded with messages about how we ‘should’ handle this. For many, keeping in regular contact with family is key; for others, this will not be possible or desirable. Don’t feel pressurised to handle the isolation in a counterintuitive manner. If you are closer to a particular friend than to any member of your own family (a situation common to many LGBTQ+ people), that’s fine. If you suffer from difficulties like body dysmorphia or gender dysphoria, you may not be inclined to engage with video call platforms such as Skype or FaceTime; don’t be afraid to say so. Your feelings are valid. Trust your instincts.
- Government guidance on coronavirus (https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus)
- LGBT Foundation’s remote coronavirus services (http://lgbt.foundation/coronavirus/remote-services)
- The Samaritans (www.samaritans.org) or call 116 123 for free
Follow Lee on Twitter (@xixianykus)