21 Jun THE STRUGGLES OF QUEERNESS IN COVID
Content warning: This article contains discussions of mental health and homophobia.
Trigger warning: This article contains discussions of death by suicide that may be triggering for some readers.
“It’s just a phase.” “That doesn’t exist.” “You only end up with one person.” “You just want to sleep with everyone.”
These are some of the words that people, whether they be strangers or loved ones, have said to me regarding my sexuality that I have internalized this past year.
I have always been extremely privileged as an able-bodied cis white woman who likes all genders. My moms (yes, I have lesbian mothers) have always been very accepting of my queer identity… or so I thought.
During the very first covid lockdown I was living at home, thus meaning a lot of family bonding time which thankfully for me in a safe space. However, one day one of my moms told me that she believed that bisexuality didn’t exist because “you end up with one person in the end and their gender must be the one you like.” I was dumbfounded, standing in our kitchen as she continued to slice carrots the same way she was slicing my heart as if this biphobic sentence had not just run over me like a train. I knew there was biphobia within the queer community but in MY house? MY mom?
The worst part is, I am one of the lucky and privileged members of the queer community.
Many of my friends had to return to transphobic or homophobic households this summer, which not only caused them to lose touch with the queer community that helped them come to terms with their identity but also a rapid decline in their mental health. From friends being called the f-slur by their own parents, to finally coming out to parents who met this momentous moment for their child with some sort of attempt of conversion therapy.
As I moved back to Kingston to continue my studies in September, I quickly felt quite cut off from the queer community as the second and third lockdown commenced. My besties, the ones who have supported me through thick and thin, the ones that love loving women but hate loving men, my ride or die, were cut off from me. Not only had COVID stolen my 1st and 2nd Pride as an out queer woman, but it now had taken my last physical grasp on this community that was so essential to my mental health.
I could deal with my favourite (and the only) female-friendly queer club in my hometown shutting down. I could deal with my biphobic mother. I could deal with that constant voice in my head telling me that this is a phase and that me being queer will just allow conservatives to use me as a statistic when trying to show that queer couples will “turn” their kids gay. I could deal with my constant internalized biphobia. I could deal with having to keep my mothers a secret as they fear for the loss of their jobs, friends, and family just because they love someone of the same gender. But I couldn’t do this all without my two girls who got me. The feminists who understand my struggles, who make jokes about the oppression of the patriarchy and whose jokes about gay tik tok trends make me almost piss myself. And I get it. We all missed our friends during these lockdowns. But these two women have been a huge part of my coming out journey and create one of the few spaces where I can genuinely feel comfortable in my skin.
I unsurprisingly fell into a deeper depression in January of 2021 as I lost my connection to this huge part of my identity. This is not uncommon in my community. According to the American Psychiatric Association, “LGBTQ individuals are more than twice as likely as heterosexual men and women to have a mental health disorder in their lifetime” and are “2.5 times more likely to experience anxiety, depression and substance misuse” when compared to heterosexual people. These rates are even higher if you look at LGBTQ+ people of colour. This is not a single story of one bisexual woman but a narrative throughout my community and I will not stand for this.
I have been born into a society where I am told that I do not fit in, that I am unwelcomed due to something I cannot change, and even within the community that should be accepting of my identity, I still face biphobia and misogyny. So, it makes sense that the LGBTQ+ community is more depressed because we have been told time and time again that we do not belong here. Some have even gone as far as to try to eradicate us from this earth. Recent history does not offer us a different narrative, with Ontario’s capital stained with Toronto’s Operation Soap Police Raids in 1981 to 1 in 4 students in the GTA reporting being called hateful and violent homophobic and transphobic names just two years ago. The violence continues with children dying by suicide. Riley Hadley (12), Tyrone Unsworth (13), and Nigel Shelby (15), all took their lives due to bullying regarding their sexualities.
But we are also a community that is resilient. Our mere existence is resistance. The LGBTQIA2S+ community does not always line up in beliefs and has intersectional identities. Unfortunately, others in the community may not always be supportive of others’ experiences, however, this community knows what it feels like to feel unwelcome and unloved. In spite of society making us feel this way, the LGBTQIA2S+ continues to unite in recent months with online events. From Online Kingston Pride to the MUSE Pride week, to the Reel Out Pride Films, Queerness in COVID continues to be celebrated. I have gone to way too many drag shows and I hope you have been/will too because throwing glitter via Zoom is all the fun but way less of a clean-up.
Whether you are in Kingston or on the other side of the world, I hope you take a minute, an hour or (hopefully) a full day to celebrate your sexuality and resilience while also learning about diverse queer experiences. And if you are an ally, you can celebrate too but PLEASE do your research first. We don’t need those homophobic, transphobic or heterosexist ideals to be ruining our celebration after the year we just survived. Happy Pride Month to all my LGBTQIA2S+ homies.
ART CREDIT: ANONYMOUS AUTHOR
HEADER IMAGE SOURCE: LOCAL LOVE