COVID-19 has affected all demographics. The elderly have faced isolation at a time in their life where connection is most important, while the youth of today have been met with uncertainty and worries of unemployment. However, the LGBTQ+ community finds itself in a unique position, as it encompasses numerous demographics. It not only harbours the tribulations of the elderly and the young, but also carries a whole extra dynamic of difficulties. The fundamental grounds of queer culture have been directly hit by the virus, and the closeness of a community that has sustained generations of LGBTQ+ individuals have all come to an abrupt pause. With this, queer artists and venues have had to adapt and alter the way in which they connect with their audience.
Being a drag artist myself, I understand the initial feeling of emptiness that queer artists have felt throughout lockdown. From performing to large, lively audiences to then be met with the lockdown restraints, it has undoubtedly taken a toll on the mental health of many individuals in the queer entertainment industry. Drag artists, dancers, and DJs’s alike have had to change how they provide their services of entertainment; whilst also struggling to maintain a form of income. These individuals rely on venues and companies to hire them, while these businesses rely on the general public and ticket sales.
This dilemma creates a domino effect. A reduced income and inability to connect with the community results in a drastic drop in mood and lower quality of mental health. Of course, this can be seen in all demographics, but surveys show that the LGBTQ+ community is already at a disadvantage when it comes to mental health. The LGBTQ+ foundation conducted a survey of 555 people, 99% of which identified as LGBTQ+. They later revealed that 42% wanted access to mental health support throughout the lockdown period. Unsurprisingly, the percentage increases for LGBTQ+ B.A.M.E individuals (66%) and other intersectional groups.
This community thrives with social gatherings; it is an aspect of queer culture that can be derived from the beginning of the movement. Individuals who don’t feel welcomed by their families or friends use gay clubs, events and socials to meet likeminded people; and create their own family structure. For many, this is what keeps their morale up, and provides them with a sense of belonging. The impact of COVID-19 has forced many closeted people to share a household with LGBTQ-phobic parents/guardians. Individuals who fall into the B.A.M.E category would have undoubtedly been affected by, not only the reality of isolation, but also the hard to swallow, racist elements of society that have been a prominent focus of 2020.
We have faced trials and tribulations for decades upon decades with one similarity – the ability to rise above it and connect with each other.
This year has been a lot, for all of us, but the fact is that queer identities have had to be supressed due to isolation. As a community we have faced a physical barrier of separation, and a mental battle between expressing ourselves and handling toxic environments. Whether it be the struggling performer who’s been left jobless, or the gay student who has had to return to a homophobic environment; queer expression has suffered, greatly. However, this is but a testament to how strong our community really is. We have faced trials and tribulations for decades upon decades with one similarity – the ability to rise above it and connect with each other. It may not be face to face for a while and the ‘new normal’ might reduce the scale of closeness, but one thing is for sure; our chosen family will be there and we will make a community out of any situation.