I’ve recognised for a long time the privilege it is to be myself, to be queer and not be attacked for it. Before coronavirus waltzed its way into the picture, I was perfectly contented to have a Home Me and a True Me. Home Me was more subdued and catered to my cishet family and more conservative neighbours, whereas True Me flourished at school and around my friends, with a less meticulous and edited version of my personality. Of course, when lockdown reared its ugly head, I was at home the whole time, and thus unable to properly express myself, which was the largest difficulty I had being queer in the time of a global pandemic.
Previously, my principal concerns had been of words and litter thrown in the street and playground, but at least I’d had my friends around me. Suddenly the issue pivoted to me alone with my problems, which in no way compared to those which the world was facing. ‘My supportive family can’t understand the nuance of my situation because it greatly differs from their lived experiences!’. I realise just how ridiculous this might sound to people fortunate enough to be fully yourselves, but I was finding myself exhausted after full days of commodifying myself.
The emotions I’ve described aren’t unique. Many of us found ourselves walking on eggshells during lockdown. When you’ve only two or three people to speak to, you tend not to want to upset them. Several of my friends related to my fatigue, especially those who identify themselves as LGBTQ+. Restrictions loosening came as an absolute blessing, something on which I’m sure we’re all agreed, although I greeted the return to uni with some trepidation. We’ve all lost some of our social skills so I’m personally testing the waters and building new relationships within the queer community here at Durham. Sometime during lockdown 3.0 my brother asked what I was most excited for after lockdown ended. I responded, “seeing gay people”. He laughed but I was deadly serious. Isolation (pardon the pun), whilst by no means the most egregious issue facing the queer community right now, was amplified by the lockdown and was what I found hardest about being gay this year.
Illustration by Anna Pycock