Home is where the heart is as the old saying goes. The idea of one’s “home” has certainly taken up new meaning as we attempt to persist through the on-going covid pandemic, and as we encounter the ever-changing conditions of our daily lives. For some, a home may be a place, filled with family and other loved ones—offering an endearing overwhelming source of comfort. But not everyone has a home to go back to.
In a typical year, many LGBTQ+ individuals endure no shortage of being kicked out of their homes, murdered, and forced to encounter criticism and be further ostracized at the hands of those who claim to be their “family.”
However, the life of a queer person is not solely one of tragedy, despite the rhetoric we are fed constantly to suggest otherwise. In spaces where we are allowed to not only exist but be our true authentic selves and these tragedies no longer plague our surroundings, love and acceptance are what is left behind. Whether it be a gay club, coffee shop, or a dive bar, queer spaces are not just royalty–they are a necessity. But with the on-going pandemic, access to these spaces, whether due to state-mandated restrictions or forced closings due to rising rents all over the country, these spaces for members of the LGBTQ+ community, that were already dwindling, have ceased to exist in many parts of the country.
On top of those who are living in a hostile environment, another article cited that an overwhelming 37% of queer spaces have closed between 2007 and 2019; due to these spaces being already limited, to begin with, it is probable that the pandemic has forced these spaces of escape and safety to be no longer accessible to many of those most in need of a place of sanctity and acceptance.
While the normality of seeing homophobic or transphobic family members at the Thanksgiving table may have been somewhat alleviated, many members of the LGBTQ+ community have had to return to these places. Away from their self-identified “families” of other queer friends and loved ones, on top of their inability to go out and enter into safe “queer” spaces due to the necessary restrictions has caused many members of the LGBTQ+ family to feel alone.
A recent VOX article detailed the experiences of a trans student from a conservative family that explained the endearing love and closeness they felt while being on their university campus and away from the forced outings and ridicule they experienced while living with their parents. To this student “home” was not the place where their parents resided. For college students like the one mentioned in this article, among countless others, online classes have forced many to be shoved “back in the closet”, as mentioned by this particular student. Due to online classes, they were pressured to dress and present themselves as the gender they do not identify as in order to remain “safe” at home, all the while aggressively tackling emotional stress, depression, and other mental health struggles.
As a bisexual college student living in the conservative South, these facts and anecdotal accounts are as alarming as they are heartbreaking. The true effects of the pandemic on queer spaces and queer life during this time may be unknown and have perhaps set back the progress of the LGBTQ+ community. My hope is that through this period of darkness, there is hope and optimism in my mind that once more we will be able to return to the spaces and our families once again.