How the COVID – 19 Pandemic and Self-isolation is Affecting Queer People
The COVID-19 pandemic and the personal responsibility of self-isolation are likely some of the most difficult situations that we will experience in our lifetimes. The pandemic also adds another layer of stress and challenges to those who are historically disenfranchised, such as indigenous peoples, those with low incomes, and of course, queer people.
I decided to speak with some LGBTQ2+ community members to see how the pandemic was affecting them. This project is intended to show how we are united against a common threat and are not alone in our struggles.
I first spoke with Raymond Koehler, human rights advocate and coordinator for the Senior Gay Men’ group for Kelowna. Raymond has over 30 years of experience as a community frontline health care support worker, but now, “as a 70-year-old cancer survivor with diabetes and a traumatic brain injury,” he has been forced to self-isolate, as he is extremely susceptible to COVID-19.
Raymond remarks that his “life experience has led [him] to believe that one of the worst possible outcomes in life would be to be left with the feeling of being alone.” In [his] case, “although only a very few of his family contacts remain in place and are great distances away, [he] has been ‘gifted’ with the love and support of longtime companion, husband, and full-time caregiver, Manuel.”
He acknowledges that many queer people do not have this privilege, and is grateful for the blessings he has been given in life. Manuel manages all necessary errands, including a monthly trip to the Central Okanagan Community Food Bank, and the pair have been stoutly supported by their medical team throughout this stressful time.
Raymond still continues to act as a spokesperson for the Senior Gay Men and other community-based programs through computer and telephone. He highlights how important these community relationships are to him.
This is a common theme amongst queer people, many whom are struggling to cope without having ‘regular’ community interactions. However, Raymond is confident that “we will find ways to ‘carry on’ with a gratitude attitude,” and sends digital hugs, solidarity, and pride!
This article was written by James Sieben, the Youth LGBTQPOC2+ Okanagan contributor for Kelowna.LGBT