Starting our third month of sheltering in place, my interview was with a member of our local LGBTQ+ community. He identifies as transmasculine and bisexual. In his mid-twenties, he graduates from college this month. He works with a non-profit based in Sonoma County serving his community. Young and active, he isn’t in a high-risk group, although he has allergies. He lives with his parents and a sibling in the southern portion of Santa Rosa. He brings us a valuable insight of the impacts not only on him, but also the local LGBTQ+ community.
He is financially stable. The impact on him has been mixed. Before the pandemic hit, in addition to going to school, he worked two part time jobs. One was at a local diner. That job is gone. The other was with his non-profit. Because another employee left, he’s been able to pick up additional hours. He is thankful the family is also doing okay. His sibling’s employer takes care of her. The parents are retired, so weren’t reliant on employment income.
At the non-profit, he is a youth advocate. He works with LGBTQ+ youth ranging in age from teens to late twenties. He helps set up and facilitate in-person meetings, events and support groups. He also helps them access other needed resources such as transportation, counseling or employment opportunities. As a staff member, he participated in community trainings about LGBTQ+ issues.
The impact of sheltering in place has been difficult for these youth. The in-person support groups and events are not available. Those going to school don’t have the same level of support from their clubs such as the Gay Straight Alliances, or from their classmates. Some are sheltering in place with family that aren’t always as affirming or as understanding of their gender or sexual orientation identities. So, his challenge has been how to create safe spaces, share resources and support his community on-line.
Working from home in a makeshift office set-up in his bedroom, he checks on community members. Using online resources such as Zoom, Instagram and Facebook live, or Google chat; he creates events to connect and stay in touch with each other. He says it’s just not the same as in-person. Someone might say “I’m fine,” yet it’s harder for him to gauge their response without body language cues. He knows many are struggling, so he’s doing what he can to help.
For him personally, the first few weeks were hard. His routines were disrupted. He wasn’t working out or doing his self-maintenance. He couldn’t go to the gym. Before, working or going to school, his step counts were easier to maintain. Now, walking with his allergies, especially with a mask, makes it difficult to maintain his steps. It’s hard on him because he can’t see his friends or go to school. FaceTime with his girlfriend isn’t the same as being with her!
It’s gotten a little bit better as he’s adapted to working from home, staying busy supporting his community, listening to music and playing his video games. Finishing his schooling online, it’s very frustrating; harder to focus. It’s just not the same! His family was able to afford and purchase a few pieces of workout equipment such as weights and an elliptical bike. But he said it’s still a bit harder to fall asleep or wake up in the morning. He attributes the difficulty of going to sleep to more screen time between work, chatting with friends and video games. For waking up, he thinks the motivation to get up and get going is missing. He doesn’t have to be at school, work, or some other appointment. Today is likely to be the same as yesterday and the day before that.
He said there are some positives. Learning to use online technology to reach out to those community members unwilling or unable to attend in-person events provides an additional way to serve his community. It’s given him time to reflect, think about his thoughts and future, instead of pushing them aside, because he was busy. He knows after this is over, he’s going to appreciate things more. Schooling, friends, work and life!
As always, I want to thank him for sharing his story with us. It’s not always easy to share your story. If you’re interested in sharing yours with me for the next article, you can contact me at email@example.com. Until then, be safe and stay healthy.