Yesterday I canceled a trip to North Carolina I’ve been planning for the past six months with some dear friends with whom I’ve been close for 30 years to visit one in our group who is having a baby very soon. Even though I knew it was the right decision for me, making the choice to forego this time with some of my nearest and dearest affected me deeply (and somewhat surprisingly).
Two of my strongly held values were in direct conflict with each other: showing up in person for folks I love and doing my part to contribute to keeping our community safe. Late last night I realized I had spent much of the day feeling a lot of grief. Grief for the state of the world at this time; for folks who for many reasons, long before yesterday and for long after this present moment passes, are isolated from others the majority of their time (because of non-COVID-19 physical and/or mental health reasons, incarceration, “forced hospitalization”, immigration and borders, our lack of societal relationships to elders; and more); for the lack of leadership at the federal level; for the shifting reality we’re living in; for a changing climate; and more. And although I’ve been slowly preparing my family for the past few weeks for the eventuality of needing to stay home for extended periods of time, saying to loved ones that I was making the choice to not come see them made what is happening real for me in a very different way than it had been.
Yesterday felt like a convergence of a personal and community turning point. As waves of folks we work with canceled all kinds of things and as the impact of my own choices came into sharp relief against what still may feel optional for many folks.
The dissonance between intellectually knowing what needs doing at this time (contributing to flattening the curve), and watching myself do it was (is) difficult. And it’s what we must do, individually and collectively at this time. While also finding ways to hold each other as close as we can during this time. While also supporting each other through mutual aid efforts when we can, including connecting in ways that do not put folks at risk and/or make others of us vectors, contributing to the overwhelm of healthcare systems. The only way through this is through this together.
Of course, as rural LGBTQ people, we know what it means to rely on each other in times of on-going public health crises. Turning to legacies and current actions & strategies of brilliance, love, and care from folks who have been organizing around HIV/AIDS and harm reduction for decades can be so useful, all the time and at this particular time.
We are also holding joy and the need for finding it where we can at this time. As many of you know, Joy is one of our closely held organizational values and something we try to turn to in times of struggle as much as in times of levity. One bright spot in my day yesterday amidst tough choices was calling and talking to friends I usually just text. It helped me feel lightness to laugh with close people even while we were talking about how hard this all is. We’re going to try and help our community continue holding all of this at the same time. Sometimes we’ll find wild joyful success and sometimes we’ll find wild struggle, but we can find it together.
With all of this in mind, Out in the Open is going to be taking several steps over the next bit of time to balance both holding community close and keeping shared public health at the forefront:
Love each other, care for each other, love yourself, care for yourself, ask for and seek help when you need it, make choices to do your part now to contribute to keeping rates of spread down. We can do this.
With solidarity and love,
HB & Out in the Open