How do we stay connected when we’re separated from the people we love?
For many of us, social distancing has created a total shift in how we live our lives. From the ways we eat our meals and spend time outside, to our newfound Zoom savviness and the surplus of “thinking” time we now have. So much change in the outside world can leave us feeling a little uneven in our inside world.
It’s an unprecedented time for all of us, which requires unprecedented ways to stay grounded, calm, and connected to ourselves and our loved ones.
While the world might feel a little off its axis right now, there are things you can do to feel safe in your own orbit, from the safety of your own room and in the company of those you care about most.
How to navigate social distancing
Per the recommendation of the CDC and official local and state orders, many of us are being forced to shelter in place at home, with limited to no contact with our friends, family members and chosen family due to the current COVID-19 outbreak.
Social distancing — or the practice of maintaining at least 6 feet from others in public and avoiding gathering in groups or in crowded places — requires distance. With so much newfound space in our lives comes room for fear, anxiety and uncertainty.
Recent Pew Research reports highlight significantly higher rates of anxiety during this pandemic, particularly for those who’ve been financially impacted. Chances are you’re not alone in feeling a heightened sense of fear or tension these past few weeks.
We’re all collectively sharing in what this writer called “a number of different griefs,” as the lives we knew before this pandemic continue to shift and change. Social distancing has affected just about everybody across the world. There are doctors who are quarantining in their garages away from their families, college students with canceled graduation ceremonies, and long, appropriately spaced-out lines snaking their way into grocery stores. It feels like a strange, isolating time filled with so much newfound, hollow space.
But we are, at our core, deeply communal animals — we find joy and shared purpose within each other. While we continue to respect the physical distance present in our lives to help flatten the curve and slow the spread of COVID-19, what are some ways we can nurture or find community across the divide?
Lessons from the QTPOC community
For me, I look to the QTPOC (queer & trans people of color) community — my community — for guidance in these isolating times.
When I first caught wind of California’s shelter-in-place order and heard Gov. Gavin Newsom’s call that “we have to meet this moment,” I felt a strange disparity in my chest. I knew that we needed to all practice responsible social distancing and isolate ourselves, but I also wanted to see and hold my queer friends closer — to meet them in this moment, too.
For many queer, trans and non-binary people of color, there’s really no such thing as “non-essential gathering.” Finding and nurturing your very own queer community can be as vital to your well-being as what many might consider “basic necessities.” To be seen and held by your community — particularly one that’s increasingly made to feel invisibilized — is akin to feeling safe, real, and truly at home.
QTPOC have always had to seek out creative ways to gather, to make safe havens out of what was available. While the present moment is certainly unprecedented in its scope, I find refuge in the imagination and collective gathering of the vast QTPOC community right now.
Take what queer therapist Christina Tesoro said about this moment we’re in: “What this situation is asking from a lot of us is the practice of sitting with uncertainty in what a friend of mine called ‘an incredibly liminal space.’ Things are in transition right now, and this is difficult for us. Luckily, I think queer folks have some lived and embodied experience with liminality.”
Folks who identify as QTPOC are, in some ways, more familiar than others when it comes to staying close together in times of prolonged, forced distance. Tesoro continued, “The binary is not for us, and never has been; we have always lived on the margins. And our reality was never safety or danger, but rather, finding a way to find joy even in a hazardous and unsafe world.”
For me, reminders that I can be spacious within myself during this time of restriction and isolation has helped me remember how much room I have for my community, albeit digitally, for now.
In queer poet CAConrad’s moving essay about life during the AIDS epidemic, they wrote, “Through the lens of our crisis, we were investing in the natural rhythm of our lives.” Finding ways to continually invest in the rhythm of our lives can feel like a scary, disorienting experience. But it’s never one we have to do alone.
How to stay connected
Staying connected looks different for everybody. Joining a trans book club, a weekly non-binary check-in, and signing up for a QTBIPOC speed dating event in a matter of weeks have all been welcome additions to my schedule as of late. And finding time for myself has been just as important, too.
If you’re looking for extra support, know that it isn’t far, regardless of how you identify. Two Chairs is offering video consult appointments to new clients, and you can find more info here. And if you’re looking for more ways to stay connected but aren’t sure where to start, here are a few ideas:
Create or join a weekly group
- You can choose to set some goals (or not!) about what you’d like to take place in it. Maybe it’s a casual weekly check-in, or a place to share small joys that each person felt that week, or a skill-share for favorite meals made. Feel free to be as structured or unstructured as you like with it — it’s yours.
Start a book or film club
- Toni Morrison once said, “Art reminds us that we belong here.” The moment is calling so many of us to seek refuge in art, and to find connectivity in what art can invite and inspire. Pick a book or a movie, invite some friends, and let artists make some of those connections for you.
Meet new people
- I know this one can seem especially bizarre, but a friend of mine is about to go on her third Zoom date with a new crush, so things are more possible than you’d think! Here are some other helpful ways to meet people.
Share activities without a goal in mind
- The idea that we all need to be extra productive or milk every moment of this time for usefulness is a myth. It’s okay to just get on the phone or video chat with friends or family and just be in accompaniment with each other as you go about an activity.
Take time to yourself
- This one might sound contrary to the idea of staying connected, but I think this purposefully slow time can help us connect to people we might not have always had time for: ourselves.
What’s to come
As many of us head into week 4, 5, or 6 of social distancing, know that there’s no right or wrong way to feel during this time. Finding ways to feel connected to your friends, family and loved ones might require a little more creativity and consideration than some of us are used to. But it’s important to know that you’re not alone, and that support is never too far. Whether it’s practicing a little extra self-kindness or finding a new therapist you connect with, Two Chairs is here to help you along the way.
For me, recognizing that I’m not alone as a queer, non-binary person of color is a reminder of how community has always been a salve and a portal to fuller, more imaginative futures. There’s a tomorrow we haven’t seen quite yet, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still there. We’re all going to get through this the way we always have — together — even though we’re apart, for now.
Photo courtesy of Jennelle Fong.
If you or someone you know is seeking mental health care, you can reach out to our Care Coordination team at [email protected] or by phone at (415) 202-5159.
If you or someone you know is experiencing an emergency or crisis and needs immediate help, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. Additional resources can be found here.