How are you doing? That’s a question that I’ve been asking a lot lately, and one that carries more weight than usual. Some of us are trying to balance full-time remote work with caring for our children full-time as well. Some of us are out of work and stressed about how we’re going to pay our bills. Some of us are small business owners who have had to close. Some of us are battling the isolation of being quarantined alone, or the fear of being quarantined in places that are not safe. Some of us are sick or afraid that we’ll get sick. Some of us are still going to work every day caring for those who are sick, growing and preparing our food, and collecting our trash.
In addition to our specific stresses, collectively we are all dealing with the stress and anxiety of something few of us have experienced before - a society shutting down to try to stop the spread of something that we cannot see and do not fully understand. It is bringing out both the best and the worst in our elected leaders, in our neighbors, and in ourselves. And it is exposing the ways that our society is continuing to fail those who are most vulnerable among us - something that we must change.
I have been reflecting on what it means for the Center to be here for LGBTQ+ people, even while our physical space is closed. Being here for you now means seeing your faces or hearing your voices virtually instead of in-person for our weekly groups. Being here for you now means making individual phone calls to check in and see how you’re doing. Being here for you now means coordinating a virtual community network on Slack where community members can share what you need or what you can give.
As we have shifted and changed how we do our work to continue to be here for you, our community members, I have been so encouraged to see the many ways that you are showing up to be here with us. Brand-new participants are joining our virtual groups, now that transportation is not an issue, to be here with us. People are sharing information and tangible resources via our Slack network. Generous donors are giving extra during this time to support our ongoing work. We are building community, and being community, and I am so encouraged.
Part of how we’re here for you, and how you can be here with us, is recognizing that while all of us are experiencing this pandemic, how it impacts us is very different depending on many factors - including our race and ethnicity, our income level and job status, our age and health conditions. As we come together to support one another in getting through this, we must be clear that our intersecting identities matter - and have very real implications on our health, our well-being, and our very lives.
We have seen both the unabashed racism against Asian-Americans that has accompanied this virus - and the insidious health disparities that are being magnified by it, causing greater numbers of black and brown people to die. We have seen millions of people lose their jobs and their healthcare coverage, creating a huge demand on unemployment benefits and food banks as people who don’t have a safety net struggle to survive. We have seen people who are incarcerated or detained trapped in our prisons, jails, and detention centers with no way to protect themselves from this virus.
In the face of these gross injustices, being here for you and inviting you to be here with us necessitates that we are being in solidarity together with those among us who are most marginalized. It means not only picking up groceries for a neighbor, but also picking up the phone to call Governor Wolf to ask what his comprehensive plan is to protect people who are incarcerated or detained from the spread of COVID-19. It means not only checking in on family or friends who are struggling, but also checking racism whenever we see it or hear it. It means not only investing in organizations meeting immediate needs, but also investing in those who are organizing to change our systems.
It would be a great tragedy if, when we are allowed to leave our homes, congregate with one another, and open our businesses again, we all go back to the way things were before. We need radical changes to our systems that have been built to benefit only a few, and which continue to marginalize so many. These systems are not broken - they are doing exactly what they were designed to do. We need to create something new, build something different that is equitable, just, and accessible for ALL people - and that centers those who are most marginalized.
We don’t have to wait until things return to “normal” - this work starts now, and each one of us has an important role to play. The LGBT Center is here for you, and I invite you to be here with us. Organize and advocate with us, protest and create with us, build and thrive with us. Be here with us.