As I covered in last year’s Holiday edition of “Out and About”, queer folx experience unique challenges during the holiday season. Coming home to family members who may not be supportive or even acknowledge your identity, not having a family to go home to, and financial strains due to lack of access and workplace discrimination all sting just a little bit more during the holiday season when mainstream society is reminding us just how wonderful this time of year is.
While there is undeniable coziness, nostalgia, dare I say, magic, associated with winter nights spent warm by the fire, watching the snow fall, this year is a tough one for just about everyone who is paying attention. COVID is raging. We gotta figure out how to safely share this season with the ones we love. We spent the better part of 2020 learning how to adapt to the challenges of navigating a pandemic. As the weather warmed up a bit, testing improved, and we learned more effective ways of slowing the spread (masks, distancing), many of us opened up our social circles.
I know for me, personally, after spending about three months completely quarantined with my partner Josh, save for a few trips to the grocery store, we were desperately in need of some social interaction. Being outside made a lot of this more possible, and I know many of us, myself included, enjoyed backyard hangs by the fire, socially distanced barbecues and trips to the style quarantine is distressing and downright depressing to a lot of us. The bottom line is, this keeps getting worse because people, mostly young, are not listening.
I truly believe health and wellbeing are the genesis for all the good work a person can do. If we aren’t healthy and well, it is very hard to make space and time to help others. As a community who is so blatantly underserved from a medical perspective, it is imperative queer folx do all we can to keep ourselves vibrant and healthy. Those of us who are young and full of life need to make sure we are respecting the science and doing our part to stop this spread. I get that folx find themselves in different places when it comes to our level of comfortability. Some of us are keeping very tight social pods, while others are housing “small” house parties of about twenty or so. We saw a lot of these around Halloween, and trust me, you’re talking to a gay who *loves* Halloween, but now we’re in a second surge, and the science is pointing to these gatherings as the culprit.
Even if you are only doing unmasked indoor gatherings with your friends who are also young and healthy, and you’re accepting the risk, please know that you are willfully putting other members of your community in danger. Every time you walk into the grocery store after your weekend party, you are a bigger risk to the elderly person picking up their prescription, or to the frontline worker with asthma. We need to radiate some compassion and self control.
It’s been a hard year. Many of us, myself very much included, have experienced an exacerbation of preexisting mental health issues, and others who have never struggled with depression/anxiety are saddling a new state of distress. We are getting closer to a vaccine, the light is at the end of the tunnel, but we have to hold out. As hard as it is, we need to keep our social gatherings small this holiday season, ideally to just the folks you’re already isolating with. If you are getting tested before going home for a holiday gathering, especially involving elderly relatives, you also have to isolate yourself between the time of your test and the gathering. It’s all extremely risky and uncertain and scary and we have to make decisions that work for all of us. Let’s just please put compassion and grace, the true hallmarks of the holiday season, at the forefront this year, so we can all show up to the table next year.
Giuliano D’Orazio (he/him pronouns) is a Worcester native, musician, music educator, active member of the local LGBTQ+ community, and a board member of Love Your Labels. Follow him on instagram @musicbygiuliano