As several countries are enforcing social distancing, the social media have been choked with netizens’ responses. Some people appear to be having fun staying, studying and working from home, with memes and posts showing how they cope with the crisis. Other appear more distressed by the effect of the social distancing. For extroverts who are used to going out and meeting with people, staying put at home could be a huge challenge.
I totally understand the need to stay home to control the pandemic, and I do my own part to slow down the spread of the virus. However, I can’t help but noticing some similarities between the current crisis and the experience I have had living as a queer person in a country hostile to people like me.
People’s reaction has particularly reminded me of the typical moral panic that has made the minority people the targets of condemnation, persecution and alienation, and this includes people of minority gender identity like me, a transgender person.
When I read and see how media depict COVID-19 patients with sensationalism, as if they had done something wrong, deep in my heart I recognized the moral panic all over again. When people talk about the challenges of social distancing, I know the feeling.
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Given that I am a trans-person of faith who still practices his religion, the challenge is much more powerful. Several times I have been kicked out of a prayer room and mosque because many still believe that Islam doesn’t accept a queer person. A Christian transman friend of mine told me once that he was also ignored in his church because he dresses like a male.
“A girl is supposed to wear feminine dress. A boy should wear masculine clothes,” they said.
Most people like me have been forced to live socially distanced from others. While I am one of the few privileged people to have a family that accepts me for who I really am, a lot of queer people all over the world are treated badly for who they are. I never got kicked out of home after I started transitioning as a male person, but many other transpeople could not say the same thing about their transitioning experience. But even if my family accepts me, I still have little acceptance to live the life that I want in society, much less in religious space.
That is why when seeing religious leaders harshly and provocatively accusing certain group of people as the cause of COVID-19 pandemic, the nuances of the condemnation remind me of how religious people point at people like me as the sign of the end of time.
Everytime there was an earthquake, or landslide, flood or other natural disasters, many would preach and share their personal hatred and queerphobia, claiming the disaster was a message from God for world that is too deviant, including people of gender and sexual minority as the causes of the disaster.
We queer people have been facing a lot of adversity and rejection from society, but the struggles have in many ways built our resilience. We have been taught–by our own experiences in dealing with anxiety and self-love, disappointment and self-satisfaction, failure and pride – how to survive this miserable life while still loving and accepting our own true identity.
So, yeah, we know how to stay away from all the viruses in life: patriarchy, toxic masculinity, stigma and prejudice, hatred and stereotypes. We know how to take care of ourselves, we know how to earnestly love ourselves, how to struggle with our true color, with or without social distancing. That’s a lifetime pathway that we don’t really choose, but we will not let our truth to lose.