Updated: Nov 21, 2020
For most of us, social distancing in the wake of COVID-19 has been a dramatic shift from the hyper-connected lives we lead. If you work in an office, travel for business, or are used to a busy social life (or any social life), living in isolation has deleted parts of life you relied on for that basic sense of belonging – that you are part of something bigger than yourself.
If you’re like me, social isolation has its ups and downs. On one hand, I can appreciate the simplicity and a break from the overstimulation of modern life. But mostly, I miss the face to face connection with family, friends and clients that zoom sessions can’t quite fulfill.
For the past few years, I have been fortunate to work with Wilmington’s transgender community. For many in the community, the COVID-19 crisis is magnifying what already makes life hard. The isolated are more isolated than ever, the marginalized are more marginalized than ever.
However, the, “keep calm and carry on,” spirit needed by all of us during these long days is the resoluteness transgender people have always had to find a way to tap into. Unfortunately, the thick skin that I admire, stems from the overt and masked discrimination that goes hand and hand with exclusion.
I’m of the belief that all adversity we experience is an opportunity for learning and growth – a chance to look inside others’ realities and access real empathy and compassion. When we are considering the things we miss, try not to let this time pass without considering those whose freedom have been limited simply by their gender identity.
Think about how easy it is to go on a road trip and make a quick stop to use the restroom. What if that basic need was burdened by the possibility of stares and maybe a snide comment or even a threat? We long for the time when we can go out to eat at our favorite restaurant. The transgender community has a short list of restaurants in town they would even feel comfortable walking into. The internet has become our lifeline to the rest of the world recently, where trans people have always had to rely on internet communities for support.
Right now, many of us are feeling the strain of unemployment or its possibility. The trans community already has three times the rate of unemployment and trans people of color, four times. Many people in this country are dealing with an absence of health insurance and the bleak reality of health care disparity. Trans people have that, along with the fear of intentional or unintentional discrimination by medical professionals. However, it would be remiss of me not to mention there are practitioners in the area who are warm, welcoming, knowledgeable, and make it a priority to serve this community.
As I’m writing this, despite the all-too-familiar societal isolation experienced by transgender people, they continue to selflessly and proudly serve our community, state and nation. As a case in point, a member of our group and the local trans community, a major in the U.S. marines, is officially retiring May 31st after 24 years of service. Rachel enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1996 and did everything from mopping floors to flying attack helicopters. She advised foreign militaries, supported targeting operations, leading hundreds of Marines. She totaled 3.5 years and 6 deployments to combat zones all while carrying the burden of not being able to express her true self and excluded from mainstream society for this reason. She did this while having to abide by discriminating policies and retire knowing transgender people are now banned from serving in the military. However, she excelled at everything, climbing the ranks from the very bottom to upper management all while parenting two children along the way.
The humanity and spirit of togetherness I have seen from so many people all over the world during this time of uncertainty is the status quo in the trans community. The camaraderie and support within the group is unwavering and the muscle memory is there and prepared for isolation.
Maybe while we are all experiencing a moment of detachment, it is a chance for us to look to those who are often overlooked or excluded by our society. We should perhaps take the time to question why this exclusion of marginalized communities exists and what we can do to be more inclusive and less judgmental. While we are all trying to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, let’s recognize that some bootstraps are longer than others.
Coronavirus Resources for the Trans Community:
How LGBTQ People Can Get Help and Resources During Coronavirus, including LGBTQ health centers, mental health hotlines, and virtual community gatherings.
A way to advocate:
More than 100 LGBTQ organizations issued an open letter to health officials encouraging them to consider the unique needs of LGBTQ communities in their work to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
CenterLink, the network of LGBTQ community centers, has encouraged advocacy to assure that LGBTQ centers and other LGBTQ service providers are included in government initiatives and funding in response to the pandemic.
Practical and Legal Support:
TLDEF has prepared Know Your Rights guide for transgender and non-binary people who are grappling with questions related to employment, housing, health care, identification, and accessing assistance from government agencies among other issues. The guide is available in both English and Español.
The Tegan and Sara Foundation is offering grants of $500-$2000 to LGBTQ+ leaders and small nonprofits. They are offering up to $20,000 in this round of funding. Their goal is to fund projects meeting the immediate needs of those most affected, whether through making resources for the community available digitally, creating spaces online for art, positivity and conversation, and more
For the seasoned trans community
SAGE’s National Resource Center on LGBT Aging has provided tips and resources for LGBT elders
Equality NC is a partner and a great local organization that has a growing list of resources specific to North Carolina. Check it out here.
Kendall Tidey, LCSWA is a therapist at Stillpoint Counseling and Wellness and a passionate ally and advocate of the transgender community. Kendall also supports individuals with mood disorders, trauma, and chronic pain. “To be at home with myself” is a mantra Kendall shares with her clients by providing them the space, skills, and support they need to find peace.