What does it mean to be gender nonconforming during a pandemic?

| Apr 6, 2020
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I’m writing these words at the beginning of April, just a couple of weeks into the COVID-19 world. I happened to be attending a conference in Washington, D.C., and while the people I encountered seemed hyper-vigilant about using hand sanitizer and avoiding personal contact, the reality of how deeply life was going to be upended didn’t hit me until the word swept through our plane heading home that the NBA was shutting down its season.

Things have progressed rapidly, with restaurants, bars, salons and other businesses in many locations being forced to close up shop or temporarily choosing to do so. Now millions of us are living in self-imposed isolation in an effort to contain the spread of this illness so it doesn’t completely overwhelm our health care systems.

So what about those of us who don’t fit into society’s norms? I’m seeing a lot of things unspooling, and most of them are not good.

We already know that transgender people are already far more likely to be unemployed underemployed, homeless or living in substandard housing. Even in places where such discrimination might be officially illegal, it’s still widespread, and it tends to spiral. One missed career opportunity leads to a gap in work history, and too often a quick spiral into poverty.

Now layer on top of that huge numbers of people suddenly losing whatever economic security they might have, and you’ll find more people wondering how they’ll buy food or make the next months’ rent.

Changing family and social dynamics are also, I fear, not good news for many of us. I’m especially thinking of those who are still in the closet due to fear of rejection. Sheltering in place is absolutely necessary to stop the spread of this virus, but it also means there’s literally no escape from people who might be indifferent or hostile to our identities.

More and more hospital systems are announcing the delay of “unnecessary” surgical procedures. Well, top and bottom surgery might not be the same as cutting out a cancerous tumor or replacing a leaky heart valve, but for someone who has waited years, and in many cases decades, for a procedure that will finally bring their mind and body into alignment, gender confirmation surgery can be lifesaving too.

Even as many of us are shut off from the world and a good share of the rest of us find our regular routines severely limited, the hatred from the larger world doesn’t stop. You might think the Idaho State Legislature would be focused on helping their citizens through the COVID-19 crisis. If you thought that, you would be wrong; instead, they passed two viciously anti-transgender bills into law, and their governor signed them just in time for Transgender Day of Visibility.

It’s a tough, tough time for almost everyone, but especially those who have been marginalized by society. But I have faith in my transgender family. You are survivors. You have not just endured you have thrived when life has thrown challenge after challenge your way. The pandemic of 2020 will be no different.

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Category: Transgender Opinion

Claire H.

About the Author ()

Claire Hall was born and grew up in a large city on the left coast and has spent most of her adult years in a beautiful small coastal community where she's now an elected official in local government after spending many years as a newspaper and radio reporter. In her space time she loves reading, writing fiction (her first novel was published by a regional press a couple of years ago), watching classic Hollywood movies, and walking.

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