“We’re no longer forgotten voices, those overlooked few. We’re now part of the wider, ‘digital scene’ alongside everyone else”
BY EMMA FLINT. IMAGE BY J. FOEHNER
Being part of a community is an experience that allows many of us to feel connected to our peers and like-minded individuals. It gives us a chance to limit our sense of loneliness. Such communities can transcend boundaries, allowing us to feel part of something even when we’re physically unable to be included – perhaps even more so at the moment.
Unfortunately though, while digital togetherness is important, it doesn’t always help ease the exclusion you can feel when you’re far removed from the heart of the LGBTQI+ scene…
I’ve found that a lot of people have this false idea that because you’re “one of the community”, you don’t ever feel lonely or cut off – but that’s far from true. When you live in a more rural location, away from the (usual) hustle and bustle of the cities, the queer community that everyone believes you’re automatically a part of, suddenly feels incredibly distant. And, at times, altogether unreachable.
What makes this situation all the more difficult is that, by and large, most queer social or “entertainment” mediums portray the LGBTQI+ scene as one we’re all actively involved in — we’re always going out, have easy access to bars or clubs and all have a large circle of queer friends, and so on and so on. Basically, we’re never far from another queer person…
In reality, those safe spaces we long to be a part of are miles away, (if they exist at all) effectively leaving us isolated from those we feel at ease around. Even though some of us might have heterosexual friendship groups to come together with, there’s still this feeling of censoring yourself in order to fit in. You can’t talk to them about certain LGBTQI+ topics in the same way, because they simply aren’t able to see it from the perspective we as queer individuals do.
As a result, you suddenly find yourself simply not mentioning your partner when they talk about theirs; you don’t mention anything related to sex or kinks when they share their own experiences; you begin to shrink yourself to fit a mould you’ve desperately tried to break free of since childhood. It can be mentally exhausting – especially when you suffer from mental health issues that already impact on your life in various ways. To say we’re isolated isn’t a melodramatic opinion, it’s the truth.
In a bizarre turn of events, this sense of being alone has begun to affect all corners of our community, even those among us who once felt very much a part of it. Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, isolation from our communities is an even more pressing issue that many more of us are now struggling to come to terms with.
Those of us who once frequented wonderfully vibrant hangouts across the country, are now having to remain indoors – sometimes completely alone. There are now children, teens, and adults having to isolate with people they’re not comfortable with and/or able to be themselves around. They’re having to hide themselves. And even for those of us who are with someone safe, there’s still a great sense of loss at being unable to physically connect with others.
Joining the digital scene
Sadly, there’s no easy way out of this for the moment. We’re in a position totally unknown to us, one we’re uncertain of when it’ll end. In these times, there’s only the digital community to turn to in order to feel included and free to express ourselves. For those of us used to this “bittersweet” situation prior to COVID-19, we’re taking part much as we were before – yet there’s now a greater online community spirit because we’re all having to adapt. We’re no longer forgotten voices, those overlooked few. We are now part of the wider, “digital scene” alongside everyone else.
For those struggling, now is the time to seek out queer social media, to really embrace all that is LGBTQI+, and to get through this unusual situation together. It doesn’t mean that loneliness will cease to exist, however, perhaps it can be kept at bay… And, should you feel particularly vulnerable, make sure to contact services and helplines that can help you – being outside of the more day-to-day LGBTQI+ scene doesn’t mean you should suffer in silence.
Switchboard – the LGBTQI+ helpline – a place for calm words when you need them most, is available on 0300 330 0630, from 10am-10pm every day. If you’re looking for a welcoming, inclusive “digital scene”, join the newly created DIVA Community on Facebook now.
Like many businesses, DIVA has been hit hard by the economic impact of coronavirus and we need your help to keep the presses rolling throughout the pandemic. Visit our PayPal fundraising page and give what you can. Your support means the world.