Editor’s note: Covid-19 is revealing inequities of the U.S. Health Care System – especially for those who are already marginalized. For one Denver resident who transitioned gender a year ago and their partner, this pandemic brings new meaning to “community.” To “access.” To “equality.”
“Can you imagine if this crisis happened a year ago?”
We locked eyes and Alex responded with a long, painful exhale. “It would have been torture.”
Alex is my partner. Alex is non-binary, trans-masc, pronouns are They/Them/Their. They are one year into their transition.
Although this was a truth they had recognized for decades, only a year ago, Alex transitioned from AFAB (Assigned Female At Birth) to their truth at age 41. The year of their transition was filled with coming out to friends, family and co-workers. As their partner, I stayed by their side, and watched an almost daily act of courage as they introduced themselves to people who had known them for decades, “I go by Alex now, my pronouns are They, Them, Their.” Most people embraced Alex, even if they found themselves confused. Alex would get questions that were invasive and would answer as politely as possible without revealing the most private parts of their journey. Sometimes Alex was given a hand wave of, “Oh whatever – I don’t get pronouns.” No matter what challenges Alex faced – misgendering, walking into bathrooms, repeatedly hearing their dead name, questions, stares, questions, stares – they will tell you, the transition was life-saving.
When the shelter in place orders for Covid-19 happened, my mind went to LGTBQ youth. Some are humans in the midst of a transition who have lost access to their community support. Humans living in an unsupportive or unsafe environment, unable to be addressed with their name and gender. Limited or no access to mental health professionals or community centers to provide support. Loss of jobs and therefore medical resources that are imperative during a transition. Loss of security, potential loss of a home – with no family to return to. Potentially facing a job market where “Queer” is decidedly not welcome to apply.
Thankfully, Alex transitioned before the pandemic. Alex transitioned with a mental health professional. Alex transitioned with a job that provided a paycheck and provided health insurance. Alex transitioned and was able to get the care that was needed. Alex transitioned belonging to part of a community – in particular the drag community of Denver – where they were embraced and SEEN. Having that space saved Alex many, many times. Again my question: “Alex, what would this have been like to try and transition now? Because it wasn’t easy even with all the resources….”
“Kim, it would have been torture.”
If you are out there, searching for connection, praying to be seen, transitioning, questioning, or out for decades – remember our truth: You are never alone.
The COVID-19 crisis will disproportionately impact under-represented communities in both their health and job security, while also compounding longstanding racial disparities in health and economic conditions. And it is clear that many people of color and the LGTBQ Community – particularly youth, or of combined or different identities – are in need of extra support as the coronavirus crisis deepens.
As community members, how do we cope? What do we need to do for a better tomorrow? I reached out to some wise people I know for guidance. My hope is that their generosity of time and heart will help someone who needs kindness, compassion and hope right this minute.