Updated: Sep 17, 2021
Most humans require social interactions and closeness with others, even in minute ways, to help maintain a positive mentality and sense of community, and to counteract loneliness. Socializing can be difficult for many of us in the LGBTQ+ community, even when we don't have a highly infectious pandemic on our hands, and it can be especially difficult for single people. In the early autumn, before the start of the current Covid surge, we checked in with single LGBTQ+ community members about how their social lives have changed in the age of social distancing. Here are some of their responses.
Options: Did you learn anything interesting about yourself while trying to socialize during Covid?
Anonymous 40-something Lesbian: I am more talkative during Zoom calls than I am in person. I actually feel more comfortable and less anxious, especially with new people. I normally have a lot of social anxiety.
Arthur: I’m not antisocial, more of a homebody, and since I’m single... being told that we couldn’t go out made me want to! Isn’t that crazy?
Thea: Outside of lockdown times, I am quite comfortable at home alone. But when they tell me to stay home… let me out of here! My Inner Brat came out.
Options: Have you had any difficulties following Rhode Island’s social distancing guidelines?
Anonymous: I think I did pretty well sticking to the guidelines overall. The mask wearing is what I have struggled with the most. I often forget it in the car when I go to the grocery store and have to go back to my car and get it. Even when I pull my mask down to take a drink, I often forget to put it back up. This is not at all because I do not think that people should wear them.
Arthur: Up until recently I worked at a nursing home where we had to wear masks all day, take our temps twice, [but we] couldn’t really keep six feet apart in the kitchen.
Thea: I have adhered to state guidelines, but I cannot count the number of times that I left my car without a mask, walked to my destination, froze, swore under my breath, and marched back to the car for my mask.
Options: Did you meet anyone new during Covid, and will you continue the relationship once restrictions are relaxed?
Anonymous: I made some new friends from a lesbian group out of Boston. A couple of them [turned out to be] an ex’s friends, which added some extra laughs. I thought I needed to say all nice things about [my ex], but they encouraged me to be honest. LOL! We had some commonalities around the qualities that we found unbecoming. I just saw them [at an outdoor gathering] last night and we were all safe, social distancing with masks. I will continue to see them. I also have done some online dating, but have not met anyone in person yet.
Arthur: I met a few guys on meet-up apps. I knew I was negative because they were testing us at work. I would just take the other person’s word as to their status. These were mostly hookups. I don’t imagine I’ll maintain relationships with them, even after guidelines are down. If I were to test positive after meeting up with someone, I’m not sure I could provide their contact info to get in touch with them.
Thea: I’m only willing to do some chatting online for now. I have a friend who knows that her relationship is Covid-fueled and probably wouldn't have gone the way it has without pandemic desperation. I don't want to do that – but dream about skin all the time! Trying to imagine safe touch. Straight-armed gloved hand-holding? Back-to-back arm-locked hugs? It's going to be like a bad game of Twister!
Other responses emphasized that online platforms are being utilized to talk with loved ones, create birthday videos, and to share meals, laughter, and tears. But the challenge of social distancing also meant that our single responders were more likely to take time to enjoy their own space, explore nature, or organize socially safe hiking expeditions. Even a stressful activity during normal times such as moving into a new apartment was reported as being funny due to the bizarre pathway it became for sharing experiences. Taking life with humor and lightheartedness can definitely make things easier.
Time has slowed down for many of us during the pandemic, giving people the ability to assess the important things in their lives. I have found that I am now more particular about how I spend my social time, choosing dance classes outside and reflective walks in nature as a means to stay mentally and physically healthy while connected to my community. Whatever your choice on how to socialize during the pandemic, be safe and be kind. Special thanks go out to all who responded to my questionnaire, enabling me to write this article.