The ‘look’ of contagion

On one of my daily walks during the lockdown a villager struck up a conversation (keeping the required distance) about how she felt like a leper during the lockdown because people were moving away from her and viewing her with something akin to suspicion, a fear of potential contamination. I empathised with her and went about my walk but it got me thinking…that ‘look’ she was describing is similar to something I have experienced most of my life.

As a non-binary, gender non-confirming individual I am all too familiar with that look. I experience looks of questioning, hostility, judgement, suspicion, derision, disgust on a daily basis. Whilst I’m aware it absolutely does have an impact, it’s so frequent it almost feels ‘normal’. What this person was describing was something that felt different (for them) during the restrictions. For me, it feels more like a deeper connection with society as I’m suddenly part of the ‘majority’. So strangely, it’s feeling more positive for me.

I count myself in a fortunate position during the lockdown. I have a home to go to; a place I consider my sanctuary – a place where it’s safe to simply be me. What about the people who have to be isolated or restricted living with those who do not accept, support, embrace or, even worse, deride those different to themselves? The isolation, the shame, the fear they will be facing will no doubt be difficult to comprehend by those who have never had to think about it before.

What about the people who are victims of domestic abuse? The terror and fear, knowing those small moments to escape have been removed during lockdown.

What about the people who have no home at all? With no shops, churches, pubs, restaurants open, there is virtually nowhere a homeless person can take refuge or go to the toilet. Basic needs simply not met; the humiliation of having to defecate in the street.

We all have our anxieties about COVID-19; some about contracting it, some more about the financial implication of contracts stopped or on hold, some the fear of the loss of loved ones. I’m aware of another group: those gloating that they have enough money, enough food in the freezer to last so they’re not only OK but enjoying seeing others suffer. Isn’t it interesting what this pandemic evokes in people?

Whatever your position, however you are impacted, I encourage us to look at the ‘how is this impacting me?’, ‘how can I help myself?’, and ‘how can I help my fellow human?’ to maintain a balance of self-care and appreciation for those in a different situation to ourselves.