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EMPATHY, HOPE AND QUEER JOY will help us all to step boldly into 2021

2020 has been a year like no other for so many reasons, and as we move into a new one, we must reflect on the things we’ve learned in order to help us through the next part of our journey.

All sorts of media outlets love to compile end of year lists, recaps, cultural high points and historic moments (including ourselves). As the queer paper of record, it’s vital that we document for posterity and reflect back to the community all that has happened across these 12 months.

In a year marked by many seismic global events, principally, the lived reality of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the learning from this for all of society has huge potential to change the world for the better.

You see, some of us LGBTQ+ folks have already lived through a pandemic- one that was sidelined and ignored due to ignorance, fear and outright discrimination. So we understand the need for solidarity, intersectionality and advocacy for fairness, equality and access to healthcare. It can be argued that the wider population of these times have never faced this type of challenge before, and certainly not on the scale we all did. Further proof of this lack of understanding is the continued closure of the GMHS (Gay Men’s Health Service), Ireland’s largest and only dedicated service for the sexual health of the LGBTQ+ community.

COVID-19 has caused bitter loss of life and showed up the inequality in our societies. In Ireland, older people, factory workers and people living in Direct Provision were amongst the populations that, in some eyes, were seen as dispensable, while in other countries, we saw the stark reality emerge that black and brown folks are disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

The pandemic had a ferocious ability to show up privilege for the first time in a way that was unavoidable. Folks that inhabit a minority know that often, privilege can be invisible to the privileged, but might I dare to suggest that one of the good things we can claim from this intense year is an unparalleled level of understanding of one another.

In a year that witnessed a global response to Coronavirus, an uprising of anti-racism in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, a decisive win for the safety of our planet with the ousting of Trump after one term and a game changing election here on home turf, we have been taught many lessons, most potently, that people have the power. That is a simple but provocative thought, and when you lean into it, it’s dizzying in its possibility.

Another lesson that this year of many lockdowns, restrictions and the efforts to stop the spread of the virus had provided is an unprecedented slowing down of the speed of our cultures, economies, our consumption, and with that, a growing knowledge and understanding of one another. Would the long overdue response to institutional and systemic racism in the United States have rippled across the globe so profoundly if not for the pandemic? I think not. The dizzying rate of our news cycle doesn’t usually allow for our attention to settle on one issue for very long.

This year allowed humans to access their empathy in a way that wasn’t so clear or accessible before. The wider public got a taste of what it feels like to be part of a community again and the power of that connectedness can only be for good. You see, what us queers have known for a long time, is that we are stronger together and we have more in common than what divides us. True equality isn’t assimilation, it’s an honest respect for people and a celebration of what makes us different.

For the LGBTQ+ community in Ireland this year, our BIPOC and trans families have suffered. There is much work still to do to make sure everyone is supported and allowed to be their authentic selves without fear of discrimination, hate and violence of death. The key ingredients that will propel us and nourish us on this journey are queer joy, and hope! That’s why team GCN has given over some of these precious pages in the last few months to folxs who dream up and document their queer utopias, because, as Oscar Wilde said, “A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realisation of Utopias.”

Happy New Year, dear readers.

*The Illustration by SOAK first appeared in a special zine ‘The North Is Next’, produced in collaboration with Dublin Fringe Festival and Outburst Arts Festival.

This article appears in the 366 Issue of GCN

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This article appears in the 366 Issue of GCN