(Intro quotes set to Simona Castricum’s The Half Light) Darcy: Welcome to Transdemic: Trans and Gender Diverse Experiences of the Global Pandemic. Sandy: Online was my lifeline. Emma: I was full of hope and excitement and then COVID happened. Yves: Life is easier to be by myself Roz: God, twitter is the scourge of society Nate: My car was looking like a good place to live. Randos: What the pandemic has done is really tease out what's important and what's not important. Gemma: We are recording this episode on the stolen land of the Wurundjeri and Boon wurrung people of the Kulin nation. We pay our respects to their elders past, present and emerging. Sovereignty was never ceded. This always was, and always will be Aboriginal land. We’d like to particularly acknowledge any brotherboys or sistergirls who are listening, and the work of Black Rainbow, the national advocacy platform and touchpoint for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer, Transgender, and Intersex people. Head to http://www.blackrainbow.org.au/donate/ to donate. Gemma: We would like to acknowledge the support of our gold partner, Drummond Street Services’ Queerspace, who provide counselling and peer support for LGBTIQ+ people, and professional development for organisations who work with LGBTIQ + people and their families. Queerspace is also the proud home to some of Victoria’s leading LGBTIQ+ community advocacy groups including Transgender Victoria, Parents of Gender Diverse Children and Rainbow Families Victoria. Contact 03 9663 6733 or head to queerspace.org.au to find out more. Darcy: We’d also like to thank Maribyrnong City Council’s “together apart rapid relief fund” for their support. Sam: Just a note before we start: this episode contains references to mental health issues, suicide and difficulties accessing gender affirming healthcare issues that some of our listeners might find distressing. If you need support, contact Qlife on 1800 184 627 or lifeline on 13 11 14. Sam: Welcome to Episode three of our four part series: Life Under Lockdown. Gemma: But first, some quick introductions. I'm Gemma Cafarella, I'm a cisgender woman, a radio presenter and podcaster. And I'm also a community lawyer. I live in the western suburbs of Melbourne, Sam: My name is Sam Elkin, and I am a trans masculine writer, podcaster and community lawyer living in Melbourne. Darcy: My name is Darcy I'm a trans masculine person working as a doctor in rural hospitals. Social Isolation Sam: So, life under lockdown, it’s been a massive change from what things we like this time last year. Gemma: Yeah with the notion of lockdown, really the first thing that comes to mind is how quickly we’ve had to adapt to a world in which lockdown means something. It’s a word we throw around pretty frequently, and we’ve had to adapt to too... basically this whole new world. Like I was thinking, what is a lockdown? What did it mean to me pre-COVID? If I am being honest it meant something that happened in a prison when there was a big incident or a big threat. That’s the limit of what I would’ve thought of when I thought of a lockdown. But now it’s just something that as of March it’s something that we’ve come quite accustomed to and we’ve become used to having our freedoms curtailed, and quite significantly limited. Sam: Yeah I remember when the pandemic first started there were some advocates that were like “Woooh, what is going on? Why is everyone giving up their civil liberties so easily without a fight?” And it is a really interesting question, curtailing people’s rights and liberty’s in order to control a massive health risk to all of us. Where are the lines and what are the limits? And I think we can tell when they’ve gone too far. Like I think they went too far with the public housing towers (nervous laugh) in North Melbourne, I think a lot of people in the community agree with that, but then, you know a lot of people don’t as well, so it is really a contested space. Gemma: And I think one of the things that must be acknowledged from the outset is that the pandemic has been experiences differently by minority communities, that has been racialized and classed based policing of the lockdown, as we discussed in the last episode. Sam: And there’s a lot of other new terms that we’ve had to get used to in 2020, like social distancing, what does that mean? I would of thought it meant some sort of introverts manual to become… less of a weirdo? Gemma (laughing): Sam identifies as an introvert, and that is not Sam having a go at introverts. Yeah there’s all these new terms, some of which are just very wrong, like social distancing. It’s not social distancing, it’s clearly physical distancing, staying away from each other so we don’t all infect and kill each other. It’s not about socially moving away. Sam: But it has to be said that the restrictions have had a huge impact on some people’s social and emotional wellbeing, and that’s what we are really going to focus on in this episode. Gemma: It really can’t be overstated how upset people have been during the COVID-19 pandemic, how upset they’ve been by the social isolation. This is what Emma from Sydney, had to say. Emma: If I tried to explain how isolated I felt during this period to myself six months ago, I would have thought, oh my god, you histrionic winter, how ridiculous. I felt so alone despite being surrounded by really great people just felt, yeah, as isolated as I can possibly imagine exists, which is histrionic. Yeah. That's how I felt. Media Gemma: Emma also talked about the impact of following the news on her mental health. Emma: Yeah, the media perish about stuff that we can feel anxious about everyone should be feeling anxious about. I overdosed on that real early. I got my nerd on really early about COVID and found myself shouting organizations that was related to about how they needed to lock down. Bridges Am I work teaching Britain with British organisations and bridges a game where people pass petri dishes around the room and most of them are over 70 and they sit they breathing on each other for hours at a time and the organizations I was working with relax, lead in in moving forward to stop having live broadcasts basically, really into it really early like campaigning and talking to people about shutting things down. And by the time sort of three weeks into lockdown it come along, I I just stopped reading the news, like literally turned it off. I was an overdose. So early on, I went crazy with all the information because I got involved in all that stuff. And afterwards I kind of turned Off the anxiety machine, aka the news. And what I was doing on the internet instead was finding trans spaces places where trans people were sharing stuff about their experience grew a little I guess I found a little community on there, which made me kind of happy but over the last few weeks with what's going on in the USA, and hopefully what's going on around the world in terms of some social change around racism, in particular, in reading a bit of news again, and now instead of feeling anxious like I did with COVID I'm like full of anger and hyped up and ready to go. I guess in order of events media out there has made me first of all anxious when COVID started, then comforted and held when I started engaging with trans folk online, and now angry. Is that three little little buttons you can press on Facebook is there an anxious face Gemma: My experience of that was at work, I feel like my colleagues were trying to cope by sharing every single detail of every other service and how they were dealing with the pandemic, when all I wanted to do was just bury myself in work, and I just absolutely couldn’t. Darcy what were your first experiences of lockdown? Darcy: I loved it. I loved having an excuese to just stay at home and not do anything. Now I really, really want to go out dancing, but yeah, obviously not an option. Sam: I remember there were reports of illegal rave parties in Germany somewhere at the beginning of the pandemic, and I was like, oh you couldn’t pay me to go to a rave right now, I am so glad those days are behind us! Darcy: (laughs) Gemma: The other thing that I really remember about the beginning of lockdown is while living with Sam, Sam would just find anyway to weave into conversation just how much they were loving the lockdown and how much they felt that life had gotten immeasurably better, and I as an extrovert was having a really, really hard time, and I felt like Sam was just rubbing salt in the wounds. Sam: I got really into historical accounts of the pandemic, I read a diary of the plague year by Daniel Defoe, and I really got into accounts of the Spanish Flu, so I really wasn’t into the social media stuff so much of what’s going on in the hear and now. But to be honest, I couldn’t find that many people to talk to about it. Gemma: (laughing) what you couldn’t find a whole bevvy of people who wanted to talk about the Spanish flu with you? Sam: That’s right, that’s the thing about social media. Everyone just wants to talk about the latest outrage of what someone said on the internet. No one wants to talk about the historical experiences or Daniel Defoe’s accounts of the life of a saddler in the pandemic in London, do they? Social Media
Gemma: That’s a great segue Sam, let’s talk about social media during COVID-19, Sam how have you found it? Sam: Well I’ve been trying to find social media from the other side, you know how you’re meant to be in your own social media bubble now, and you know there’s the algorithms where you only see the content you already agree with, so I’ve become quite interested in looking at American conspiracy theory memes of COVID-19 not being really real and stuff like that. So yeah I think social media has gotten really weird, and I think it’s a tool that’s going to descend us into fascism. I know that’s an unpopular view… Gemma: I think one of the other outcomes of the pandemic is that people have more time to be on social media and people are also feeling a bit more anxious and upset, and I think that there’s been a few more social media pile-ons lately, particularly on twitter. Sam: This is Roz from Archer magazine had to say… Roz: The internet for me has been more of a way to connect and even like to self serve it ever has before and ever since the internet was created when I was like, I don't know, yes, every year, right. I've been like pretty obsessed with it. And I did like my honors thesis on it on queer people on the internet. And it's always been something that I've been like interested in as a topic, but also how it's played out in my life. For me, one of the main ways has been through Twitter. And even though like so much of the time when I'm telling my partner something from Twitter, she's like, God, Twitter is the scourge of society, get off Twitter. It's terrible. And I'm just like, No. and No matter how bad things get on there, like there's just something that keeps me coming back. And I've made like Twitter friends and have like great conversations in the DMS that like, keep me laughing no matter what else is going on. And so I think for me, like it's been a wonderful way to find community, even things like people's Twitter BIOS, and like the details they choose to put in there and Not it makes it like so easy to find trans and gender diverse people and connect with them. I think at certain points, like, even if I'm like, in a bad mood or upset or feeling down, it's just like being away to like, I don't know, it's like this, like confidence support, but also like validation there. Because I think a lot of us who are like Twitter obsessed, we tend to do a lot of oversharing and then we get a lot of validation back like, Oh, don't worry, no, no, I do that all the time. And so that has been like just something that's kept me going like very consistently throughout Sam: Gemma, you mentioned that there were a few twitter pile ons, possibly because people have more time on their hands, have you been trolling online in the wee hours? Gemma: I haven’t, I was actually the subject of a twitter pile on. I posted something about a quite prominent twitter user who is quite prolific in the Australian politics hash tags, and who is a prominent academic and also a trans exclusionary radical feminist. And I just posted about that fact, and was then the subject of a quite extraordinary twitter pile on, so yeah, that was my experience. Which was pretty upsetting, given that there are a lot of other things going on to be worried about, namely whether me or my family is going to get COVID. So yeah I’ve been a bit more cautious about what I post on twitter online ever since. Sam: Well I’m not really a twitter user, but I do use facebook quite a bit for The Shed, which is a trans masculine peer support group, and it really is genuinely one of the best things on the internet for me. You know people generally ask the same questions over and over again, like where can I get hormones, what’s the deal with microdosing, and can how much does chest surgery cost and can It get it right now, so yeah I think a lot of people in the trans and gender diverse community use the internet for that important social support. Sam: This is Kat, a user experience web designer from Geelong, who we first met in Episode 1 had to say. Kat: It's been amazing. So uh I don't know if you're like me, I find a lot of trans people have a similar experience to me, especially who are in my like kind of age group, who might have grown up a little bit with the internet, jumped on super early and we might have gotten involved in Myspace or LiveJournal, or even more recently Tumblr and found access to those little communities. Like, I myself was superduper into an Avril Levine forum when I was younger. I mean that- that's not necessarily a community, but found community in that. So, I definitely look towards communities online a lot more and it was easier for me to find those online. So there was definitely heaps out there and being able to realise that ah different communities sort of spring up in different social media worlds. I mean, there's different types of Twitter, there's design Twitter. I mean, people have heard of Tumblr and the different communities that are inside of Tumblr. And that's really interesting too um, that's where I was exposed to the world of the gender spectrum and the fact that I didn't necessarily have to be a man or a woman. Um and I wasn't necessarily either and there was a space for that too. So digital communities have been amazing for me and I always try to talk about them and elevate them, encourage other people to get involved in them. Um and as toxic as some online communities can be, they are also a really, really great place to connect with others and find safety and community as well. Darcy: Lore and Darcy talked about their social media use to interact with LGBTIQ communities during the lockdown…. Lore: I was already in a few groups on through Facebook. And I tend to use those fairly often anyway because it's convenient and I don't know a huge amount of trans or Ace people in person, although that's improving, which is fantastic. But I have definitely reached out to those groups and to social media much more often. Darcy W-R: If this was happening in a pre-internet time, the experience would be much more difficult particularly for those of us who are marginalised. Sam: Yeah so can you imagine a COVID-19 world without the internet? This is what Daniel Defoe’s book Diary of a Plague Year is all about, like they didn’t have the internet, they just sat around playing cards. And they were literally shut in, you know the government, comes with boards and shuts up your doors, and write something on your door that said something like “Blessed are the damned” or something like that. And there would be someone who stood out the front of your door, and they would be tasked with getting you more food or whatever. And if you tried to sneak out, they were allowed to kill you… Darcy: Kill!? Sam: Yeah kill. Darcy: A bit like what’s going on with the towers. Sam: Yes, and those people out the front were called the watchmen, which is like that movie The Watchmen, I think they were riffing on that idea. And they could get bribed by rich city folk who wanted to escape to the country, which is like, pretty much what’s going on now too. Gemma: Which is not to say that people didn’t get sick of the internet. Sam: This is what Roz had to say about trying to organise some of their neighbours on the internet. Roz: So I made this comment that maybe that would be helpful just to get like even the email address or contact number for people on the street and put it together. And one of the neighbors got really worked up and said, as long as you don't make another social media group like, I will not be part of even one more whatsapp group or one more Facebook Messenger group, getting messages about things, even if it is the community and even if it's like essential services, and at the time, I was just like, oh, okay, sorry. But then, I guess later, I'm almost at that state of like, there's so many groups and so many things going on at once that I now understand that a little bit better. Sam: Gemma have you gotten sick of the internet yet? Gemma: I’ve had a complicated relationship with the internet. It was quite remarkable how all these big courses were suddenly available, and it was unfortunate because I didn’t feel in a mood to utilize that at the time, and it was frustrating to see all that institutional knowledge that is usually locked away behind an expensive paywall. Darcy: Jinghua and Roz talked about accessing the queer scene online… Jinghua: It was like, quite a different use of the internet, especially during the first part of the lockdown when I think it was still a little bit novel to be, you know, like, I think I was more enthusiastic about it at the beginning and I was like going to, you know, these like queer parties on zoom that were hosted in, you know, like Toronto or wherever, you know, but just people all over the world in places where where it was their nighttime, right so turning out to his queer parties in like London or Toronto or wherever, when it was actually like 2pm or something and I was like eating my lunch or my breakfast. Went to a couple of parties club quarantine and booster collective I think which is like BIOS for us which is I think like a people of color like club night basically on the zoom and they were great you know it was a real good feeling and even just like the chat in all these spaces being like kind of pervy, and I would be in, you know, like my flannel pajamas or whatever, but like people really dressed up for that stuff. And so you'd be seeing these people like in their cute like club outfits like twerking on camera. Roz: Yeah, I really liked it. I kind of engaged a bit too much at one point, I was like, Okay, I have to pull back now. And my partner and I realized we were socializing so much more than we normally do. And it just kind of got to be a bit too much like it got to the point where even something that sounded quite fun. It was really like, Oh, God, can I do my fourth zoom or whatever today? I think one thing that stood out to me maybe was sometimes like feeling in the community. I'm not sure where my place in it is. Exactly. And so my participation is a lot of it is online, like through social media, or like through the editing that I do it Archer and I have a lot of contact with different people, but less of the social side, just because I'm not a huge person for nightlife and drinking drugs, any of that stuff. I've really enjoyed the opportunity to socialize in a way that doesn't involve those things in that way. As an example, the queer community that I fit into is quite involved, the club scene and unicorns, parties and all those kinds of things. To me, it just sort of like That whole thing makes me kind of nervous in that sense. I remember saying at one point during the pandemic, I feel guilty saying it but that I kind of loved that everyone was stuck at home in a way because I got to engage with people where I normally just think our ways of like socializing and going out are just too different and not compatible. And it found like it made a lot of like very extroverted people that kind of against their will have to socialize from home. And so in that way, it kind of worked quite well for me. Sam: Cedar mentioned queer and trans events being online instead of in-person easier to attend. Cedar: Because so many things are online, like some of the things that I might have been to socially anxious to kind of go to, um sort of poetry events or performance events, queer things like that, like, I have gone to more of? Being able to kind of join something on Zoom and turn my camera off or like join a live stream has felt kind of something that I- yeah can sort of participate in more without feeling- having to kind of gear myself up for that sort of social interaction and being in this public space being perceived and stuff like that. Gemma: Yves explained that peer support online for trans communities was going well too. Yves: Darcy: Jax talked more about the unexpected benefits of more accessible spaces for some during COVID-19…. Jax: Yeah, I mean, for me personally, as a queer wheelchair user, um it's broken down some of those barriers in terms of attendance. Because you know a lot- a lot of our fabulous queer parties are up a flight of stairs in a dark room because that's where we can get cheap rent and- and that's where we can find each other and find ourselves and have that hot pash on Saturday night. But that's- that's not what- where I've been able to find access to my community. So having online, you know, gigs or events, even with a screaming toddler when I'm on mute, has kind of allowed me to have a greater access to community. But that's only with my particular impairments. Like I would say, for queer Deaf people, you know, when there's no Auslan interpreter or live captioning, what's their access like to free community now? What's the access of somebody who's got an intellectual or cognitive disability? Or who lives in a group home where those places routinely don't have internet access or phone access in the very homes people live in. So for those LGBTIQ people with disabilities, they have been totally shut out of their access to their community that they might have fought really hard to have in their NDIS plans or with people supporting them in their lives. Darcy: Some people find online communication hard, and it’s made it harder for them to access their community… Emma: I have social anxiety and in particular, like anxiety around conversational pragmatics and interacting with people in digital forms that is doubled and tripled. Yeah. So in a face to face conversation, the pragmatics going on that give me the ability to feel confident and comfortable with the person with other gesticulations and their facial expressions and subtle tone of their voice intonation and all the things that you absorb. When you're face to face with someone that you don't absorb in a digital format. You get a little bit of it if you're on a video chat. I think everyone who's tried to have a zoom meeting for work is like the limitations. I feel that really immensely I glean a lot from the physicality of humans in my space and whether what our conversations doing and whether it's okay, physical presence makes it much better for me. Gemma: Simona also mentioned the limitations of online socializing. Simona: Essentially those- particularly things like Zoom parties or, you know, Zoom meetups, they're all about invitation. You know, and if you're not in the- in the group of five friends or the group of 10 friends for the Zoom party, then you know, you- it's not like you can just like, you know, walk in- walk into the bar and participate in that sense. It's not like just walking onto a dance floor and letting spontaneity take its course you know, You know, you're literally kind of left lying on your bed staring at the ceiling. So- and that's a pretty- pretty drab picture to paint, if that's what you were doing before COVID anyway. So I worry about that. It's interesting, if I was going to the local shopping center, you know, in the early stages when I, you know, got the mask on and, you know, wearing whatever I'm usually wearing and- but as a trans feminine person passing through public space, uh, it's really important. Yes, sometimes in order for me to get through public space, I've got to be rocking so- a look, you know, I've got to be rocking some lipstick or whatever and I want to do that a) because that's the look I want to rock, but 2) sometimes, like, you know, like wearing some makeup and wearing some lipstick might be the difference between um being in a public toilet or being in a public space um and having someone not do the bathroom panic on me. You know? So when you're having to really cover up, when you're wearing a mask, when you're wearing all of this stuff, which was happening early in the piece, I was just like really concerned about people just reading my body shape, reading my height, reading my size and reading me as- as- as a man or reading me as masculine. So I found that a little bit stressful to start off with, you know? I was like, I was at the deli and I like took off my mask to like order some- some food. And she was like, 'Ah, I really like your lipstick. It's a really beautiful color of pink.' I'm like, 'Ah, thank you.' I was just like, um yeah, then I had to put my mask back on and it was just like, ah you know. You know I really rely on um my expression of my- my gender and also my expression of my sexuality I think too. And- and COVID just sort of, you know, sort of took- took- took that away for a little while, which I found a little bit disempowering. Sam: One thing that I found really interesting is the different ways that people felt stifled or freer to express their gender during COVID-19… Emma: this is huge. If someone had tried to explain this to me before I noticed I was trans, I would have sort of shook my head and tried to understand but not got it. Like the process that I imagined and experienced for a really short time before COVID was dressing up femme and going somewhere. And in that somewhere, I mean, the inner west of Sydney, so there's lots of queers around and in that somewhere, I would get validation from all the people around me about what I was doing and how I was expressing myself. And that just helped me step by step to feel okay about who I was becoming with COVID that just doesn't exist. There's going up to the shops, but the shops are dead. There's going down to the cafe, getting a takeaway, but you can't sit in there and mingle with the staff that you love, and have a chat to the other customers. And if you do this, like this nervous social isolating that everyone's doing or distancing that everyone's doing it For baby trend, some of that feels like they're distancing because they think I'm freaky or weird. And I know that's not something that would worry me if I had validation pouring in from other spaces. But that validation doesn't exist because we're also locked down and everyone's hiding at home. That lack of humans on the street in places going to places is a lack of a resource that I think is really important for me and I've struggled with that. I Only got to participate in the kind of queer world that made me feel safe. I mean, I've been queer for a long, long time, but I have not had an identity in that queer space that I felt was right. And in a couple of months before COVID I really loved that space, the queer out party experience, and there's a bunch of those places that I feel nervous, never going to be the same or won't exist, or Yeah, I feel exactly that anxiety that that joy might not exist again. Sam: On the other hand, Cedar felt freer… Cedar: I felt like leaving the house and like figuring out like what to wear is like a struggle a lot of the time. Um and I'll kind of like go through lots of different outfits and kind of like, I don't know, be upset and then leave the house and feel really uncomfortable all day and like watch people perceiving me or like see people perceiving me um and be really kind of preoccupied with that? And that's sort of like been a big part of the way that I interact with social space or space. And so I feel like not having that and having my interactions online um or on- over the phone mostly has been quite freeing or good in terms of that sort of thing? Sam: And it was interesting to hear how established queer groups managed moving online. Cedar: I am part of the Melbourne Gay and Lesbian Chorus. And um it's like queer choir times. And that's been-they've been sort of keeping going during the pandemic. So I feel like that's been another space that like- that I've been interacting with weekly that- I was before, I'd just joined it, I'd been for like a month in person and- but that's been sort of- we have like choir every week and then there's sort of social catch ups through that as well. And so I've felt quite connected to that space. And like obviously they've sort of been going through trying to work out how best to use that online space, especially there's a lot of older people in the choir who- um I think getting everyone to participate in the platform and stuff like that has been something that they've been working on. But like, yeah, I've definitely found that I have felt connected to different arts and culture things in a similar way, even maybe more so than I was engaging with just before the pandemic. Gemma: Roz talked about the way the distance between people living interstate broke down during lockdown… Roz: So some of my friends organised a catch up like every Saturday night and we- we participated in it. And they live in a different state. And so it was really nice, like we reconnected with them, kind of like we're back in each other's lives in a way that we hadn't been able to do properly for a long time. And then like the second that state went out of lockdown we like- we stopped doing these but there wasn't even any discussion about it. We just like- no one mentioned it ever again. And like on one level, I felt relieved because it was like every Saturday night we're having to jump on Zoom and do this long thing. Um but on another it was like, 'Oh okay, so like things like that really are just going to go straight back.' And those friends like went straight back to going out as much as they could and that kind of thing. Darcy: But while it was easier than ever for many people to connect overseas, it could also be really difficult to provide meaningful support. Jinghua I think once lockdown started, um it was interesting to me that it sort of both narrowed distances and- and changed our perceptions of space because everyone felt kind of equally distant from each other. So, yeah, I have been in contact with people overseas more so than I would be normally. I was sort of in contact with everyone the same way through video chat and text and email and whatever else. Darcy W-R Honestly, it is really hard at the moment with being in touch with my spouse overseas. Their situation is a lot more precarious than mine. So their- their living situation is quite precarious and their access to technology in order to be able to actually talk to me is on and off. They've also gone through some issues with violent housemates during the time so that's been really challenging. It's been really hard being here and not being able to support them beyond sending them some money when I'm able to and chatting to them and stuff and having this- these incredibly like glitchy and fragmented video conversations. Sam: Darcy W-R also talked about the impact of COVID-19 on romance and dating. Darcy W-R Honestly, it is really hard at the moment with being in touch with my spouse overseas. Their situation is a lot more precarious than mine. So their- their living situation is quite precarious and their access to technology in order to be able to actually talk to me is on and off. They've also gone through some issues with violent housemates during the time so that's been really challenging. It's been really hard being here and not being able to support them beyond sending them some money when I'm able to and chatting to them and stuff and having this- these incredibly like glitchy and fragmented video conversations. Gemma: Lore, who were first met in episode 1, also talked about dating during COVID-19.. Lore: Online dating, which is a whole other thing, being a ace person. But that's kind of- that's become more active because people have been wanting and seeking connection in general. And their website actually sort of suggested, 'Oh, do you want to open up to the entire world? Since everyone's at home at the moment anyway, you might as well.' Um so that was kind of cool to have some conversations with people from like Istanbul and different countries. And I- I did meet one person because they happen to live in the same suburb so we went for a walk which- which was cool. Weird, but cool. But that's, I mean, I- yeah, meeting in person, I find anxiety stuff anyway. But it was good, all that considered. But yeah, that's been an interesting- it's been a nice distraction as well. You know, the excitement of getting to know a new human is always- I find people anyway, a mixture of fascinating and scary and inspiring. Sam: I spoke with Nevo, who was keen to share their interesting experiences around new etiquettes in dating and romance during COVID too. Nevo: Sam: Nevo also talked about the way COVID-19 restrictions have given us greater permission to talk about our emotional and physical needs. Nevo Darcy: Jinghua also generously shared some experiences. Jinghua: I was hearing from like single friends being like, 'Am I going to be single forever? If I start hooking up with someone now does it have to be monogamous?' Yeah, everyone's trying to assess risk in all these different ways which is- kind of makes a lot of things feel maybe a bit more heavy or a bit more laden than you want at the beginning of something? Like it's quite hard, I think, to do something casually. Especially if- if casual normally means like, not talking that much? During that time, I started sexting someone off Lex, which is like a text only platform. Yeah, I think I put up an ad that was like 'sext me' basically. I got some really fun responses and I think it um felt to me really like that kind of lo-fi, text only internet from, you know, like 2000 when I had shitty dial-up and you know, no one had like the internet speeds to be video chatting? That kind of like really emo, like intense, wordy, overly intimate, overly sentimental vibe. I'm kind of into it. I was like a real like, Zinester/LiveJournal kid. So yeah, it- it felt good to me. And it felt like real fanfiction-like as well. So I started sexting this person and I think it was like quite an interesting exchange because we're both genderfluid and we're having this like text-based conversation where we didn't know, you know each other's like names, we didn't really make reference to our real bodies. It was kind of fictionalised in this way. And it kind of felt like, you know, half like cyber sex and half like we were writing this extensive fanfiction together? And you know how slash is like really pervy and really dorky at the same time? It's intensely dorky because it's all these like little bookworm-y kids trying to have sex through words. And I- I just love that dynamic. So that was really fun. But then I feel like, as it went on, everyone was experiencing, in different ways, this sort of like disjuncture with reality and the unendingness of it. And I feel like- yeah, I don't know. There were both positives and negatives I suppose in that kind of isolated, overly online interaction.
Everything that happened during lockdown feels both real and kind of like bracketed in this way where it does feel kind of discrete from the rest of reality I suppose. So, there was a point where I was like um- I had this person, like, I guess doing various tasks on video that they would send to me, right? And that was really fun, but that's just like not something that's gonna continue, you know? I feel like the time for that has passed, the feeling of whatever that was. I don't know, so we might like continue to interact but that type of like online domination or whatever, it's like not something I really have energy for, you know? It was like a real specific-to-COVID thing I guess. Gemma: Many of us were studying when COVID-19, and plenty of our interviewees discussed the huge impact has had on tertiary education. This is Randos and Yves. Randos: My name is Randos Korobacz and I live in Dysart Tasmania in the Southern Midlands. I'm attempting to be a sociologist by trade specialising in masculinities. I spent the last 15 years working in mental health hospital. Studying this type of human event is my bag. Sociologists study these massive human events. So this has been really professionally distracting beyond words. I'm meant to be doing my thesis on something else, not COVID-19 and the impacts of health and aging and the agism that's come out of it, for example. Or the riots. Or whatever. Because this is a once in a lifetime event. And for me, it's just all data. It's exhilarating and devastating at the same time. So for me, it's been a very hectic, full on time, but just in a different way. And this is the year of the body because this is a time where everyone is acutely aware of their body because of the dangers of COVID-19, but also the agism that's taking place. They've decided to open up the United States at the expense of their older population. Personally, I find it quite sick and disappointing. But it tells us where we're at, what's the priorities in terms of the economic organisation of the world, you know, they're going to do that at the expense of their people. Yves: My name is Yves. I think it's been incredibly challenging, um educationally. So many of us have come to realise Zoom and other video conferencing software, even, you know, even in the best of times is no substitute for face-to-face interactions. And, you know, the kind of teaching I do in the discipline of history is very much based around conversations and debate and unpacking ideas and fleshing them out and testing assumptions. And it's really just almost impossible to get that kind of sense of ideas flowing and kind of sparks flying and, you know, connections being made in a Zoom seminar, which is what I've been running. So, I feel really badly for students studying this year. I think particularly for students who are isolated or marginalised in other ways, whether they're gender diverse or trans or have uh parts of their identity that make university a challenge, I think the kind of extra isolation and the extra challenges with learning online has made this yeah uh, yeah pretty close to a write off in some ways. Sam: We also talked about the lockdown and how that has affected peoples drug and alcohol intake. This is Kat talking about smoking. Kat: Yeah so uh million percent they went way up and then I was like hey I can't breathe and got paranoid about having- having COVID and got tested and since realised oh obviously I'm smoking much more than I was before because like, you know, I'm not in the office where you can't smoke, I'm just puttering around my house and going out the back and you know being outside so I can. So definitely was smoking more and since realised and then trying to cut back obviously. Gemma: Randos talked about the impact of the pandemic on drug use and the impact it’s had on people experiencing problematic drug use. Randos: (COVID) caused a lot of problems in the men's sex scene in terms of the consumption of drugs that's spiked through the roof and addicts are really struggling at the moment because the price of gear has gone up. And so even though they're- if they've missed the gap of getting the extra income from the government, a lot of them, but for the addicts who just haven't been able to get it together in time and capitalise on getting a place to stay, their addiction has just gotten a lot nastier for them because their drugs have just gotten a whole lot more expensive because of scarcity because there's no planes coming through. So you know, all the dynamics in the criminal world has changed up as well. It's really interesting. Gemma: And of course one of the biggest impacts of the pandemic is the amount of time that people are spending at home, and how that’s changed the nature of their relationships with housemates, family members and their neighbours. Nevo: Emma: I am so lucky to live with most amazing person who gave me a space to feel safe enough to come out in the first place and has lots of trans friends and just knows how to be. But a few friends who know how to be she's like on another level, her compassion has just made it possible for me to learn who I am. So having gratitude for where I am the anger part of it is I think I was just beginning to discover a chosen family when COVID happened, but the way that was happening was going to events and running into people and seeing them and you know, seeing them for the second time in the third time and finally exchanging details, but the finally exchanging details thing I just never got around to because no one said you're about to go home and get locked down. So I feel cordoned off from the chosen family that I was about to create, and that makes me frustrated and angry. Cedar And so I um was living in a share house at the start of lockdown, but then I came to stay with my gran. And so I'm still here, I've been here for the last kind of three months or so. Um because she's sort of, she's almost 92 and um was living alone and I wanted to I guess sort of support her during this time. Her Bible study started off on Zoom and so I've kind of helped been getting her onto Zoom weekly to go to Bible study. So that's been quite nice. I think she's really appreciate- she's really appreciated me being here. Yeah, so that was something that I was quite interested in at the start. I was like, 'Oh my gosh, how am I going to do this? Like, this is the weirdest time to like go on hormones when I'm literally like living with my Gran.' Um, that felt very interesting to me and um like a bizarre thing to happen. But I guess like at the moment that hasn't been things that have happened as a result of T where I've like needed to I guess kind of have it as a discussion, so I haven't spoken to her about it. Um like yeah, I don't know, I think we've been- it's interesting with like her with gender stuff, she- I never expected her to be okay with things and I've been really amazed by how on board with stuff that she has been? Like I, yeah, just wouldn't have necessarily expected that. And she like- but she really- she just loves her grandkids a lot and is really um- yeah cares about doing what makes them happy. And so I think it's kind of hard for her with things, like she is quite good with my name, um is less good with gendered language because she uses things like girl um a lot when referring to me? And I kind of have started, I don't know, I'll correct her and I correct her in this way of like, 'Oh! Not a girl!' whenever she uses a girl word, like 'darling girl' or something and she started being like, 'Oh yeah, you're not a girl,' and then using a different term or like she'll kind of self-correct. It's still like- it's interesting because it has been- I don't know, I really feel very touched and very proud of her as well for being able to, at like 92, shift that kind of way of understanding things and speaking about someone through- with like little resistance? Um even though it's like so different from everything that she has ever thought. Darcy: Many people talked about the impact COVID-19 restrictions has had on their access to family and culture. Tarneen Yeah, so I- so this one I guess it's a funny one, like when I was- I was living in the western suburbs until- and then we moved mint um, iso like isolation. And we- I was really- like I was really struggling. I go work in- like I worked in an Aborigianl organisation. But we were working from home and I'm a social worker. And so that was really difficult because I was also living with like my partner and their like- and our friend um and they're both white. And I've never um really like lived with white people ever. Like this is my first time living with white people. And I think being in isolation and only seeing white people was really really difficult. I really was missing um like my family and like my community. And missing um the like social interactions between blackfellas, not in the way that we talk and our humor and ah the way that we care for each other is very different. And I- yeah, I think that- yeah, I struggled a lot. And particularly being on the other side town, where all of my family are kind of like in the northern suburbs? And so it made it even like more like difficult um to see people as well, but I was already like, pretty isolated being in the western suburbs? Then- when I moved- when I moved over, but then being in isolation as well made it more difficult. And I think I've just realised um that for myself, I really do need to be around my community and blackfellas. And it's nothing like against um obviously my partner and our friend but it's just really- it's just a really different um being around white people so intensely. When you're spending all day and all night with people and not having any social interactions with um others physically. So we met, we moved mid-iso and we like moved to the northern suburbs. And it really changed um my interactions with my family, which was really good. I see my family a lot more now. And even um my family helped us move. I felt really- it was just really lovely to be honest, just to see them and hang out and like because you know, you're allowed to help people move. It just felt really nice and like I had my family visit and we were breaking iso but it was just really lovely and I am really glad that we did get to move. So I guess it was just like some negative parts of the- of the restrictions and also just my pos- the positive parts as well um so yeah. Jinghua You know, social distancing is really important. But also like there's a lot of assumptions in the laws and- and in a lot of the advice given about how people interact, how people find support, what their families and communities look like, and obviously that affects queers. But also it affects a lot of people whose social support networks might not look the way that the government expects, I suppose. I actually found it really beautiful to- to go out into the sunshine and see people were masked up and they had their hand san but they were still like sitting around the rocks like gossiping. Um, yeah, like all the old men who are just like always in Nicholson Mall… Gemma: Thanks for joining us. See you next time for our final episode of Transdemic, Home Economics.