It is true that LGBTQ people were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, both in terms of health and in terms of economic wellbeing. However, even admist tragedy, LGBTQ people continued to find moments of normalcy and hope. Our intention in showcasing these moments of laughter and love is not to glamorize or romanticize quarantine or coronavirus. Rather, when read in conversation with the more grave emotions in the archive-- including anxiety, isolation, solemnity, and disappointment-- a complex historical picture emerges.Some emotions captured in the LGBTQ Item Set include:
"A Mask is the New Smile": Exploring Queer Joy at the COVID-19 Archive
While many items reflected the emotional completixites of navigating the pandemic, submissions focused on joy posed unique curatorial questions. On the surface, these items reflected both hope and joy. Upon further investigation, the submissions were far more complicated, embodying expressions of fear, uncertainty, discomfort, furstration, defiance, and ultimately resilence.
The first two photos come from New York City in March, shortly before the shutdown. Despite the shutdown and national reports of mass death, the contributor's are shown smiling and the descriptions for both items read "Celebrating trans pride in quarantine." The ability to celebrate in the midst of fear and uncertainty carries a feeling of resilience.
The third photograph comes from Arizona in late April, as a contributor poses in front of a mirror, tongue out, clippers poised at the ready. The caption reads, "Photo taken by my girlfriend while I shave my head after not having access to a barber in over a month." The caption and the expression together suggest a type of playfulness even as the contributor's description seems to indicate frustration at being unable to get a haircut.
The fourth photo from May features two college age kids kissing in a park with a mini bong and lighter visibly at their feet. The caption reads "A couple of gay, trans college kids going to the park and shotgunning from a mini bong because it’s the only way to get out of the house and have fun these days!" The caption and the photograph carry a sense of defiance, as the contributors refuse to let COVID derail their ability to have fun.
In the last two photos, shared by curator Carolyn Evans, a queer couple adapts their hobby of Pokemon GO to be compliant with social distancing measures. The longer description from Carolyn's contribution contains references to several emotions: patience, persistance, fear, joy.
These contributions provide extraordinary insight into the way LGBTQ people forged new sources of community, laughter, and love even in the face of overwhelming loss.