Community in a Time of Pandemic

COMMUNITY is the theme for this week’s GenderFunk #dragorphanage inspired Look Challenge.

First of all…I’m amazed, floored, incredibly inspired by the creativity, polish, and profound storytelling each and every one of these looks is serving. I’m so blessed to have such a talented, strong community of friends in Vietnam, both from the north and the south, including many who aren’t pictured in this week’s challenge but who have been working creatively in other ways and with other projects.

I think we’re living in the midst of a rare cataclysmic moment in history where everyone, all around the world, is processing and working through their own meaning of community. Is community compatible with isolation? Can people come together, but stay six feet apart? Is social distancing, ironically, a radically intimate act of care for the physical bodies of others?

It’s no wonder many of us struggle mentally, emotionally, physically when the threat of potentially fatal illness simmers, quietly but steadily, in the back of our minds.

When we’ve been trained to express ourselves and seek emotional validation through the pretend world of social media, which is now, for many of us, our only source of social interaction.

When what was normally an act of warmth and kindness—showing mutual affection through physical contact—has suddenly become a life-threatening act of carelessness.

But while the way we express care, and the ways we connect with other people, have had to change literally overnight, it might just be that our communities are the only constant.

Community exists in different forms—ethnicity, nationality, gender expression, shared interests—and sizes—close friends, colleagues, citizens, species—each of them serving their own purpose, holding their own meaning, dynamic and transformative in their own way, intersecting with each other and influencing each other.

A global pandemic has put the spotlight on the largest community of all—humanity as a whole—and in a way, gives us brand new opportunities to reflect upon our own communities within that massive collective.

A global pandemic means the number of people our global community loses each day gets closer and closer to exceeding the number of people added.

As we reflect and process this stark reality in our own ways, we begin to truly appreciate the opposing forces that at once make our communities remarkably resilient, and profoundly frail.

We all need reminders of who we are in all of this, and who the people in our communities are. Flawed, fragile, traumatized, damaged, emotional, courageous, inspiring, creative, uplifting, full of hope and promise, worthy of love.

Thank you to my friends who, through their own exquisite expression of art and identity, have reminded me exactly what my community looks like.