Coming Out During A Pandemic

How could two viruses that spread in widely different ways cause the same effects in a community? The AIDS epidemic created extreme tragedy and unrest particularly in the LGBTQ+ community during the 1980s. Covid-19 has affected people all over the world and has disrupted lives to varying degrees. These two deadly viruses have more in common beyond the evident devastation they caused. The social, sexual, and romantic lives of queer people have been stunted and shaped by COVID and AIDS in their respective times.

In the article “How to Have Sex in an Epidemic”, authors Richard Berkowitz and Michael Callen talk about the importance of physical touch and affection, even in the face of potential illness. Gay men were the most affected by AIDS/HIV, which led to them being further ostracized not only in society but also from each other. Gay men specifically were encouraged to distance themselves from each other out of fear of getting the virus. Dispersing a community hurts its members by not allowing them to explore their sexuality and share common experiences. This, unfortunately, occurred again in 2020.

During the current pandemic, many LGBTQ+ people have “come out” or have realized their identity, partially due to ample time without the influences of society. Many creators on the social media platform “TikTok” have shared their experiences coming out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community during quarantine. While the idea of a complete shutdown or quarantine was not as prevalent with the HIV/AIDS crisis, the same inability to be close to anyone or express your sexuality occurred. The feeling of loneliness, feeling lost, and missing a sense of community that the queer people are known to create permeates both ages. These experiences are isolating and will likely affect the way queer people interact in the future.

Connecting the effects of these viruses matters because they are both cultural and societal moments that shaped the way queer people could discover themselves, as well as the way that society sees them. However, because the community has an online presence in the 21st century, there is still the ability to connect on an emotional level, which was not possible for queer people during the AIDS crisis. Acknowledging the loss of both lives and experiences has been common in both the AIDS crisis, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be a part of our community’s history, which is why it is helpful to compare both situations in the context of each other.

2 thoughts on “Coming Out During A Pandemic”

  1. It is kinda crazy how similar these two moments in history are to each other. I have found it very frustrating learning about how the AIDS crisis was not taken seriously by the government and how so many people died because the government refused to help them for such a long time. Comparing this to the Covid pandemic, there was a much faster response. One has to wonder if this was because we have more advanced medicine than we did in the 80s or if it was because Covid was affecting everyone. My guess is that it’s the latter, which is very sad because AIDS also affects everyone, so it should have been treated the same way as Covid has been treated as far as trying to find a way to prevent it.

  2. Hi!!
    Great post…I really enjoyed your comparison of the two: COVID pandemic and the AIDS epidemic. I also feel that the two definitely intertwine with one another, specifically within the marginalization or isolation of the LGBTQ+ community. However, I feel for the LGBTQ+ community, social media platforms, one of them being Tik Tok, actually inspired many to sort of ‘unlock’ that part of themselves or even furthermore, accept it. I actually ‘came out’ during the pandemic due to the fact that there wasn’t anyone to object, or quite frankly, say anything about it because we were all inside our homes… Alike to the AIDS epidemic, while the LGBTQ+ community was severely marginalized, many also fought for liberation and despite outside influence, began to accept themselves for who they are and who they love. Nice job!

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