Author Tadgh Dolan finds a new sense of community during lockdown.
Outside my window, I hear as if for the first time, the sounds of laughter and conversation. My next door neighbour is a chatty man. An old school Dub, he loves to wave as you pass by his door, or strike up some small talk, usually about the weather or how much he misses the local pub.
This back and forth has become a highlight in my day. I look forward to walking to the shop and intentionally pause to see if he’s sitting outside in his sun-lounger. He brings a smile to my face, at a time when isolation and loneliness are part and parcel of the quarantine experience.
His engagement with me brings about a sense of community that I haven’t felt engaged with since my childhood. Just a simple “hello” makes me feel like someone cares about my well-being, at a time when seeing my family and close friends isn’t always possible, given that they live over 20 kilometres away.
Being LGBTQ+ at this time also poses some challenges. Without the comfort of my regular support network I feel a certain inability to express myself in my normal fashion. Usually with friends we can talk about our plans for Pride, our thoughts on the latest season of Drag Race or our dating aspirations. Yet, without those people physically present, self-expression can be put on halt as you try your best to stay in touch with Zoom calls or FaceTime. But it isn’t a substitute and as we’ve all come to learn, Zoom fatigue is very real.
Community has always been a part of the LGBTQ+ experience. Whether it’s the hundreds who gathered in Dublin in the 1980s to protest the brutal murder of gay man Declan Flynn, or the thousands who took to the streets to lobby for marriage equality, Ireland has a deep history of community. Now, it seems that during lockdown, people may be reconnecting and perhaps a bright outcome will be a renewed sense of who we are as people and also as a whole. As author Hellen Keller famously said “Alone, we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
For the time being I look forward to my morning walk to the market, when I get to wave at my neighbour and hear a fun fact from his day. It’s the simple things which will get us through lockdown as we emerge with a new sense of what it means to be LGBTQ+ in Ireland and how we can reconnect as a community.
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