Everyone’s lives have been turned upside down by the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. My wife and I are, of course, no different. Our situation perhaps differs from the “norm” as we are, only for a few more weeks now, a long distance couple. We and others like us were uniquely prepared to cope with the sudden shift toward online connectivity. This does not mean that it has been easy. Far from it. At the end of 2019, we’d had a one year celebration of our marriage with our friends and family from both sides of the Atlantic. As we’d said our teary goodbyes at the airport, we felt sure that we were finally going to close the distance. After many months of waiting, we were slowly but surely progressing with my visa. However, come the turn of the year and the news of COVID-19, things were beginning to look ominous. A great unknown was on the horizon and unfolding before us, at first in slow motion and then at terrifying speed in the spring of 2020. We all know what happened next. Borders slammed shut. Flights reduced. Workplaces closed. We were cut off. Thousands of miles apart and with no clear idea of when we might be able to see each other again.
As I’ve alluded to, we were oddly situated for a scenario such as this. To an extent anyways. How anyone could be prepared for a global pandemic I don’t know, but what I do know is our two years and change of long distance helped us in those early days of lockdown. Whereas other couples might have been unexpectedly thrust apart, we were already in that boat and so we were well adept to managing that experience. The whole world was seemingly moving online; schools, work, friends, love. Although most people in the 21st century spend hours online, this was another level of reliance on technology. We were all striving for human connection when we most needed it but had to forgo it in order to try and stem the treat of the virus. Indeed this continues to be the reality for so many of us as the virus surges again. This reliance of technology wasn’t exactly new to us as a couple. The endlessness unknown of this pandemic was. That shift of being “almost here” to not knowing when we’d see one another was nigh on impossible to comprehend.
I couldn’t have guessed this year would pan out as it has done but I’d always half joked that such a scenario was by biggest fear whilst we were stuck on opposite sides of the planet. Humanity has long been hurtling headlong towards such a disaster. I am not saying if my wife and were there together it would be less scary but I know I’d much rather be together. Of course this is somewhat melodramatic but this year has felt horrifying and apocalyptic 90% of the time. I’m not sure it is possible to overreact to the events of 2020.
Atop the general feeling of being trapped away from my wife, is the added complexity of the roles in which queer partners fulfil. They occupy a myriad of them; life partners, best friends and chosen family. In other words, what you need the most during a global pandemic. My wife and I often speak about the depth of queer love. How it occupies a space which the English language cannot fully encapsulate. There’s a trope that queer people, especially lesbians, remain friends with their exes. The trope is founded in reality. These people are our family, they are the people with whom we navigate a world which is a couple of steps behind us. A world that is not always accepting of our queerness. In a time of crisis these are the people whom we need. Not only has 2020 been a year in which the globe has been forced to manage a pandemic but that same crisis has exposed and amplified pre-existing inequalities. If we are to fight to change this, we need to be around our communities. For many queer people, this community is found in our partners, our exes, and of course our friends.
Further to this, the realisation of the need for community and intimacy is something which has been highlighted by the events of this year. Touch starvation and the longing for emotional intimacy is an experience which long distance couple are familiar with but is now an experience shared by many more beyond. Human beings are social creatures. Technology has been wonderful to keep us connected during this time but what we are learning is that it cannot and should not replace physical touch and connection.
A comment thrown our way in the days pre COVID was, “well at least you have FaceTime.” It came from a place of good intention but fundamentally misunderstood the difficulty of being physically separated. This need to physicality and community is something which we have grown to understand deeply as queer people and also as a long distance couple. The anxiety of not knowing when we can see our loved ones again, or indeed when we do if we can touch them, is a uniquely unifying experience. One underlined in pain but with the potential for great learning.
As we thankfully come to the end of our time apart it has been interesting to look back on how we coped through the preceding year. Whilst I am grateful we will be reunited soon, I know that many people are not as fortunate as us and will be separated for a while yet. I hope we are able to gain a new understanding from this pandemic about just how vital community is at all times in our lives but especially in times of crisis. In these moment when so much is asked of one another to keep one another safe we need our people to get through it all.
About the Author:
Caspian’s greatest love has always been football. They grew up playing it and thinking about almost nothing else. When they came out as non binary at 20 suddenly football wasn’t as much a part of their life. They’ve recently rediscover this love of the game through writing and access to mixed gender sport.
Caspian’s experience of sexism, transphobia and homophobia in sport have driven a passion of raising up the excellence of marginalised people as well as drawing awareness to the struggles they face. They write about sports, history, social justice and everything in between!
After working in HE for a number of years following graduating, they now work in the heritage industry as well as running a blog and podcast, Usually Football. You can find them on Instagram @usuallyfootball!