The great equalizer, that’s what we’ll call this for now.
A mass virus, bringing us all to our knees, our economies to a halt, seemingly at the same time with the same veracity.
All of us, from all over the globe, in the same holding pattern. The hurry up and wait mentality, where everyone is hurrying to get this over with, but none of us having the patience to wait anymore. Like all of you, I am in the depths of my home state of Michigan’s stay at home order.
Where all non-essential businesses, stores, and services are on hold until further notice. Traveling is a no-no, which isn’t that big of a deal since everything has been cancelled or postponed anyways. Krave Spring Break in Palm Springs, California has been moved to August, The Dinah Shore in Palm Springs, California has been moved to September, Girls in Wonderland in Orlando, Florida has been moved to October, and who knows what will happen to our numerous Prides around the globe.
It’s an unprecedented time in history to say the least.
Alongside you, I am seeing the world’s number of cases of COVID-19 and confirmed deaths rise. A pandemic spreading faster than glitter at a burlesque show.
I have seen friends and family members lose their jobs instantaneously and watched as they have researched how to make ends meet. I’ve seen businesses who hold up our LGBTQ community close temporarily with a quiet questioning on whether they will be able to open their doors again. I’ve seen all my entertainer and industry friends take to Instagram lives, Zoom, and other platforms to keep doing what they love, but also to try keep the lights on. I’ve seen my proud brothers and sisters contemplate filing for unemployment in the wake of this travesty. We are all waiting to unfold into this new reality and get back to business as usual…or at least something resembling our “usual”.
It’s a little darker out in the world than before and our LGBTQ community is suffering. We are the artists, the creatives, the creatures, the queens and kings, the patrons and the dancers, the musicians and the record players, the photographers and the subjects, and we are in a collective, forced time out. Assuredly, if you’ve ever been at a drag, burlesque, or theatrical performance, you know our community does not take kindly to rules and being told what to do. So, in these uncertain times, what can we do and how can we help each other?
I have a few ideas:
- Tune in to your friend’s performances, chats, lessons, classes, or workouts when they go live on Instagram or on Zoom and tell everyone you know about it. It might not seem like a lot but the more people who tune in, the more chances they have at getting tipped. They are doing the same jobs they are doing at their place of business, but now there are not able to get the face to face, hand to hand, body to body interaction as they’re used to. Have you ever danced your heart out in an empty room for your survival?
- Donate or tip when you can. I know a lot of people are laid off currently and extra money is hard to come by. But if you can, even a few dollars here or there, try and tip your industry and entertainer friends. Chances are they were making well below minimum wage with tips being their main source of income. As they file for unemployment, it’s mostly their wages not their tips (not all of them at least) that the state goes by when figuring out how to calculate how much they will receive for unemployment.
- Copy, share, and tag your friends in everything you can. On all social media platforms, repost their posts, their pictures, their pages, and their stories and tag them along with any other relevant people who might enjoy their content, performances, or messages. We can all agree the Instagram algorithm is wildly biased and can be downright frustrating. But in theory, the more interaction there is with a person’s page, the more they will be seen, and the more people can organically find their page. The more page hits that person gets, the more chances there are at people seeing their content, their performances, and hopefully get a few more tips here and there. Every little bit helps after all.
- Donate, buy from, or support your friends’ employers. A lot of the entertainers in our LGBTQ community work as freelancers, sure. But a lot of these creatives work for one or two main bars, clubs, restaurants, or places that they call their homes. It is a very difficult time for these places with the temporary shut-down, with little to no information on when they can open back up. If there is the option to grab takeout or a gift card from these entities do so when you can and if can afford to. Once a week or even once every couple of weeks shouldn’t hurt your pocketbook. You can also donate directly to a lot of the bars and restaurants themselves. Jolene’s Bar in San Francisco, California for example puts on their weekly Friday night girl’s party called Uhaul on Instagram live. They still have a rotation of DJ’s and dancers like they normally would, and as always they put on a show. Jolene asks for donations if you tune into the live broadcast at any point during the night, which, by the way, goes all night long. The donations Jolene’s receives gets split between the DJ’s and dancers, and some of it goes to Jolene’s fund to reopen the bar when this is all over with. So, if any of your favorite bars, clubs, or home bases are putting on weekly shows be sure to donate to them directly if you can.
- If you’re looking for alcohol, ask your favorite bar or club first. Some of the bars who are temporarily closed don’t have kitchens so they can’t offer takeout options. Which means they lose out on the opportunity to make a little extra money. So instead of going to your local grocery store chain who is making money hand over fist, get in touch with your favorite spot first and see if they are selling any of their alcohol inventory. This helps put money in their pocket, and you get alcohol. It’s a real win-win situation.
- Check in with your people. As a person whose passion and creative outlet is photography and photojournalism, having three months of trips and assignments be cancelled or postponed so far in the blink of an eye was difficult. I have realized that being creative and getting to express myself the way I do is a part of who I am. So, imagine your burlesque or go-go performer friends, your beloved drag kings and queens, your DJ and musician friends who can’t fathom a life without performing for their favorite lesbians, gays, and queers every week get that all taken away without a warning. They went from performing to standing room only crowds to an empty, echoing room. Everything you know and love instantaneously frozen. Beyond it being a large piece of how they make money, in some instances it’s woven into their identity. Text those friends, call those business owners, and keep checking in with them until we get to come together again. Without the six-foot gap.
Our community often separates us into labels, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, etc., but at this time in history, with the climate of what’s happening on our planet, we all need to be a little bit less branded and a lot more human. It’s the only way we make it back into the light.