We spoke with a number of 2SLGBTQQIA+ people about the ways that they and their communities have been personally impacted by COVID-19 to kick off The Canada-wide 2SLGBTQQIA+ COVID-19 Survey. Read Robert Alsberry's story!
Robert Alsberry on medical inequality and losing those close to him
Robert Alsberry has spent a lot of the past year trying to “figure out what grief looks like when you don’t have access to the normal ways of expressing it.” He’s lost several family members and friends to various medical conditions over the past 12 months, and the redirection of health resources to tackle the virus has left him wondering, if his loved ones had “received the time and attention that they needed, would they still be here?”
The COVID-19 virus takes its toll on all those needing medical care, and it also has tragic consequences on people’s mental health. Robert believes that the circumstances of the pandemic contributed to one of his friend’s taking their own life, and he’s been having to check in with himself to ensure he has the coping mechanisms to deal with all this loss in the midst of a pandemic. After his grandfather passed away, his mother was hospitalized with COVID-19 at the end of last year and although she recovered, she’ll have to take a blood thinner for the rest of her life. “Yeah, I mean, 2020 sucked,” Robert says. For him, COVID-19 “went from this disease out there to becoming very personal.”
Throughout this difficult period, Robert was facilitating a peer discussion group for Black queer men. “It became a delicate balance of taking care of myself while also trying to take care of others in ways that were sustainable.” Fortunately, Robert has a supportive partner. He says that even when things were at their worst, “it was helpful to have a depth of connections, friendships, access to family, and a lot of memories I could draw on that got me through the year.”
Robert believes the pandemic prompted a lot of intersectional conversations about urgent social issues such as anti-Black racism, transphobia, and precarious housing. He says the medical response to COVID-19 exposed a lot of inequality and he was particularly troubled when Black health workers were calling for racialized epidemiological data while at the same time provincial premiers were denying systemic racism in Canada. “It was just hurtful as a person who moved to Canada and was constantly being told that I’m supposed to love it here and how it’s better than the US.” This put a lot into perspective for Robert, who says that medical racism not only exists but “it’s the reason why Black and Indigenous folks have poor COVID-19 outcomes in Canada even though it’s a public system. Something as simple as having a nurse that looks like you to talk to you about a disease that’s ravaging your community matters.”
How have you experienced the pandemic as a member of the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community? Take our survey and share your thoughts with us.