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 Francisco Ibanez-Carrasco’s story!
Francisco Ibanez-Carrasco on pandemic stigma and harm reduction
“I’m what you call a people person,” says Francisco Ibanez-Carrasco, an AIDS activist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto. “I miss my friends a great deal.” Prior to the pandemic, Francisco had already been working in online education for years and he considers himself privileged that his profession has become more secure with the upsurge in distance learning. He’s optimistic that closeness and connection can still be achieved online, but he finds the workday more monotonous without the casual conversations that infused daily office life. “Still, I consider myself fortunate to be in a supportive relationship, which has only strengthened during the pandemic.”
Francisco acknowledges that at 57 he’s already had the opportunity to do a lot of the things that younger gay men are currently missing out on. “I’m not at an age where I want to go to a party, take drugs and fuck guys and I’m struggling to imagine how folks are dealing with that.” Sexuality is a significant portion of what defines gay identity and how gay men behave in the world, he says, and he’s seen the pandemic create a new element of stigma for guys who continue to hook up. However, he’s also observed gay men taking harm-reductive measures such as creating “sexual bubbles” of partners who have conversations together and make decisions based on trust. He points out that for everyone navigating COVID-19 risk, a lot is based on trust and personal decisions around what is safe and unsafe.
Francisco has been HIV-positive for most of his adult life and is in a serodiscordant relationship. He believes that in some instances the gay community’s experience with harm-reduction strategies, such as serosorting and seropositioning, has helped prepare gay men for negotiating COVID-19 risks. Nevertheless, Francisco works with communities that have been very negatively affected and says the pandemic is having a huge impact on many people living with HIV, who face an added layer of isolation these days. He is holding a series of three roundtable conversations this month with academics and community member with current or former use of substance such as stimulants and opioids like meth, HIV and COVID-19, where participants are discussing their difficulties, such as going through detox alone at home in addition to the existing stigmas about use within queer communities. Those who continue to use drugs are at higher risk of overdoses with no one nearby to offer support. Francisco says that COVID-19 didn’t create these problems but “it has exacerbated conditions for people that were already disadvantaged. The pandemic has made what was always there more evident, clear and visible.”
How have you experienced the pandemic as a member of the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community? Take our survey and share your thoughts with us.