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 Layla Chakir’s story!
Layla Chakir on the challenges of being an international student
Layla Chakir (not her real name) arrived in Montreal with no way of knowing that several months later the world would fall into disarray. She came from France to pursue graduate studies but found herself unable to attend university in person anymore. “It was a bit complicated,” she says “because I hadn’t even been here for a year and I had to find another job. I couldn’t apply for government help because I’m a foreign student.” Despite three years of nursing experience and an urgent need for medical professionals, her student visa restricted her from working in health care. Instead, she ended up finding a social work position at a supervised injection site where she witnessed the impact of the pandemic on drug users. “I think it affects them more than many people,” she points out, “especially those who are homeless.”
“When I came to Montreal I was very busy with school and settling in,” Layla says. “I didn’t really have time to see what was happening in terms of LGBTQ events.” She regrets not having the chance to explore Montreal’s queer scene, which she says normally has a lot more to offer than what’s available in her hometown of Bordeaux. She counts herself lucky to at least be sharing a home with people who introduced her to a few queer friends. “I’m happy I have roommates because otherwise I would have felt very alone.” She started spending time with one of their friends in particular, which developed into a more serious relationship when the pandemic hit and they began keeping each other company during lockdown. “I’m happy to have someone I’m close with during this hard time,” she says. “Honestly I think I might have decided to go back to France if I hadn’t met her. She is for sure a reason to stay, despite the crisis.”
“Even in the midst of a pandemic, I find Montreal great,” Layla says. “There are many support organizations in the LGBTQ community still offering services.” She’s impressed by their determination to maintain a public presence wherever possible, like at protests in support of Black Lives Matter. She also commends the tough decisions made to cancel events and sacrifice important opportunities for building community in order to prioritize public health. Still, she says “I was really excited to go to gay pride here. It’s frustrating to not be able to be a part of the community.”
How have you experienced the pandemic as a member of the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community? Take our survey and share your thoughts with us.