My ‘Queer-antine’ Experience

Queer people do not stay bored

I’ll admit it. I was naïve at first.

At the beginning of this year, I was living like 2020 was going to be my year. I was booking gigs and taking names. I was enjoying nights in with my actual family, as well as nights out with my queer family on the regular. I was hating winter like usual, but Pittsburgh wasn’t getting much snow. Life was good.

Then this word started popping up more and more. Coronavirus. It seemed to be on every news broadcast. The public received more advice on how to avoid catching it. Don’t touch your face was the big warning. Friends and co-workers were shouting out four-letter words every time they inadvertently touched their faces.

I laughed at them. I told you, I was naïve.

I saw it as a passing threat. I had seen Swine Flu, Avian Flu, SARS, Ebola, and West Nile Virus all come and go. I thought Coronavirus would do the same.

I was wrong.

We were told Pittsburgh was shutting down for two weeks in March. By that point, I had realized that I was wrong about Coronavirus. Officials were overly optimistic about what was going on. Pandemics don’t just go away in two weeks. This was going to take some time.

So, there we were: a bunch of people who were “bored in the house, bored in the house, bored.

Queer people do not stay bored, so some things started to happen. Zoom game nights were big at first. Virtual dance parties were put together by some of our favorite people who usually throw parties in dark, sweaty rooms. Drag queens twirled in front of their phones for our entertainment and tips on Venmo and CashApp, turning their living rooms into show bars and brunch venues. We lapped it up like kittens in front of a fresh saucer of milk. It wasn’t the same though.

Early in the quarantine, after yet another night of drinking wine in front of my computer playing Jackbox.tv games with friends, I sat on my porch with a glass of wine that I probably didn’t need and I just felt …different. This time in our lives was a sort of reset button. Things were about to change and change drastically. I had no idea how.

You know what happened next. Our country was reeling from the effects of the pandemic when news of the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor came along. The Amy Cooper incident in Central Park coupled with George Floyd’s tragic death pushed people together to act.

Protests erupted across the country, including here in Pittsburgh. Racial tensions were at an all-time high. The winds of change were blowing hard.

Those winds upended my life.

My career as an actor came to a screeching halt. Performers work close to their audiences. Like many people with a theatre degree, I had a side gig working in a restaurant. For many reasons, that restaurant did not survive the pandemic. I had to change gears.

My social life and activities are unrecognizable. Due to lack of social interaction, my circle of friends has shrunk. I haven’t spent nearly as much time with family as I’d like.

I spent too much time worrying about my family and melanated loved ones. Coronavirus was disproportionately affecting people of color, but protesting was proving to be dangerous. Allies were popping up everywhere but unfortunately some people’s actions were purely performative. It was hard to know who to trust. Even though many aspects of life had slowed down, this was still a tiring time for me and people of color.

Adjusting has been a daily activity. I’m not mad about it though. Sometimes, change is necessary.

People are naturally averse to change. I see examples of that every day. People fighting against wearing masks. People fighting against changes in race relations. People holding on to activities that they love, despite being dangerous in a pandemic.

I have been guilty of trying to hold on to some semblance of “normalcy” but the truth is nothing will be “normal” again. Gone are the nights of bar hopping and sweaty dance parties. Sexual freedom isn’t so free now. Wanderlust has been cooled. Even grocery shopping is different.

Hopefully, this is all temporary but let’s face it, we are heading towards a new “normal” and we do not know what that will look like yet.

One thing I have tried to do during this queer-antine is to prepare myself to be open to what our lives are going to become. I’m personally trying to become more empathetic. I’m learning who to trust as my allies as a black, queer person in this world. I’m preparing to vote wisely in a landmark election.

And I’m waiting very patiently for the night I can dance in a dark, sweaty room safely again– as long as that may take.

Maybe I’m still naïve but I hope you can relate to my little tale or draw some inspiration from it to work towards or accept change. This year may be a dumpster fire but remember, hindsight is 2020.

Jason Shavers is a born and raised Pittsburgh native. He is an actor that has worked extensively on stage and not so extensively on screen. Jason is also a self proclaimed expert on RuPaul’s Drag Race, Musical Theater and sitcoms that feature 4 women leads. Yeah, he’s gay AF. Follow him on Instagram. (He / Him / His)