I met my partner at a 2020 Christmas Potluck for queers. We had like three dates. Then they moved to Fresno for a month for work, then the pandemic happened and I began sheltering at home as a #HighRiskCovid19 person. So we were physically separated for half the start of our relationship. Then we said we love you over a fire in my back yard after getting drunk together many times without being allowed to touch each other. And then we adopted a cat. After I nearly died (here’s the link to that story). Below, my new (!) partner and I share a bit of our story that continues to develop behind the scenes in the midst of a global pandemic rivaling the flu of 1918. I’ve already told a lot of you that I now use they/them/their pronouns. You can learn more about what that means here.
Last week, I saw my partner of now four months and we took a rare drive out of their backyard to Sutter’s Landing where we sat on an American flag and drank whiskey out of a prescription bottle. They rolled up their pants and went into the water while I got stubbornly sunburnt. We drove around the city, masks on, seats covered, windows down. We are loving each other during a global pandemic and sometimes it means learning to be with someone, 6-ft apart.
During an interview for a local paper about COVID-19 (Coronavirus), my mayor said: “Yes, people have died, mostly people who were in fragile condition.”
His statement was not unusual; it is messaging commonly used by public health officials, elected representatives, and media outlets when discussing public health threats; whether that threat is influenza, H1N1, COVID-19 or another infectious or viral disease.
A friendly reminder: people who will be high-risk patients if we get coronavirus can hear you when you reassure everyone we're the only ones who might die.
While the purpose of public service announcements is to quell fear, the underlying message from statements like the mayor’s is this: healthy people are considered, the threat is downplayed, and high-risk populations are left to fend on our own. If a public health threat is, by default, advertised as only causing “mild symptoms for most people,” then healthy people – who don’t see their own lives or health at risk – will not perceive the seriousness of preventing its spread to vulnerable groups.
If the central theme is that healthy people needn’t worry, that’s the message that will routinely be broadcast. And when public messaging from reputable sources is treated as fact, it can then be weaponized against anyone who suggests differently.