I started working for Georgia Voice as an intern about two years ago. As a non-LGBTQ ally entering a queer space and producing work in this space, I knew I had to remove myself from the equation. My writing could no longer be only about me, my experiences, or my personal worldview. It would have to be about you: Atlanta’s LGBTQ community. Now, of course my personal opinions align themselves with the mission of Georgia Voice; I would not be here if I didn’t have the utmost respect, care, and love for LGBTQ people, but I know my experience is not the same as the experiences of those in the community. I know you have had it a lot harder than I: discrimination, bullying, stolen rights, even violence. So, upon accepting this job I vowed to simply listen and share your stories. The work I do here is not about me, it’s 100 percent about you.
I’m lucky enough to now be working as the new Deputy Editor of Georgia Voice. As I take on more responsibility, my mantra rings even more true. I have to work harder to help produce a newspaper catering not to me, but to you; that honors you, not me. I’ve come to realize, however, that this mantra extends far beyond just my career. In all walks of my life—political, personal, financial—I try my hardest to live for others, particularly those with marginalized identities, before myself. I’m an educated white person; I have power I can use to help those who don’t. As a woman, I would want others in positions of privilege to do the same for me.
Now that we’re living in a global pandemic, I stand by this mindset even more fully; if my privilege didn’t matter before, it sure matters now. I have a steady source of income. I can afford my bills. I have health insurance. I’m not quarantined with abusive people. I have no pre-existing conditions that could threaten my life, and I’m young. I cannot stress this enough: I did nothing to deserve this privilege, I’m simply lucky. In many ways, I’m sure you are, too. That doesn’t mean that quarantining has been easy for me, though. In all honesty, it sucks. I miss going out with friends to our favorite bars, restaurants, and concerts. I wish I could use my last summer break before graduating college to take a vacation. This quarantine has, at times, exacerbated some of my more negative thoughts. And I’ll say it: I hate wearing a mask in public. It’s wildly uncomfortable.
I know these complaints are petty, which is exactly my point. As much as this pandemic sucks for everyone, some of us—including myself—are extremely lucky. We’re in the middle of a crisis, and many are facing the full brunt of it. That’s why, when I see people who are living lives of intense privilege break down and protest the fact that they can’t get a haircut or have to wear a mask in public, I’m frankly disgusted. If there were ever a time not to be selfish, it’s now. If I were the only one at risk, maybe I wouldn’t care too much about quarantining or wearing my mask. I’m not the only one at risk, though. No one is. Those of us who are lucky enough to be surviving this pandemic need to worry about the others who aren’t: those of us who are older, who are immunocompromised, who risk their lives working in hospitals every day, who cannot afford to stay away from a reopened job, who will struggle to pay their bills as long as this pandemic is aggravated. My caution in public has nothing to do with being a “sheep” or living in fear of a “hoax.” It’s about putting me and my petty complaints aside so that others do not have to continue to suffer.
At the end of the day, there is no responsibility to live for anyone but yourself. You can and should always make the best decisions for you. However, living for one will never be worth it when it’s at the cost of hundreds.