Real Talk. News. Views. Opinions.
Wherever you are in the world, there’s a lot going on – there’s a lot to keep up with.
One way to try and avoid feeling overwhelmed by everything going on is to remember that the personal is political. What you’re experiencing matters. What you’re feeling matters. Your perspective and your opinion matters.
Here’s what’s happening in my world.
I’m not a doctor. I’ve got the white coat for role-plays, obviously, but there’s a lot of people who are a lot more qualified than I am who you should be listening to when it comes to Covid-19. Make sure you’re getting your updates and insights from experts who are informed and know what they’re talking about.
Confusingly, it’s not always our political leaders that we can turn to for accurate information – the US and the UK are obvious examples. One of the skills that we all need to develop in this new-normal is critical analysis. We always need to be questioning – Does this person know what they’re talking about? How objective are they? What’s the context of this information? Does this information apply to me?
Covid-19 in the UK
In a world where misinformation is the norm, we’ve all got to become data experts to keep on top of the facts of the pandemic.
The best data source that I’ve found so far is the government’s Covid-19 page on its website. It’s not the easiest thing to navigate, and there’s lots of questions about the timeliness and accuracy of the data, but it’s probably the best thing we’ve got.
In terms of testing, it’s not going well. The testing system seems to be overwhelmed and not coping – people can’t get tests. The government says that it will all be sorted out in a couple of weeks which, at best, seems to be a hopeful guess. There seems to be a number of issues – the booking system to schedule tests, having testing resources in the right places, and then the processing of tests so that people can get results. Not having a functioning testing system undermines every other aspect of how we respond to this virus and try and navigate our way through the global pandemic.
Even with the problems that we have with the testing system, we are seeing the number of infections rising – there’s no other way to describe it other than a second spike. Looking at the 7-day average, we hit a low of 546 new cases per day on 5Jul. Since then, it’s been creeping back up – as at 15Sept, the 7-day average was up to 3,603 new cases per day. That’s alarming and the government has responded with nation-wide restrictions on movement and trading. We can drill down to postcode level with the infection data, but that’s fairly meaningless until we’ve got a functioning testing system.
A more accurate indicator of what’s going on is probably hospital admission rates. In the UK, we currently have 1469 people in hospital (because of Covid-19) and 211 people on ventilators. These numbers are starting to increase – which would reflect increasing infection rates – and it’s an experience that appears to mirror what we’ve seen in countries such as France and Spain. If we drill down to London, as at 18Sep the 7-day average has 33 people being admitted each day with Covid-19 – again, trending up.
In terms of deaths, the data on this got pretty messy. After several months, the government realised that different parts of the health infrastructure were counting Covid-19 related deaths in different ways. They’re now officially counting deaths as Covid-19 related if they occur within 28 days of a positive test, but even that seems to come with quite a few caveats. If we take the UK-level data at face-value, at the peak of the pandemic we had over 1,000 people dying per day because of Covid-19. By June, that was down to 200 people per day and we saw it falling from then. From 11 August until 8 September, the 7-day average was under 10 people dying each day but we’re now back above that threshold and it’s trending upwards – averaging over 20 deaths per day. What we’ve seen in France and Spain is that deaths are a lagging indicator behind hospitalisation rates. We can drill those numbers down to London, where our 7-day average has been less than 1 person dying each day (under the revised Covid-19 definition) since 15 July. However, we’re now back over that threshold and the deaths in London are trending up.
It’s clear that this virus is increasingly active in our community and is killing people every day. Wearing masks and social distancing is a good starting point, but we need the government to sort out testing and focus resources on infection hot-spots so we can get the virus under control and protect vulnerable people.
Covid-19 in Australia
I’m keeping a close eye on Australia as that’s where most of my immediate family live.
There’s been 26,972 infections and 859 deaths across all of Australia – that’s low figures when you compare it to the experience of most other countries.
But, after seeming to have responded well to the initial onset of the pandemic, Australia is almost back at step one in trying to contain community transmission of Covid-19.
Australia operates a Federal system, so most of the decision-making happens at State level.
The state of Victoria – where most of my family live – has experienced a significant spike in community transmission. They took the entire state into a strict lock-down to bring transmission rates down. They now seem to pretty much have things under control and are slowly starting to relax restrictions, but it’s quite a different strategy to what we’re seeing in places like the UK and Europe.
With Australia’s borders effectively closed, the prospect of being able to reconnect with my family there seems a long way off. The Guardian has a useful update on the continuing uncertainty surrounding travel to Australia.
Ms Rona versus The Queers
There’s no denying, 2020 has been absolute shit-show. Sure, there’s only a few months to go, but I’m trying to do my best to salvage whatever fragments of joy I can get my hands on.
It turns out that global pandemics are no walk in the park. I’m not – in any way – making light of the devastation caused by Covid-19. People have died. Jobs have been lost. We’re at the end of the beginning and there’s plenty more pain to come.
One of the super-powers that us queers have is that we’re a pretty resilient bunch. We adapt, we innovate, we survive. We’ve been reading up on viral loads long before it was cool.
Have we seen any examples of queer excellence shining while Ms Rona has been hogging the limelight? Sure we have – there’s been some ups and down, some winners and losers, some selfish tops and some messy bottoms. Let’s get into it.
- Drag Race – After a successful season in Canada, we’re now onto Drag Race Holland. We’re only one episode in and I’m already obsessed.
- Schitt’s Creek – 9 Emmy wins seems a fitting tribute to a show that’s going out on a high. Queer comedy excellence.
- Steps – Sometimes you don’t know what you need until you see it, until you hear it, until you feel it. What The Future Holds – a comeback single from Steps – is a total banger and somehow gives me everything I need right now. The throwback to happier times, the despair of getting older, the desperation of trying to hold on to things that mean something, the basic choreo designed to light up the dance-floor of bachelorette parties across northern England. It’s inspired.
- Nicola Adams – the Olympic champion boxer joins the cast of Strictly Come Dancing in the UK and will be part of the first same-sex couple of the show, which is a big deal in the context of UK television.
- Masturbation. Is there such a thing as too much? I’m trying to go for quality, not quantity.
- Gays that can sew their own masks. The creative gays are always essential in a crisis.
- Socialism. Sometimes, capitalist free-markets fall apart. Furlough has got to be in the running for word-of-the year.
- Fan-subscription porn – we’ve all started a channel, now we just need some subscribers.
- Netflix. There seems to be a lot on there, but not necessarily anything you want to watch. Regardless, they’re definitely one of the winners in this pandemic.
- Glory holes – officially recommended by health experts as a safer way to have sex.
- Troye Sivan – the new music is great. We didn’t think it was possible, but we love him more than ever.
- Men who can grow a moustache.
- US Supreme Court – the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is not only sad because the life of a great woman has ended, but it now precipitates what will undoubtedly be an ugly struggle by the Republicans to try and get an appointment pushed through while the current president is still in office. Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be remembered for a lot of tremendous achievements and qualities – not least of which was her hugely important support and advocacy for LGBTQ equality.
- Our social lives – unsurprisingly, this new-normal has left a lot of us feeling isolated and lonely. Loneliness is something we’re all grappling with.
- Swimming at the men’s pond in Hampstead Heath – while the ponds have finally re-opened after lock-down, the changing weather means that swimming is now pretty much off the table. I’ve only had one swim in the ponds in 2020. Disappointing.
- Ellen DeGeneres – her motto is #BeKind but turns out that working on her show isn’t much fun.
- Chi Chi DeVayne – sad to hear of the death of Chi Chi DeVayne, the drag alter-ego of Zavion Davenport. Chi Chi – an alum of RPDR – was only 34 and has died of scleroderma which is a rare auto-immune condition.
- The rainbow flag – we don’t have a monopoly on the rainbow, but co-opting the rainbow flag to symbolise your support for the NHS erases us and our history.
- Climate Change – it’s not going well.
- Racist porn-stars. No longer tolerated by an industry keen to take out its trash.
- Poland. A narrow election to the incumbent president sees anti-LGBTQ rhetoric continue to rise.
- Bathhouses/Saunas – almost impossible for them to reopen while social distancing restrictions in place. Huge loss for our community.
- All the gays that work in hospitality, tourism, theatre, and the creative industries – that’s pretty much all of the gays.
- The swim-briefs we were saving for a gay beach vacation.
- JK Rowling. Stop. Attacking. Trans. People. A shameless exercise in generating publicity for a new book.
- Systemic racism. #BlackLivesMatter
A queer guy’s survival guide to the future
Let’s face it, no one knows what happens from here. It feels like we’re at the end of the beginning but this is likely to be a Tolkeinesque saga and no one wants to be Samwise Gamgee. Here’s some of the resources that feel like they might come in handy as we attempt to navigate the future.
- Solar charger. I’m not predicting that this is the end-of-days, but life comes at you fast. A solar charger seems like a sensible back-up plan.
- Lube. Invest in some quality – whether it’s for masturbating or hook-ups. I like the feel of Boy Butter, but you probably need to experiment a bit to find what works best for you.
- Anxiety relief. If you’ve got a heartbeat, it’s pretty likely that your anxiety is going to be off the charts. I’m not convinced that a meditation app is the answer but I’m willing to give it a go.
- Ready for anything. A credit card sized Swiss army knife? That just sounds fairly essential for whatever we’re facing into.
- Short shorts. Every situation is improved by a guy with thick thighs rocking a sexed-up pair of short shorts. Trust me on this.
If you’re looking for something to watch, you might want to check out Young Hunter from Marco Berger.
It’s a fairly problematic story – young gay guys being taken advantage of as they explore their need for sexual intimacy – but Berger gets the balance right and has created a watchable and thought-provoking film.