Finding community during COVID-19

Kaina Dominguez and Cheryl Dunye
Kaina Dominguez with queer film director, Cheryl Dunye

Voices in Solidarity

Part three of a series

Rain Dove, Esther Godoy, and Kaina Dominguez do the activist work that brings LGBTQ folks to the surface of the conversation. Dove, Godoy, and Dominguez comment on what it has been like in this time of COVID-19, and how isolation and pandemic have taken siege. Now more than ever, it is important to discuss the disparity, fear, and needs of each other.

Rain Dove
Rain Dove

Dove uses patience and communication as a means to bring about change for all with a particular focus on intersections regarding LGBTQ and all human beings in general. Dove sends the message that solidarity in the spectrum of human rights is a necessity. As an international model, Dove is able to influence visibility in the world of fashion.

Together with the intersections within and around the LGBTQ community, the fashion trailblazer is a part of influencing companies to invest in the bodies and lives of queer, gender nonconforming people rather than look past the community; and with compassion too. Now more than ever Dove’s reach into the community comes as a comfort for people.

“I’m doing all right, physically. Emotionally, it’s difficult to experience everyone going through a collective mourning,” says Rain Dove, activist and gender capitalist of New York City. “A lot of people are distressed, and there is anticipation that difficulty will be inevitable. That brings out a lot of primal feelings in people!”

“Many people aren’t able to acquire basic food provisions—especially in more low income areas. I went to shops recently to search for some staples, and the line out of Aldi and Iceland was two blocks long,”said Dove regarding food security, and accessibility.

The air of people feels rather volatile, they explain. Dove believes people are exhausted in the loss of control this contagion has had on life—never mind in a city as affected as New York City. “I had the privilege to be able to go to—and afford—another store. However, I felt anxious and guilty as I stood in the much shorter queue,” they shared.

Like Rain Dove, Esther Godoy, founder of Butch is Not a Dirty Word magazine, fairs well but is nervous for the LGBTQ community. Godoy is from Melbourne, Australia, but now resides in Portland, Oregon where she is a web and software engineer. “I am very nervous for our community. Most folks I know do not have the same work situations as myself, and I know of many, many people who will be severely impacted by the loss of income. Not to mention the loss of in-person community and emotional support which many rely on as a tool for managing mental health.”

Godoy, although able to work from home right now, is seeing how the world around her is devastated by the effects of COVID-19, while some have what they need. LGBTQ folks help uplift one another through community. A community historically isolated, neglected, and familiar with pandemic is now left to uncontrollable circumstances that tend to overlook the needs of LGBTQ people.

Godoy has invested much of themselves into Butch is Not a Dirty Word. The publication resonates an intimate visibility and an ensured herstory of Butch identities all over the world. The not-for-profit magazine is priced so that it can supply itself, while continuing to create space for butch folks to shine.

Esther Godoy. Photo by Zorah Quattlebaum.
Esther Godoy. Photo by Zorah Quattlebaum.

At this time, you can purchase digital copies of Butch is Not a Dirty Word, staying in tune, submitting your story, and connecting with those in need of community in isolation.

As Dove added, online community presence is a great way to immerse back into social life, but the internet can also increase disconnect or the want to be in physical contact with other human beings. Spending a lot of time with their online community, Dove tends to be a shoulder of relief for people who seek advice or just an understanding person to listen—even if people are initially aggressors. “It can feel very disconnected with so much cyber communication. But I’ve spent a lot of time traveling alone so my mind has adapted. The most difficult part is feeling overwhelmed in the fact that you just can’t talk to all the people all the time. I want to be there for everyone, especially in this time of stress, but it’s impossible, and that gnaws at me.”

“That knowledge that sometimes what people need is in-person support, but all you can do is lend a voice miles away,” said Dove.

Kaina Dominguez and Cheryl Dunye
Kaina Dominguez with queer film director, Cheryl Dunye

Kaina Dominguez lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is the founder of Bush Films and founder/creative director of her creative media production company, Imaginarium Lab. Dominguez said she cancelled an April 23, Bush Films screening, and has since struggled to find a way to keep community morale and events going. The creative director and her media production family at Imaginarium Lab deliver heart from New York to Latin America. Given distinct recognition through the likes of Emmy nominations, Dominguez and her fellow storytellers ensure a passionate impact of their commercial advertising practices.

“The films I curate are not online,” said Dominguez. “I’m not allowed to share their content because some of them are still doing the festival circuit. I’ll let you know if I come up with a different plan. This is a scary time!”

Since last spoken to, Dominguez, has felt the difficulty of this time. A medium such as film, especially quality queer film, is already difficult to come by in the pop mainstream culture of movies. For someone like Dominguez, showing film has been a way to manifest a community space while opening accessibility to film that may otherwise go unseen outside of Bush Films and other film festivals. Suddenly, the wondrous opportunity to engage new queer folks and experience queer art has dwindled due to quarantine measures. Sometimes the reality is that virtual company is not enough.

Lana Leonard (they/them) is a graduate from The College of New Jersey with a degree in journalism and professional writing. They work at the GLAAD Media institute and freelance for publications like LGBTQ Nation while working on their journalistic theory of change project: Late Nights with Lana, a talk show based out of 10PRL film studios in Long Branch, NJ. Lana's mission, in all their work, is to focus on people, their collective truths and how those truths form a community of knowledge towards change.