Community figures have urged Melburnians to maintain pride and togetherness as the city goes into lockdown against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Performer and radio host Dean Arcuri took to the abandoned streets of suburban Melbourne on Sunday after the new lockdown and curfew came into effect.
Clad in a mask, rainbow kaftan, and little else, he aimed to spread smiles amid a backdrop of isolation and alienation that has affected the LGBTIQ community more than most.
‘We are getting on with it’
“Stress, anxiety, and emotions have been running really high for many as we’ve seen the [COVID-19] numbers increase from day to day,” Arcuri told Pink Advocate.
Arcuri, who has been hosting regular virtual events throughout the pandemic, said that despite tension, the community has seemed calm since the announcement of the new lockdown.
“Do we like the situation? No. But people’s energies have shifted, and instead of acting out on social media, we are getting on with it,” he said.
“That’s why I’m posting my rainbow pride pics on social media this week.
“I’m trying to do my bit to spread some positivity that can make people smile instead of feeling anxious.”
Arcuri said he feared that mental health and substance use issues, already higher in the LGBTIQ community, would worsen in the Melbourne lockdown.
“But when you look at how our communities have stepped up – supporting queers in creating online content to help others, or distributing care packages to those that need it… or just putting up a supportive social media post – it’s honestly amazing to see,” he said.
“As easy as it would be for me to wake up every morning with a frown, I can’t help but see others doing whatever they can to help, big or small, and beam with pride.”
‘Hope and something to look forward to’
Singer and cabaret artist Mama Alto said that LGBTIQ people have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic’s impact on the arts, entertainment, events, and hospitality sectors.
“These sectors are always undervalued – despite the immense good we do enriching people’s lives and contributing to the economy,” she said.
“Now, while all around us, people in lockdown turn to entertainment and food for comfort and sustenance, many artists and hospitality workers are left with very little income security and unsure where to find hope and resilience.”
Mama Alto added that the pandemic has “exposed the flaws in the way our society is constructed, the ways in which we should be prioritising human lives over profit”.
“We simply must improve public housing, improve aged care, improve access and inclusion for people living with disability and chronic illness, improve conditions and stability for casual workers, for international students, for welfare recipients, for those experiencing homelessness,” she said.
Mama Alto has generously offered to perform at no charge at events that must be postponed until after the pandemic.
“As a singer, this seemed to be a small thing I could do to help give people hope and something to look forward to once we emerge from this long pandemic battle,” she said.
“The stress and expense of postponing a celebration, a memorial, a wedding, a funeral is immense, and if I can make that a little bit better, it’s my honour and pleasure.”
The stage four restrictions are expected to be in place for six weeks, with Melbourne residents required to stay in their homes except for essential shopping, care and caregiving, exercise, and work.
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