Would anyone disagree with the old adage “Life is precious” ?   I doubt it especially given the rollercoaster of emotions we have all experienced this past year.  In some way or another, we have all lost someone or something and my heart is with you all for that reason. 

And so it is counter-intuitive to talk about positives arising from the pandemic.   It is also impossible to do so without feeling a sense of guilt.   But let’s have a go !

We have been brought closer together by technology.   Yes we all have  “Zoom / Teams fatigue” from time to time (mine seems to depend whether I am drinking water or a gin & tonic…..) but isn’t it more natural and fulfilling now to see your loved ones when speaking with them ?   Isn’t it heartwarming to see their laughs and smiles and to share their anguish and concerns from their facial expressions rather than just the tone of their voice or an extended silence ?   How did we do that with the same depth of emotion when listening to just a voice at the end of a telephone – the fact is we didn’t.  Are voice-only calls consigned to the history books along with faxes and telegrams ?   I hope so….

We have also connected more with those at a distance.   How many of you have been in touch with out of town friends / family and seen them in your home albeit digitally after months or years ?   How many distant birthday parties have you attended on Zoom which you would have otherwise missed ?

We have also become more aware of others in our community.   The plight of the elderly and those with disabilities and underlying health conditions has never been more apparent – it makes the daily news whereas before they were often forgotten in favour of more headline grabbing celebrity gossip (which I sometimes guiltily yearn for….). 

We have also become more tolerant and united against hate and bigotry.   Why else did we see a strong global backlash to the murder of George Floyd ?   The support for Black Lives Matter increased by the same amount in two weeks as the prior two years following that incident.  Would such attention have been paid if everyone was busy in their pre-pandemic lives ? 

That incident and perhaps coronavirus also caused the death of Trumpism.   I cannot be sorry for that – enough said !

The pandemic has also created more awareness of viruses and we are reminded of the spread of AIDS.   This has been brilliantly covered by Channel 4 in its record breaking series “It’s a Sin.”  It is true that “It’s a Sin”  brought back painful memories;  not just of the loss of friends and hatred from the homophobes but also of the fear and shame.   Yet at the same time, the series has invoked a feeling of warmth and happiness that we are now living in a much improved place.   Work to do globally of course on LGBTQ+ rights but let’s not ignore the progress so far.

The Transgender community also deserves a mention.    Access to medical care has been more difficult and there have been many reports on the adverse effect on mental health as a result.   However, there seems to be more awareness and debate which are needed to facilitate positive change.    To that end,  the Freehold Board is looking for an additional board member to help propel our Trans strategy forwards – get in touch if you are interested.

So it has been a difficult year for all of us……but we can see light at the end of the tunnel and that is what we must focus on.   Let’s throw everything we have in ourselves to reach the end of that tunnel.   When we get there, let’s also remember the lessons of the past year and stay closer to each other than ever before.

I look forward to seeing you all soon at our next physical event !!!

By: Saleem Fazal