Almost a year in, you’re probably feeling that you’ll be leaving lockdown a very different person than when you entered it. Maybe you have a new hobby, maybe you have a drastic haircut, or maybe you’re one of the many people who have embraced a new understanding of your sexual or gender identity.

Here’s where we’re at with the lockdown

We’ve been in and our of various levels of quarantine for a year now — with some stay at home orders more intense than others depending on where in Canada you happen to be. It’s been long enough that these “unprecedented times” have become, well, precedented times.

a woman sitting at a table using a laptop: Unsplash © Unsplash Unsplash

People are adjusting to remote work and school. Since we have been social distancing and most in-person events have been cancelled for the time being, our  engagement with public space has been limited. So, people have been crafting new spaces for themselves, whether that be a Zoom nightclub, an online book club, or a weekly online binge session with Netflix Party.

Related: How to make work friends while working remotely.

Why this created opportunities for people to discover their queer identities

This time outside of the public eye has created the perfect conditions for people to rediscover their identity, in particular, their relationship with gender and sexuality. Eva Bloom, a queer sexuality educator and sex science communicator based in Toronto, believes that time away from public space has given people freedom to question and explore their true authentic selves.

TikTok has created pockets where it is homo-normative and that doesn’t exist in other media.

“We have stopped being forced to perform… which has given people the space to say ‘I’m going to perform gender and sexuality for myself’,” says Bloom.

The lockdown makes it possible to create what Bloom calls “an affirming space”, which lets many feel comfortable experimenting. Also, the development of more online queer spaces makes it easier to find queer communities that provide positive representation. In particular, social media platforms like TikTok are connecting folx with content that is created by and for queer communities.

“TikTok has created pockets where it is homo-normative and that doesn’t exist in other media. Seeing the happy queer couples, the day to day lives of queer people is so affirming and you don’t see any of that on TV or anywhere else, really,” Bloom points out.

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People are learning so much about themselves

These newly accessible affirming spaces, both at home and online, have changed how many see their sexuality, in widely varying ways.

Laura Mitchell is a working professional in Toronto who had identified as straight before the pandemic. During the lockdown, she came to terms with her bisexuality and realized that she had previously written off her attraction to women.

a woman standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera: Unsplash © Unsplash Unsplash

“The pandemic made it easier to come to this realization because I was taken out of all of my environments, with no pressure to perform a certain way. It allowed me the space mentally to explore this side of myself,” says Mitchell.

Folks who had previously identified within the LGBTQ+ community have also seen changes in their sexuality, including Eva Bloom. Bloom’s own sexuality has shifted toward decentering from their preferences since the lockdown.

“I don’t even identify with bisexual anymore. I’m attracted to multiple genders, but ‘queer’ feels way better,” Bloom says.

Having the time and safety to explore at home has also helped people better understand their gender identity.

For instance, Jamie* is a writer in Toronto who identifies as pansexual and panromantic and they recently started experimenting with their gender identity. Their roommates put on weekly dance parties and Jamie found that performing ‘MakeDamnSure’ by Taking Back Sunday was a catalyst to start experimenting with their gender, since it was the first song they had chosen that was sung by a man. They say that having the chance to perform masculinity in a safe place led to them further questioning their gender identity. 

Twenty20 © Twenty20 Twenty20

Bloom has had similar experiences, saying that their personal relationship with gender has also changed over the course of the lockdown.

“Not having to perform femininity anymore and giving myself permission to explore androgyny and different gender expressions has changed how I see my identity,” they say.

While it is extremely positive that many were able to discover their authentic selves during this time, it also signals a need to create an everyday world that better enables this type of discovery, even beyond lockdown. Clearly, people are in need of the space and resources to explore and understand their identity. That means we need to fight for more representation of queer folx in mainstream media. It means we need easily accessible queer social spaces. It means we need to challenge cultural norms that position heterosexual and cisgender as the defaults.  As we work toward a post-lockdown world, we should do so with consideration about creating one that encourages discovery, rather than stifling it.

Related: 10 of the most misunderstood things about bisexual women.

Resources to support your personal sexuality and/or gender identity journey

If you are questioning your sexuality or gender identity and are looking for some support check out.

*Pseudonym used to protect this source’s anonymity

Related: 11 ways to be a respectful LGBTQ2S+ ally.