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When I was asked to join the GAY TIMES team as Contributing Editor, my answer was a resounding “YES!” Since curating the Gaysians issue of the magazine back in 2018 and writing about incredible music artists in the LGBTQ+ community along with some Apple Music playlist curation, I’ve enjoyed the freedom of bringing a breadth of intersections and skills to a platform and team that have welcomed me with open arms. Now more than ever, it is crucial that those of us from marginalised groups work together to build alliances and enjoy mutual growth and healing, if we are to build the world we want to see.

There is no denying that these unprecedented times have brought about a pressure that is forcing us all to review and change the way we live and survive in the world. Not only are we in the midst of a global pandemic, forcing us into isolation or into challenging living circumstances, but as a result of this, we are now shifting our lens onto how we deconstruct oppressive systems. The system of racial hierarchy and in particular the oppression of Black people globally is finally receiving an increasingly united focus to overcome its toxic grip on society. We were all born into a system of white supremacy and anti-blackness. Until we can admit we all have inner work and active learning to do (without asking for our learning to be yet again the labour of Black people) we’ve learned nothing.

Many of us are drawn to make a difference and contribute to positive change whilst grappling with a feeling of powerlessness. Can we unbind the system that has kept us blind before we are drawn back into its clutches? If a pandemic cannot force us to see ourselves, what will? What will come next? Activism is a daily and, as the word denotes, ‘active’ stance to learn, grow, build community and shift society for the better. This work always starts from within. Racism is the most unjust violation of human rights, before even misogyny and homophobia because it operates at so many intricate levels that most of us aren’t even aware of our own participation in it. Race is the first of a series of themes that I’ll be exploring on this platform over the coming weeks and months.

I know I’ve found this an incredibly challenging time, forcing me to explore the way I love myself, those in my proximity and those at a distance. My foundations and my relationships have all been put to the test by the sheer fact that I cannot avoid looking at things up close and with intensity. How do we maintain wellbeing as we reintegrate after lockdown? We’re experiencing an immense moment in history. We are those people. So, what will we take from this time?

We’ve all had varying experiences due to the pandemic. Some of us may have been initially better off being furloughed, but risk not having jobs to go back to. Some of us have been on the frontline of the NHS. Some of us have lost loved ones. Some of us are homeless. Some of us have a limited support network, especially if family are not present as is far too often the case for the LGBTQ+ community. What are the inner resources we can pool as we centre ourselves if we’ve been with others? In a crowded home on lockdown with a partner and/or family, after months together, have you maintained a sense of individual identity? Can you hear yourself? How do we make space for others if we have been alone? What have you leaned on to get through what has been a highly stressful and anxiety ridden time, and still is?

I personally hit a peak in a manic episode that’s lasted most of the year around a month ago and have been focusing on regaining balance in my life. Allowing myself to be vulnerable and honest with myself and my support network helped me massively once I was able to admit to myself how vulnerable I really was – especially without a family of origin to lean on. Being disowned for my sexuality 14 years ago has left me with a sense of independence and self-reliance, but also without a safety net that many people have at this time. Having been married to a woman and divorced after 13 years together has left me without my second family and with defences that I have to continually dissect in order to be open to receiving love. I’ve lost my Indian family, then my English family. However, I am overjoyed to now be in a loving relationship with an incredible woman which is nurturing and fosters mutual growth and has gifted me a Jamaican family.

This is a perfect time to develop a deeper relationship with our self and our loved ones.

As we come out of lockdown and cautiously reintegrate ourselves into social and work spaces, looking a little dishevelled compared to a few months ago, how do we cope? Were you one of those people that went running and juiced everyday, because I definitely wasn’t! However I do have a toolbox (pun intended) of tools that help me maintain a sense of wellbeing.

Here are some of the tools I use, both Eastern and Western that have helped me and I hope can help you:

  • Meditation: As a Buddhist with a daily meditation practice for the past 20 years, I can’t recommend this highly enough. There are lots of guided meditations available online and I’d recommend a Yoga Nidra guided meditation as a good starting point to help ease anxiety and bring relaxation and peace to the body and mind. Even simply chanting “Om” slowly for a few minutes each day, in cross legged position can have a calming effect.
  • Yoga: There are tonnes of online yoga courses that you can join over Zoom and endless videos on YouTube. You’ll be amazed at how grounding this practice is and how powerful it is to be in your body. I have a daily home practice designed  specifically to alleviate anxiety and depression. I had neglected it until recently and have been overwhelmed with how much it’s helped me. Aside from the stances (asana), the breath work (pranayama) is life changing in its impact on anxiety.
  • Journaling: I write every morning as soon as I wake up. My practice is based on a book called The Artist’s Way which I recommend to everyone. However, journaling as an exercise in writing down how you’re feeling each day not only allows you to get stuff off your chest, but also provides an invaluable record to look back upon.
  • Talking therapy: Whilst not everyone is a fan, I love me some talking therapy! I’ve had therapists that didn’t understand the complexities of my intersections but the one I’ve had for the past three years has been a much needed constant amidst a lot of change in my life. It’s worth talking to a few therapists before you make a decision, and I thoroughly recommend seeking out someone that specialises or comes from your particular intersectional space. Something like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is brilliant at a time like this when we want to build a structure and routine and it may be proving a challenge.
  • Speaking with loved ones: Everyone is at a different stage in their own process and experiencing personal waves of coping. This might mean people can’t always be there for you in the way you need them to be or have been accustomed to. I made a list of the people I love. Then I reached out when I needed help. Not everyone was able to be there for me but the ones that could have breathed life into me. Yes, it was scary to ask to for help as someone that’s been autonomous and not relied on others for most of my adult life and even childhood. But putting ego aside and asking for support was the biggest gift I could have given myself.
  • Music: I don’t know about you but listening to radio or watching TV where there is anything pandemic related is in itself stressful for me. As a music artist and DJ I’m constantly listening to music and during this time I’ve found myself drawn to classical Indian music and ragas to relax to. Check out the Apple Music playlist above I’ve created to help you relax.. 
  • Dance: Crank up the tunes and shake your money maker! The endorphins will give you a huge boost in a way that exercise doesn’t quite match.
  • Exercise: Yes I know, I know, but it’s important. Go for a walk or bike ride or train at home. It’s so easy to get some squats and press ups into the day without it seeming like a chore, especially if you’re working from home. 
  • Play: Do your make up, paint your nails, dress up and do your hair. Fuck it, why not! My girlfriend and I dress up and go on dates to a little restaurant we’ve created in our home. We give it a different name depending on the cuisine and it gives us a sense of still being able to enjoy going out together. Bringing in some play and imagination adds some fun and variety to the day.
  • And last but by no means least, sex: And more sex. It’s pretty much dance, yoga and exercise in one so, three for the price of one. Whether with a lover or yourself it’s a great stress release and also again, brings you back to your body. 

This is a perfect time to develop a deeper relationship with our self and our loved ones. From this place, we can shift the world further on its axis and create the world we all dream of. A world which first requires us to see our own experience of marginalisation as an opportunity to support each other, especially those more marginalised than us and call into questions the systems that oppress us all. Each of us at our core has the ability to do this work and create this new world. I’m in, will you join me?