Rural, Nonbinary, and Diabetic in the Age of COVID-19

Growing up and living with Type 1 Diabetes, I have felt my resilience and resolve tested more times than I care to remember. However, one of the greatest moments of fear I have felt as a person living with an immunocompromised condition, was the moment I learned of the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Montana.

I remember exactly what I was doing: my spouse, Shannon, and I had already decided to self-quarantine due to my chronic illness and subsequent high-risk status. We were watching Grey’s Anatomy—which naturally causes me to cry regularly and for which I usually blame Shonda Rhimes—and during the middle of the episode I saw the news. The fear and defenselessness I felt was raw; I had never felt this way before regarding my diabetes, and suddenly I could not stop the onslaught of tears. I just starting crying uncontrollably and I could not stop. I also didn’t expect this reaction, I thought I had prepared for this by self-distancing and the 37 years of living with this disease. I sat with this feeling and processed through it with Shannon, but the feelings of physical vulnerability and fragility has had a profound effect on my life over the last several weeks. Once again, I feel as though I have very little control over my life as a Type 1 Diabetic alongside the broader lack of control we all feel right now living through a pandemic.

As of late, it’s become abundantly clear that my world, personally and professionally, has shifted dramatically. In the first few weeks of my self-quarantine, I only left the house for an imaging appointment at the hospital, a trip to the pharmacy, and walking our dogs. I’m currently managing a fairly isolated existence at home with my family. I’m incredibly grateful for the support and company of Shannon and our cadre of rescue pets.

After nearly seven years with Pride Foundation, I know it’s not solely supporting student leaders, organizations, and showing up to speak on issues that’s important—it’s the human connections we make, that enable us to grow stronger movements and ensure our humanity is affirmed and celebrated. It’s the ways we have been able to foster relationships, meeting people in their communities and engaging in meaningful conversations about our shared humanity.

As LGBTQ+ people, we are all very different and complex human beings—and our multifaceted identities and our lived experiences are shaping the way we are impacted by COVID-19. Many of us hold things like chronic illnesses that are often hidden from our everyday life. And like every other issue impacting vulnerable communities, COVID-19 is impacting Black, Indigenous and other People of Color at disproportionate rates—and with much less representation or visibility in news or media.

What connects us and holds our sense of self and community strong is how we show up for one another—and that could not be truer than it is right now. We are all existing in a shifting paradigm, a global pandemic that has transformed how we operate, how we stay safe and healthy, and how we are able to show up for one another—whether it’s using technology, or running errands for someone who cannot do it for themselves.

I feel particularly fortunate to be surrounded by wonderful human beings right now. Living in a world that thrives on connection and intimacy, the inability to do that in the same way has been difficult. However, I’ve had so many people reach out with offers to run to the grocery store for us, drop off toilet paper and paper towels, and friends happily willing to check my work P.O. Box for me. So, while we must remain at a distance to be physically near one another right now, our commitment to support one another has remained the same. More importantly, I’m seeing creative means of connecting, providing support and redefining what our community structures can look like.

While we’re all trying to move our work forward and provide necessary resources, I see a lot of ways that human beings are showing true kindness, humility and thoughtful intention to those around us, as we continue to navigate this uncertain storm, and it fills me with hope.


Quinn Leighton (they/them) is Pride Foundation’s regional officer in Montana.

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