My name is Adriel Rodriguez, I’m the volunteer coordinator at Trans Lifeline, and I sat down with Caiden, one of our amazing volunteer Hotline operators, to learn about how he has been doing during the pandemic. I invite you to join us bi-monthly for interviews discussing how our volunteers are responding to current events and are offering resources for our community.
Caiden (he/him/his) is a current graduate school student in Canada and has been volunteering on the Hotline for about a year..
How has your definition of community been reshaped by the pandemic?
In the queer community, community often comes in the shape of space. Now that everything has gone online, it reminded me that it’s not the space that is important, it’s the people.
Are there any new ways you found for coping?
I found myself playing a lot more open world, exploration video games where it feels like I can go anywhere in a virtual space. It satisfies that itch to go outside or to travel. I have also been virtually hosting game nights with my friends and developing a connection with people in this way.
Are there any unique challenges being a student at this time?
I think there is a lot less access to the school community, previously there were more incentives to be part of student life. Now that it is all virtual, it feels hard to want to go because I’ve been on Zoom all day. On the flip side, I’ve saved so much more commute time, which is about eight hours a week. I don’t really know what I would have preferred. It’s changing the way we learn. Some of it hasn’t been so smooth.
What are some things you have felt that you have lost due to all the changes?
My parents live in Taiwan and Canada. Taiwan is doing so much better with the pandemic, I haven’t seen my dad in like a year because of the pandemic. I saw my mom maybe 2 months last year. She sort of risked it to come back to see us. My brother and I don’t get to see our parents very much now.
What are some things that you have gained, that wouldn’t have happened if we weren’t in this situation?
Connecting with people in ways we might not have before, potentially in a deeper way, because we are all experiencing this global situation that has given us a way to connect and empathize with each other.
Another plus, I moved much faster in a romantic relationship than I ever would have thought. My partner basically moved in with me. In sort of the name of restricting social circles and that was a very interesting time. I did not expect to move in with somebody so soon and here we are.
What are some things you have not given yourself credit for and would like to recognize?
I wasn’t in school last year and I was trying to look for a job. I was unemployed. I ended up doing a lot of volunteering work during that time, including with Trans Lifeline. I also volunteered with two foodbanks delivering food and organizing.I created a space for Asian trans masculine people in my city, which ended up being more international because people were able to access it online. Looking back I know I was just trying to keep busy, but looking back I see I did a lot of good work. In trying to get out of the zone of feeling like this sucks and I did stuff that helped, and made an impact on others life. I feel that is something to be celebrated in times like this.
Do you have a call to action for the community?
Covid has brought up pretty important systematic issues. It is very overwhelming. Seeing all these issues day after day, can really impact you. You can only change what you can, what is around you, it doesn’t need to be huge, sort of like organizing a support group, it’s great because it changed the lives of 8 people, including me. It was something I could contribute. It wasn’t difficult, but it sparked something. That’s how you create change. Don’t try to address societal problems on your own. You can only do what you can. Do your best. Hopefully others do the same and that’s how we can move forward as a society.