While the Coronavirus has raised public awareness of systemic inequality in access to healthcare, one disproportionately affected group has gone largely ignored. For the pale and fucked-up looking, fear of COVID-19 has been deeply stigmatizing, sources report.
“Ashen skin, under-eye bags, and general sweatiness is my reality 365 days a year,” says Elle Mitchell. “Now, I’m looked at with fear and disgust. Mothers pull their children away from me on the street. It isn’t right.”
“I’m not sick,” Mitchells adds. “These are just my genes. And maybe also my lifestyle, but not in a way that’s contagious.”
Other generally sickly individuals echo her sentiment.
“The increasingly large scope of maladies that fall under the ‘COVID symptoms’ umbrella has had a really negative impact on me,” says Rhea Murray. “Headache, fatigue, sore muscles? Practically anything that’s wrong with you could be COVID, and there’s always something wrong with me.”
“You know that co-worker who basically has a cold from October to May?” adds Murray. “I am that co-worker. I’m pale, I’m tired, I’m always sniffling, and I’m not going anywhere.”
For all its difficulty, this period of increased adversity has brought members of the community together and led many to find their voice in the empowering protection of company.
“This pandemic is a terrible thing for a number of reasons, at least three or four that I could think of off the top of my head,” says Ronnette Lee. “And we need to do everything we can to stop it, but before we do that, we do need to address its toll on the fucked-up looking population, and we’re ready to demand that.”
“In the past, people would ask me if I was okay at random times, or suggest that I get more sun,” Lee says. “Now they just avoid me altogether. Actually, that part’s sort of better, but in general it’s still not fair.”
Their message to the public is clear: don’t let fear override your ability to see humanity.
“I’m a person with feelings, and I don’t have COVID,” says Mitchell. “I’m just kind of gross.”