Despite appearances, and the literal words out of President Biden’s mouth, the Covid pandemic is still a thing that’s happening out here in the world. 11,000 Americans died last month; an estimated 35 million Americans have Long Covid; and even fully vaccinated and boosted people have at least a 5% chance of getting Long Covid, which includes the “chance of elevated long-term risks of MI, stroke, diabetes, and cognitive decline.” My own personal brain hasn’t been the same since I got Covid in March 2020, and it seems likely that it will never be the same again. Which means that I — along with countless other disabled, chronically ill, and immunocompromised people — am staring down another Thanksgiving without the joy of seeing friends and family. Or, well, a “traditional” Thanksgiving, at least. But! If the last few years have reiterated anything to us us, it’s that queer people are endlessly resourceful in their pursuit of staying connected with their community, and committed to keeping each other safe. So, with that in mind, here are ten ways you can make sure your most vulnerable friends are included in your Thanksgiving plans this year.
Host a small, outdoor gathering.
Outdoor events are, by far, the safest way to socialize these days. When you’re outside, fresh air is constantly whirring around you, which disperses those dang virus droplets that don’t have anywhere else to go when you’re inside. Transmissibility is also drastically reduced when your guests have room to move around and aren’t forced to crawl all over each other like a basket full of kittens. You can further reduce risk by making sure masks are available for people to wear during their downtime and also making sure people aren’t sharing utensils and glassware. Don’t ask someone for a sip of their beer! Get your own beer!
Choo-choo-choose a meal train.
This was Managing Editor Kayla’s idea, and it is so good! Even if you plan the safest gathering you can, some of your disabled and chronically ill friends won’t be able to attend. Or they won’t know if they’re able to attend until the very second the party is meant to start. Our bodies are so weird and uncooperative so much of the time! But if you could find a way to get your food onto their plates anyway, that would be so cool. If a few people worked together to drop off their dishes beforehand, or if one person rounded up all the dishes and dropped them off, your home-bound friend would feel so cherished and connected to you. Plus they wouldn’t have to spend the energy on making their own food, and with Thanksgiving, there’s always leftovers.
Zoom the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, or a football game.
You don’t have to share a meal to share a Thanksgiving! You could do a Zoom hang and watch the parade together! Or a Zoom hang and watch an NFL game together! Or a Zoom hang and watch any number of the holigay movies and TV episodes that are available to us now — like Master of None‘s “Thanksgiving” or Buffy’s “Pangs.”
Tailgate your turkey.
What if you and your friends all made your own little picnics with your own little favorites and dietary restrictions — and then met up at a park, or a hiking trail, or heck even some random parking lot like football tailgaters? And then you each ate your own meals in the safety of the outdoors. You can sit on actual tailgates or picnic blankets or those fold-out camp chairs. If you choose the right location, you might even be able to build yourself a little campfire for extra cozy vibes.
Send out Thanksgiving cards.
Being together on Thanksgiving is fun, but it’s also fun to share your gratitude with your friends and family in other ways. Everybody loves getting mail that’s not bills, and a Thanksgiving card is an extra special surprise because who sends Thanksgiving cards? Sending notes of thankfulness is good for the soul, and so is receiving them.
Enjoy a non-food outdoor activity.
Cutting down on collective eating will definitely cut down on germies, so why not a hike? A flag football game? A dog park meet-up? A windy day on chilly beach? A bike ride? An outdoor D&D session? This plan does away with clean-up, everyone can come and go at their leisure, and maybe you can even collectively work on an Autostraddle puzzle!
Mandate masks and tests for indoor gatherings.
Whenever me and Valerie Anne have plans to hang out, the morning of our day together, she always sends me a photo of a negative Covid test and a note that says something adorable like “Ready for friendship!” It means more to me than I could possibly explain. Testing is not foolproof, of course, but it reduces the risk of Covid transmission big time! So does wearing masks indoors if everyone is wearing them. If you’re going to mandate masks and tests, let everyone know beforehand and make sure you have someone in your group who is really willing to enforce your rule with consistency and love.
Thanksgiving doesn’t have to happen on Thanksgiving! You can give thanks any day! So, if you’re hosting or attending an event that isn’t super safe for your immunocompromised friends, maybe you could plan a group hang before Thanksgiving. You can do all the activities listed in this post, and so many more — you’re queer! think outside the box! it’s your whole thing! — without doing them on the national holiday. Friendship can be for any day!
Don’t guilt your friends into attending if they don’t feel safe.
Listen, if your immunocompromised friend tells you it’s not safe for them to attend a thing, or your disabled friend tells you they’re actually not feeling well enough to attend, please — I am begging you — don’t make it about yourself. Don’t take someone else’s health personally! Don’t let your own feelings (guilt, disappointment, frustration, etc.) take over and compel you to make your sick friend feel bad. Trust me, they already feel bad. Every day. Every single day. One of the kindest things you can do for your chronically ill buddies is to hear them. Just take them at their word. It is a rare gift for a sick person to simply be believed.
Make someone else’s Thanksgiving special.
Lots of people have to work on Thanksgiving. If you can’t host an event, or attend an event, maybe take a few minutes to make the day of an essential worker a little easier. Bigger tips, bigger gratitude, bigger gestures of thanks. While you’re committing yourself to notice the needs of the chronically ill people in your life, notice the needs of the people who aren’t regularly in your life. Did you know most disabilities are invisible? You never know what someone else is going through, but you do know it stinks to have to work on a holiday where everyone else is at home eating macaroni and cheese.
If you have more ideas, I sure would love to hear about them in the comments!