I used to have a pet iguana, and I never learned whether it was a girl or a boy. It was fascinating to me that this beautiful and handsome creature could exist in the world without a gender and be perfectly fine, and I still think that’s neat. I was a weird kid, but I knew what I was about.
When I moved to West Philadelphia at the beginning of the pandemic, the neighborhood was a mess. The city sanitation workers were on strike (good for them!!), and trash was everywhere. No one had trimmed the vegetation growing along the sidewalks, and there were all sorts of weeds and flowers pushing their way up from underneath the piles of loose rubbish. Most of the university students and faculty had evacuated the city, and no one was walking around outside to begin with, so the crows and opossums had gotten bold. It was quite nice, actually.
I don’t intend to suggest that there was anything “good” about the pandemic, which was and continues to be a nightmare, but I have to admit that it was still a welcome relief to be able to walk around outside while feeling like I was just another part of nature.
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This is a comic I created for the third issue of Nature Held Me Close, a zine about “gender dysphoria and the great outdoors.” Free digital copies of all three issues of the zine are available on its website (here).
I’ve been seeing here and there that the Covid-19 vaccine is a giant shot that really hurts and knocks you out afterwards, but none of that is true. It’s very chill and painless and stress-free.
I’m deathly afraid of needles, but this wasn’t a big deal, even for me. Just in case anyone has anxiety about this vaccine, I want to add my voice to the chorus of people saying that there’s nothing to worry about.
The needle isn’t big at all, and the shot takes literally a second. It’s not painful, just a tiny touch of ice on your shoulder. I experienced a slight fever and some wooziness during the afternoon and evening after the vaccine, but the symptoms were mild and had totally disappeared when I woke up the next morning. My arm was a bit sore the day after, but it wasn’t painful; it was just like the feeling you get after pushing your limits a little during a weightlifting session. There was no bruise at all.
Everyone in the impromptu clinic was very friendly and kept thanking me for showing up and being there. They took social distancing seriously without being weird about it or performing hygiene theater, which I appreciated. All of the doctors and nurses were bizarrely healthy-looking and attractive in the way that healthcare professionals often are when they’re not at the end of some horrible hellshift. I got a big glossy sticker and a little vaccine passport card at the end of the fifteen-minute observation period, and they are both very handsome.
As a nonbinary person, I’ve had a lot of trouble with the medical system in the past, but none of that nonsense applies to this situation. No one is going to force you to check a binary gender box or ask for your deadname or try to shame you about your identity or appearance or “gender-appropriate” weight; they just want to help you get vaccinated. Even if you have trauma associated with doctors and needles, you’ll be okay.
Overall, getting vaccinated was a pleasant experience. If nothing else, you can use it as an excuse to order a pizza and spend the rest of the day in bed playing video games, which is totally what I did.
The clinic I visited at UPenn was on the second-floor basketball court of the university gym, but I’ve been hearing about vaccine clinics that have been set up in mostly abandoned malls in New Jersey and elsewhere around the United States, and damn that sounds cool. I’ve added “visiting mostly abandoned malls in New Jersey” to the list of things I want to try once I’m fully vaccinated, and I’m looking forward to it. There are a lot of things I’m looking forward to doing, actually, and I’m relieved and happy to have taken this step forward to being able to enjoy them while living my best and most interesting post-pandemic life.
So no worries, friends. Even if your anxiety is as awful as mine, you’ll be fine.