Drug Policy Alliance | 131 West 33
Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY email@example.com | 212.613.8020 voice | 212.613.8021 faxPage 1
LGBT Communities andDrug Policy Reform
Toward a Public Health and Safety-Based ApproachThe war on drugs is a war on families, a war oncommunities, and a war on our constitutionalrights. Millions of people have been incarceratedfor low-level violations, trillions of dollars havebeen wasted, and hundreds of thousands of liveshave been lost because cost-effective and life-saving interventions are not sufficiently available.We need drug policies that move away from thecriminal justice system, and address drugoverdose, addiction, and misuse through a health-oriented framework.
What Does Drug Policy Reform Have To DoWith the LGBT Movement?
Personal sovereignty informs both the LGBTliberation and drug policy reform movements.Both are rooted in a core principle that our bodybelongs to us, yet we both find our bodies abattleground for competing political and culturalideologies. We often face the same enemies andhave some of the same weapons arrayed againstus. Police surveillance and repression, along withstigma and moral panic, are used to great effectagainst both LGBT individuals and drug users.The LGBT movement has a proud history as avoice for freedom, liberation, social change, andsocial justice. Certainly not all LGBT individualsare progressive or even liberal, nor do they allneed to be, but as a community, we have spokenout against harmful social policies. We need to join the fight against prohibition.
Why Should I Care?
Drugs, including alcohol, have played a hugecultural and historical role for us: liberation,celebration, socialization, self-medication,comfort, sex. Bars have often been ourchurches and cultural institutions. Drugshave played central roles in our social lives,our sex lives and our communities.
Drugs have been part of how we coped withoppression and hatred, numbing ourselves tohandle the homophobia, hatred anddiscrimination thrown at us – and how wemanaged the social stigma and isolation.
Drugs have not always been good for us.LGBT individuals have significantly highervulnerability to problematic substance use.Every study done has shown higher rates ofdrug use and misuse compared to ourheterosexual peers. The reasons cited in theresearch include: less resilience/familysupport; greater rates of mental healthissues; a response to social oppression;targeted advertising; and reliance on bars forsocializing.
The war on drugs in combination with LGBTinvisibility has led to fewer culturallycompetent resources, services, programs ortherapists for those of us struggling withproblematic substance use. Residentialprograms are structured by gender, with fewplaces for those of us who don’t fit binarygender boxes. Many treatment programs arebased in religious ideology and are notaccepting of LGBT communities.
The war on drugs has encouraged policesurveillance of LGBT spaces, along withcontrol of social and sexual behaviors: drugsor suspected drug use are often used asreasons for increased police surveillance ofLGBT spaces, both public and private.