An estimated 25 to 30 percent of the gay and transgender population in the U.S. abuse drugs and alcohol. Compare this to the 9 percent of the rest of the population who are substance abusers, and it becomes clear that there is an epidemic among gay and trans people in this country.
Transgender equality have been making headlines lately and some progress has been made on issues such as workplace discrimination, marriage, and representation in the media. But there is still much work to be done.
Transgender health is another issue that demands more attention simply because it affects a basic right to healthcare and overall well being that Americans are entitled to. The fact that substance abuse continues to be so rampant in this group reveals that despite recent progress for trans and gay rights, the issue of trans health is still being largely ignored.
What are some factors contributing to these higher rates of abuse? The answer has a lot to do with the experience of living as a trans individual in America, the ability to access quality healthcare as a trans person, and being more exposed drugs and alcohol.
The social conditions that exist for trans people lead to numerous negative effects that harm them every day. Dealing with prejudice on multiple levels, as well as living in a country with laws and policies that are discriminatory has devastating consequences.
These prejudices can be expressed toward a trans person in many ways, ranging from subtle remarks or actions to outright violence. The negative effects that come with living with the daily presence of such factors create great stress and anxiety.
A trans person may begin to avoid certain social situations, places, or people out of fear. Something as simple as walking down the street in a certain neighborhood can cause great anxiety. Discrimination in basic areas such as housing, employment, and health care also makes life as a trans person difficult. These factors cause many transgender people to turn to drugs or alcohol for comfort and escape.
Seeking out help for a drug or alcohol addiction is difficult for anyone, but for a trans person, getting effective treatment for a substance abuse is an ever bigger challenge due to the lack of appropriate care available. Many transgender people don't have healthcare coverage, and even if they do, they're very likely to encounter individuals who don't understand their unique needs or who openly express hostility toward them.
Because of these challenges, a trans person will put off getting treatment for an addiction or won't get help at all. Even if a trans individual does begin a rehab program, the chances that they are getting the right kind of treatment is very slim.
Another factor that may be contributing to the high rate of addiction among transgender people is simply more exposure to substances. Clubs and bars have traditionally been some of the few places that trans people could go to feel comfortable, safe, and social. These environments also revolve around activities such as drinking, smoking, and drug use.
In order to fight this epidemic of addiction in transgender communities, some big changes need to made. Drug treatment programs need to be able to effectively treat trans people, as well as health care in general.
Discriminatory laws and policies need to be overturned, so that transgender individuals can have access to the same rights as other U.S. citizens and live without fear. Changes in the law can also help change attitudes toward trans people in America.