Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex people are “two to three times more prone to substance abuse than their heterosexual counterparts,” according to a recent article providing resources for those in Washington’s LGBTQI community struggling with addiction.
Alaiyo Foster, Manager of Education Services, and Josh Ferrer, Manager of Prevention Services, for Cascade AIDS Project, pinpoint the three main factors that contribute to this higher rate of substance use:
“Societal stigma has a huge impact on the LGBTQI population and alcohol and/or drugs, which are easily accessible, can be often used as a coping mechanism. It also informs the LGBTQI community access to care including drug and alcohol treatment, as some individuals may be reticent to interact with health service providers out of fear of being judged or blamed.”
“Gay bars play an important role in LGBTQI culture as a safe space for socialization away from the judgment of mainstream society. When one becomes socialized in this environment, alcohol and tobacco use become normalized, which can lead to high rates of use and abuse.”
“Tobacco and alcohol companies have been very good at promoting their products to LGBTQI populations through gay media as well as through sponsoring events like Gay Pride.”
In light of these statistics, we found it important to expand our Seattle LGBTQI resources to include Oregon in the hopes of connecting more in the LGBTQI community with local organizations and programs. As Alaiyo and Ferrer emphasize, addressing issues such as bullying, isolation, hopelessness, fear and stress could prevent or decrease drug and alcohol use and abuse among the LGBTQI population.
Sadly drugs and alcohol have played a large part in LGBTQI culture often due to the social stigma placed upon such individuals and the perceived or actual need to hide their true selves for self-preservation purposes.” -Alaiyo and Ferrer
“Sadly drugs and alcohol have played a large part in LGBTQI culture often due to the social stigma placed upon such individuals and the perceived or actual need to hide their true selves for self-preservation purposes,” Alaiyo and Ferrer said.
With Oregon one of 14 states currently permitting gay marriage, the roles discrimination and prejudice play in the popularity of drug and alcohol use within the gay community may be diminishing. However, the appeal of alcohol and drugs as a way to decrease inhibitions remains impactful. Thankfully, Oregon offers more than a handful of programs and organizations that can help with a variety of concerns, ranging from drug and alcohol abuse to homelessness within the LGBTQI community. Here are a few of our favorites.
Cascade Aids Project is an HIV/AIDS organization dedicated to prevention, support and the elimination of stigma. CAP provides 11 prevention and education programs, including The Link, a social networking group HIV+ gay/bi/trans men and Axis, a safer-sex counseling, 15 housing and supportive services both for children and adults and volunteer services.
Outside In is a social service organization that helps homeless youth and other marginalized individuals, like LGBTQI individuals, attain health and self-sufficiency.
Q Center is dedicated to creating a safe space for all LGBTQI people that celebrates diversity, visibility and community-building through a wide range of events, workshops, support services and advocacy work.
SMYRC (Sexual Minority Youth Resource Center) is the largest LGBT youth program in Oregon, offering counseling, support, a recreation center, a speakers bureau and more.
Oregon Gay Straight Alliance Network is a youth-led organization that connects school-based Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) around the state to each other and to community resources.
Equity Foundation is Oregon’s only grant-making institution established to fund organizations that celebrate diversity and advance equality for those in the LGBTQI community.
SAGE Metro Portland SAGE (Services & Advocacy for GLBT elders) is the world’s oldest and largest nonprofit agency dedicated to serving LGBT older adults.
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