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Knowledge Exchange > Addiction & Mental Health Specialists > Resources for your clients and their families > Substance Use: Issues to consider for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, transsexual, two-spirit, intersex and queer communities

Substance Use: Issues to consider for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, transsexual, two-spirit, intersex and queer communities 

Copyright © 2006

Many people drink alcohol or use other drugs without encountering problems.

However, alcohol and other drug use does involve risks and some people can end up drinking or using other drugs in ways that create problems for them. It is important to be aware of these risks so that you can avoid problems or make changes in your life.

Substance use is a problem when it interferes with:

  • your health
  • your job
  • your studies
  • your relationships
  • your financial stability
  • your safety
  • the safety of others.

Not sure whether your substance use (or someone else’s) is causing problems? Talk it over with someone you trust. Or call the numbers below.

Substance use problems in our community

There are many reasons why people drink or use other drugs. However, there are issues specific to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, transsexual, two-spirit, intersex and queer people’s lives that can further affect our substance use.

Facing isolation, alienation and discrimination from a homophobic society is stressful; escaping from this is one of the main reasons why people in our communities use alcohol or other drugs.

Until recently, there were few social alternatives to the bar, rave or circuit party scenes that allowed us to go out, relax and feel part of a community.

Until recently, there were few counselling resources specifically for our communities. However, you don’t need to face substance use alone. Specialized programs are available to help you.

Getting help

It is natural to have some concerns about what may happen if you ask for help.

You may worry that service providers and counsellors will not respect or understand your circumstances, or will be ignorant about sexual orientation or gender identity issues.

Women, people of colour and other oppressed groups often face extra barriers in getting access to services.

Counsellors may make stereotypical assumptions about the relationship between your sexual orientation and your substance use.

It may be hard to be “out” or totally open about your life when you are in counselling. You may be concerned about your privacy and whether others could “out” you.

Some questions you can ask at your first meeting with a therapist or agency:

  • Do you have any specialized programs for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, transsexual, two-spirit, intersex and queer clients?
  • Have you been trained in working with people in these communities?

Be assertive: You have the right to ask service providers whether they have had experience working with our community or whether there is an “out” counsellor available.

Help is available

Services specifically for our community do exist. Call the numbers listed below to find out where they are.

Rainbow Services at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health offers confidential, free counselling and addiction treatment services to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, transsexual, two-spirit, intersex and queer communities in Ontario.

For more information, call 1 800 463-6273 (in Toronto, call 416 535-8501 ext. 6781).

Take pride. Take control. You have a right to good quality counselling.
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