About 40 or 50 people gathered to attend a workshop that was originally entitled “Beyond the Meth Monster: Queer Strategies For Ending The War On Drugs.” Due to some travel problems and double bookings, the format of the workshop turned into more of a brainstorming session and really great conversation about the war on drugs, the lgtbq community and intersections, and even prison reform.
Gabriel Sayegh who works for the Drug Policy Alliance said that “the bodies of queer people often become cultural battlegrounds,” especially in the war on drugs. There is a disproportionate amount of impact on the glbtq community from drugs and the war on drugs. The glbtq community has significantly higher rates of substance use and abuse and complications, a lack of good mental health resources, little to no inclusivity in climates for residential treatment facilities and almost no inclusion of substance abuse issues in the policies of national organizations.
We had a great round-table style discussion about the intersections of homelessness, drug use and being lgbtq identified. Many people shared stories of suffering from addiction after being kicked out of their homes for being lgbtq. Others talked about incarceration and how difficult it is to be released from jail with little to no resources to keep from getting caught up with drugs again.
A different need that was discovered when they asked us why we were attending was that many, many college campus activists were at a loss as to how to tackle the issue of students and friends using drugs with zero tolerance policies on their campuses. We have this problem at my school- we don’t have any resources or information to refer people for illegal drug use treatment and we don’t want to get our friends in trouble. If you are caught using drugs on our campus you are arrested by the campus police and expelled from school. How do we help our friends without getting them in trouble? We came to the session hoping to find resources and heard from many of our peers across the country that they are having the same problems.
This was only scratching the tip of the iceberg and we ran over-time in our session. The best thing we could come up with so far was trying to advocate for schools to switch to “harm-reduction” models that focus on providing resources to our students and communities instead of penalizing them for seeking/needing help. Being able to refer people to lgbtq competent drug treatment is really important and would be really great. We ended the session by saying that next year at Creating Change we’d like to do some organizing on this issue.