Today is Transgender Day of Visibility, a time to honor trans folks’ experiences. Visibility is important and often lacking for transgender people, even within LGBTQIA spaces. When I look up statistics on addiction for the different categories of the queer umbrella, it’s hard to even find specifics for trans people.
Minority Stress, Internalized Transphobia, and Addiction
But the numbers I can find are alarmingly high. One study found that almost 70% of trans women aged 16-24 had recently used drugs. Trans people—especially trans people of color—face significant minority stress, health disparities experienced by marginalized populations from chronic discrimination. Minority stress has been associated with increased substance use and mental health disorders.
Internalized transphobia, shame, and secrecy can also be major fuel for addiction. When you’re hiding one thing, it becomes easier to hide another. Your drinking or drug use can become yet another big secret.
Recovery Can Bring Self-Knowledge
On the flip side, sobriety can open the space to be open and vulnerable. A trans woman I know said that even though some part of her knew all along she was trans, she couldn’t face it until she got sober. She said recovery “peeled back the layers.”
I know she is not alone in this. If you google “figuring out you’re trans after you get sober,” there’s multiple stories of people learning they’re trans in recovery. People may drink or use drugs to run from internalized transphobia, or they might not even realize they’re trans until they can think with a clear mind in recovery. Sobriety allows you to figure out who you are when substances aren’t your main motivation.
I’m non-binary, and while I was out as such almost a decade before I got sober, recovery has changed my relationship to this part of myself. It’s made me feel more at home in my body, and more comfortable asking for the right pronouns. Recovery helps you learn to advocate for yourself and your boundaries—and asking that people call you by the correct name and pronouns can be considered a boundary.
Trans people—again, especially trans people of color—experience a lot of violence and adversity. But there’s also room for celebration of trans people’s lives. Transgender Day of Visibility reminds us how important it is for young trans people to see examples of trans adults living openly and without shame. This can help break the cycle of addiction.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is hope. Amatus Recovery Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you find peace and self-love in recovery. To learn more, call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.