There’s More Than Just Marriage

Tatiana Uribe, Staff Writer

June 26, 2015.

An incredibly important day in American history, the day same-sex marriage was finally legalized. One victory for the LGBT+ community was won.

However, it is far from the end for the LGBT+ rights movement in solving the issues within the community.

Many issues that were sidelined during the glamorized fight for marriage equality, like rampant substance abuse, are not typically light-hearted or pretty enough for most of the general public to stomach.

But this does not mean that they can be ignored.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found in their 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, that the use of “illicit drugs” in “ sexual minority adults” – a term commonly used to refer to LGBT+ individuals – was at 39.1 percent, over two times the amount of use in “sexual majority adults” which was recorded at 17.1 percent.

While each person is unique, there are many reasons that an LGBT+ individual might be more vulnerable to substance abuse.

David Wilson, a teacher at Da Vinci Communications High School who is openly gay, says he believes a lot of LGBT+ individuals are more vulnerable to substance abuse issues when they have to struggle in their youth.  He explains, “When people come out [and] realize that a lot of their support [and] their family and friends might not accept them they find themselves in situations where they don’t really know where to live or where to go”

Wilson goes on to explain that he believes the feeling of despair and instability during a time like this leads to risky decision-making, saying that “When someone offers [you] a place to live and there’s other stuff there, [you] kind of feel obligated or just [don’t] really know what’s safe and [what’s] not safe, but a roof over [your] head is something that [you] really [need].”

Whether one is introduced to heavy substance abuse through an unhealthy living situation or in environments that can encourage that behavior –  like bars, clubs, and music festivals – the result is always an unfortunate constant.

This doesn’t mean, however, that gay bars and clubs are awful places that promote only unhealthy lifestyles. Rosa Uribe, who identifies as bisexual and frequents gay bars and clubs in West Hollywood emphasizes that most of the safe spaces for the LGBT+ community are bars or clubs and that “they are important.”

Uribe goes on to express that they are necessary “because everybody feels like themselves there, they don’t have to pretend like they’re not gay. They don’t have to pretend that they’re not who they are. Nobody judges [you]… so it makes you feel more comfortable.”  

Wilson also adds that events like festivals are “really [some] of the only safe spaces where a bunch of gay men can get together and have fun and interact with each other,” but the party scene should not be the only norm for LGBT+ individuals to meet and interact safely and without judgement.

There needs to be a peak in businesses created specifically for the LGBT+ community.

It might seem like too much to want safe designated spaces that are specifically for our community, but there are not many places for individuals in the community to meet up and find others that understand and support them.

At the same time, there are annual events like Pride parades that do present really lively, open, non-judgemental spaces for the community.

It would be even more beneficial, especially for LGBT+ youth, to have safe spaces that are constant and not only centered on fun that involves abuse of substances or high-risk behavior.