Drugs, drink and the dilemma of the gay scene
by Fairy Cake
The Lesbian and Gay Foundation got together with the University of Lancashire to ask thousands of young LGBTQ people their experiences with drugs. Turns out, we like them… maybe a little too much.
4206 lesbian, gay and bisexual people took part in the ‘Part of the Picture‘ research (no word on those with less specific orientation). Basically, the following things were discovered :
Regardless of your age, if you’re queer, you’re much more likely to be using drugs on a regular basis.
Figures suggest that drug use amongst queers is 7 times (SEVEN FRICKIN’ TIMES) higher than amongst non-gays (the control was taken from British Crime Survey stats). 35% of respondents had taken at least one substance, excluding alcohol, in the last month.
Don’t do drugs, kids. Except if you’re this guy.
I have some feelings which I need to articulate.
You’re also more likely to be binge drinking
More than TWICE as likely actually. Figures are a bit fluffy, but from the most recent ONS data, it seems 19% of men and 15% of women across the UK technically binge drink twice a week, but 34% of men and 29% of women in the POTP sample do the same.
Queers demonstrate a higher instance of drug and alcohol dependance than their non-Queer counterparts
“Overall, 22% of LGB people in the sample showed signs of being dependent on a substance, including 16% of all alcohol users in the sample and between 4 and 13% for the most commonly used drugs. Two studies from the USA on the wider adult population used the same dependency questions as POTP. They found the prevalence of alcohol dependency in the last 12 months to be 3.8% and the prevalence of illicit drug dependency in the last 12 months65 to be 0.6%.”
Basically, we’re not only more likely to take drugs and/or binge drink alcohol compared to the wider population, we’re also more likely to get hooked.
Gay women are a lower risk group compared with their male counterparts – but bisexual women are another thing entirely.
Gay ladies, in all areas, seem to be less predisposed to drug and alcohol use and abuse. Or rather, WOMEN are generally less predisposed to these things than men are – the ONS data illustrates the same pattern in the general population…
Except bisexual ladies. Raise your hands up you dirty stop-outs! We fence-sitters are more likely to take pretty much everything, and more likely to report indicators of substance dependency.
I think it’s only fair to point out first off that there are some immediate issues with the data, one being the lack of a consistent control group of straight people to pin said data against. POTP results are put into perspective with the use of statistics from the British Crime Survey, and data from a US study, both of which were collected under completely different conditions … and one in a completely different country. Also, it’s important to remember that a considerable proportion of the research was conducted at Pride Events – events whose main focus, for a lot of attendees, is getting dressing up and drinking a shit tonne of cocktails. Therefore I don’t think it’s surprising that the people who participated in the POTP survey reported a higher level of drug and alcohol use than say, the vast cross section of people who took part in the British Crime Survey. BCS folks = received survey through their letterbox, probably during Garden’s Question Time. Pride attendees = scribbled their answers out pissed on their mates back, before cavorting off to the nearest gay dive bar to snort Pro Plus and rave to Jimmy Sommerville.
Hi ho. Onto the findings and what they mean. Oddly enough, the LGF’s research dropped without any analysis, as is so often with these studies, but there is one glaring observation that I want to make.
Socialisation in the gay community is often structured around going out, rather than staying in. Unlike most subcultures and minority groups, queer people have their own scene. This collection of bars, nights and events originally grew in response to the timely dilemma that gay people couldn’t identify each other physically – not only because gay doesn’t have visible symptoms (unless you count The Undercut), but also because, back in the days of Ruby’s and the like, it wasn’t safe to be out and proud. This scene, though not necessarily frequented by everyone all the time, grew to be a cornerstone of the community, and an environment where many queers make friends, lovers, hang out, dance, ill-advisedly shag and get fucked up.
And getting fucked up has now become somewhat of a by-product of socialising in this manner. There’s no real shock value in that. What’s the quickest way to meet women who like women? Go to a lesbian bar. What do you do in a bar? Karaoke. And what do most people need to ingest before belting out Britney’s latest monstrosity? YOU GUESSED IT.
The point I am clumsily skirting around is thus – the scene has an important role in the coming out, going out and making out aspects of queer men and women’s lives, but, being a collection of night-time playpens, it is inherently linked to drink and drug-taking. This certainly doesn’t justify the extreme nature of the results of this survey, but I feel in the past people have been all too quick to label queers as naturally more conflicted, self-destructive individuals – drug and alcohol use one of a plethora of coping mechanisms they embrace as a method of dealing with the social and emotional hurdles associated with being gay. I think, in actual fact, we need to take a long, hard look at our community, and start questioning whether we need more queer-owned spaces that offer us something more than the opportunity to down cheap vodka and dry-hump strangers.
In attempt to do our own bit of research into our community, we’ve done our own survey. Kindly fill it out below. Let’s see what percentage of our readers are total wastemen (wasteladies?).