Being a member of the LGBTQ+ community has never been easy. Even with all of the forward movement over the course of the past five decades, the youth still suffers. That’s why we’ve decided to highlight and honor LGBTQ+ youth by commemorating GLSEN’s Day of Silence.
For years, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has been organizing the student-led Day of Silence. During the Day of Silence, thousands of students participate, both nationally and internationally, and protest the bullying of LGBTQ+ youth by taking a vow of silence.
Bullying, harassment, and discrimination all contribute to the high rates of substance use disorders (SUDs) among the queer community. In fact, SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Mental Health reported that queer individuals have higher rates of SUDs than cisgender, heterosexual individuals.
For these reasons, we decided to open the floor to members of our staff to share their stories. These two stories highlight the bullying, loneliness, triumphs, and impact of music on members of the community. By sharing their stories and giving them a platform to speak, we’re hoping that we can continue to break the silence.
Vicki Q.’s Experience
Vicki Q. currently identifies as queer, but for a very long time she used to identify herself as bisexual or pansexual. Like most young queer individuals, Vicki knew that she wasn’t “normal” from a very young age.
Although Vicki’s bullying experience wasn’t, people often poked fun at her and objectified her for her sexuality. Like many young women in the community, she was sexualized and often asked inappropriate sexual questions or comments.
More than anything, those around her made her sexuality about themselves. Although the bullying never progressed to the point where it was outright and insidious.
Vicki recognizes that she’s had the privilege of always being able to be a voice for the queer community. During her time in school, she became President of the Gay-Straight Alliance and has participated in the Day of Silence since 2005.
Vicki doesn’t believe that her sexuality was a contributing factor to her substance abuse.
“There were other things, other issues that I was dealing with and sexuality was lost in the myriad of other things,” she told me over the phone.
A vocal advocate for the queer community, Vicki has been in recovery since November 2015. As a member of the community myself, it brought a modicum of relief to find out that Vicki’s sexuality wasn’t one of the reasons behind her drug abuse.
Vicki also shared that during her process of sexual self-discovery, media played a huge role. Shows like The L Word and Queer as Folk brought visibility to different facets of queerness. Bands like Tegan and Sara, Ani DiFranco, Dangerous Ponies, and Thin Lips were also monumental during her coming out experience.
In an interesting turn of events, Vicki developed a friendship with the members of Thin Lips after getting clean. As a result, she was able to attend live shows to see a band that had been instrumental in coming to terms with her sexuality.
“It actually led to one of the best memories I’ve made in recovery,” she shared. The friendship, when paired with the feelings she had developed while listening to their music, empowered her and made her feel comfortable.
Vicki recognizes how lucky she is to have had a relatively positive coming-out experience.
“Come out in your own time and space,” she said when asked what she would tell someone struggling with their sexuality. She also shared that young queer kids should know that it’s okay to test things out in safe spaces.
“There are resources, and allowing yourself to pretend they don’t exist is going to keep you sick,” she said at the end of our call. “If you’re struggling with addiction related to your sexuality, there are safe places to go.”
Sadie L.’s Story
Sadie used to identify as bisexual or pansexual, but she’s not really identifying or labelling her sexuality currently. Due to the amount of bisexual and pansexual erasure that’s been plaguing the community, Sadie feels more comfortable leaving herself unlabelled.
During our interview, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of melancholy as Sadie shared her experience. The unfortunate truth is that Sadie’s story is by no means uncommon– LGBTQ+ youth across the globe suffer daily as a result of living their truths.
In Sadie’s case, the bullying began even before she knew what she wanted herself. Like most LGBTQ students, Sadie was just different, and people picked up on that.
Coming from a small, conservative town can make the coming out experience infinitely more difficult. Like many people in the community, she was outed– and sadly, she was the first and only person in her school community that was out.
The bullying, judgement, and abuse came from everyone, including her own family. Everything, ranging from inappropriate sexual comments to physical bullying made her coming out experience a living hell.
“A family friend told me, and I quote, ‘You’re making me look bad in the community,’” she recounted to me over the phone.
The abuse eventually came to a head, and Sadie had to leave home for her safety. After going to a youth shelter in Austin, Sadie began to learn more about community, acceptance, and herself.
Sadie was open about how her substance abuse stemmed from her sexual identity and lack of self-acceptance.
“I felt so alone, so I used and drank to deal with the lack of acceptance,” she told me.
For Sadie, music constantly surrounded her during these experiences and played a huge part in the healing.
“At the shelter there was a girl who played ukulele and sang,” she said over the phone. “It inspired me to pick up the instrument.” She made sure to bring her ukulele with her when she came to treatment at Recovery Unplugged.
When asked what she would share with those going through what she did, she couldn’t say enough. More than anything, she wants queer youth to know that they’re not alone and that one day they’ll be able to be themselves. One day they’ll be safe and be able to truly live and love how they want.
Sadie never had a “Day of Silence” at her schools, and she’s excited to help break the silence, starting with sharing her story.
Continuing to Break the Silence Every Day
Statistically speaking, those in the queer community are far more likely to fall into substance abuse as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In a number of different ways, gay, lesbian, transgender, and other queer youth are dying as a result of discrimination.
Recovery Unplugged is proud to be at the forefront of the fight to help LGBTQ+ individuals struggling with substances. Here, music is our medicine, and music doesn’t discriminate. We love our gay, bisexual, and transgender siblings, and all we want is to help them overcome the disease of addiction.
If you’ve been struggling with substance abuse linked to your sexual identity or gender expression, Recovery Unplugged is here for you. Our LGBTQ+ rehab was designed specifically to help you heal with the power of music. Call our admissions team today to find out how we can help you.