The LGBT community does indeed have a strong link to drug use; many of the “party drugs” are pioneered in the gay scene before filtering out into the wider population, LGBT people are more likely to take drugs, and much more likely to experience a problematic relationship with them than their straight/non-trans counterparts. What Dr. Christian-Raabe fails to realise are the reasons behind this link – it is not, as he would have us believe, some form of direct consequence of their sexuality or gender identity, but rather a consequence of the homophobia, biphobia and transphobia which is sadly still endemic in society.
The gay-rights charity Stonewall reports that two thirds of gay pupils in schools are subject to homophobic bullying, a figure that rises to three quarters in faith schools. Trans people are regularly denied access to essential healthcare. Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic hate crime is still a common experience, and most LGBT experience some level of street harassment. This undoubtedly takes its toll on the LGBT community - with 1 in 3 LGBT people being known to attempt suicide, and levels of self-harm and eating disorders within the community is significantly higher than the population as a whole. The link between mental health issues and drug use is well documented so it comes as no surprise that LGBT people are more likely to do drugs. Of course, not all LGBT drug use is motivated by mental health issues, but when a group is ostracised from society for breaking of norms around sexuality and gender, it seems likely that that group would also be more likely to break other social norms as well.
The appointment and subsequent firing of Christian-Raabe is just another controversy in a line of resignations since the last Labour government sacked the then chair Prof. Nutt for his criticisms of punitive drug policies. The Coalition government, in appointing the strict prohibitionist Christian-Raabe to the council, seems to be continuing the trend of treating the ACMD like a talking shop for polarised views instead of a council of academics and professionals providing evidence based analysis of drug policy. But unfortunately for us, the government will continue to treat the ACMD like a soap opera for as long as at it serves as a distraction to the fact that their own punitive policies are fundamentally failing to protect communities from the harms associated with drugs.
Hopefully, Dr. Christian-Raabe's legal challenge will be unsuccessful as his views on both homosexuality and drug policy are part of the problem not the solution, and will lead to the increasing unnecessary incarceration of LGBT people. We need to send a strong message about how prohibition disproportionately impacts on the community, and recognise the fact that the oppression of drug users and of other marginalised groups can only be meaningfully fought against if we fight together.
To find out more about our LGBT and drugs workshops, please email education[@]ssdp.org.uk Follow Students for Sensible Drugs Policy on twitter and subscribe to our blog on the right.