Friday, 20 May 2011

Sexuality and Drug Use: No place for homophobia in the ACMD

Dr Hans Christian-Raabe, the fundamentalist Christian GP who was sacked from the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) is launching a legal bid to get his job back. The Manchester based GP was fired after the press discovered his earlier writings for a Christian health organisation advocating controversial “gay-cure” therapy and linking homosexuality with paedophilia, drug use and disease. Dr Raabe says he is a victim of liberal drug campaigners who dislike his strong views on the subject but the Home Office said he was fired because he failed to mention the controversial past work in interviews. Jess Bradley explores some of the issues around drug use, sexuality and the ACMD.

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 homopho
bia, 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[@] Follow Students for Sensible Drugs Policy on twitter and subscribe to our blog on the right.

See also: NUS LGBT Campaign to fight against drugs stigma


  1. This is a very well written piece that makes some points that han't occured to me. On a devil's advocate ticket I would say that having him on the ACMD is sort of useful, he was sacked because he is not completely playing the game of hiding prejudice behind the pretence of a ratrional argument about safety etc. He actually articulates the real basis of prejudice on so many things that his purpose in some regards could be to actually say it like it is in the minds of many in government, without the window dressing to obscure it, so we can see that policy is based upon so-called moral ideology quite outside the purpose of the law. Let's remember that the ACMD can be a broad church where minority opinion can be expressed to get it on the table and then looked at for what it is before being dismissed by the majority.

    The other thing is that we have had too much interference from the Home Office already with the ACMD, we dont want them deciding what is acceptable and not for the ACMD although they should use their discretion to filter unreasonable advice where appropriate. I agree Raabe would be unsuitable for any decsion-making role, but he plays the role of the cariacture of bigotry admirably.

  2. Thanks for your comment Sunshine.
    Yeah, I can kind of see where you are coming from with your Devil's Advocate argument. He does wonders for our movement if we can effectively use this guy to show just how messed up the current system is. However, I would be worried with that quite possibly people do agree with him!Ive read some blogs very much giving him uncritical support so as much as it might be strategically useful to point out to people how much of an idiot this guy (and the moral model of dealing with drugs that he represents) is,I think the people who would be agreeing with us would probably be on the same page anyway. I doubt we will win over any Daily Mail readers with this one.

  3. Daily Mail readers are cerainly not all of his ilk, and their prejudice has to be polite and in accordance with all the sensitivities about what one can say out loud and what you cannot, so he is as much an embarrasment as a spokesperson because he will say what they think privately.

    I cannot imagine that the best way to deal with problematic ideas is to fear they will have greater traction if permitted to be vocalised - there is a strong paradox inherrent in the move to make no platform for racists, hompophobes etc - really whoever has the power to censor is the one to fear, don't imagine that the Courts and Home Office are the people to protect us against bigots, they just enjoy the status they get from being the moral arbiter and fair weather protector of persecuted groups as and when it suits them.

    I think the article here is excellent in that it points out exactly why his approach is hopeless - that is what we should be explaining and let him hang himself. Thats what he will do, dig himself a hole with his own mouth because the basis of his ideology is contempt and a lack of respect for choice. Focus on human choice in all things, forget what Russell said to the SSDP conference, it was way out of order and a stupid point to make re liberty being a lost cause. It is about liberty and even the DM knows it.

  4. Why do we even care what the Daily Mail thinks? LGBT freedom, the rights of ethnic minorities, women, disabled and other oppressed groups have all improved yet the Daily Mail still spew their biggoted bile against these communities. Only this last week at a drug policy event in London, Peter Hitchens was laughed at for blaming rock stars for drug use.

  5. @sunshine
    Hmm. I would never argue for Christian Raabe to have his tongue cut out, he should be allowed to say what he likes... I just dont think we should be supporting or condoning his appointment to an important body like the ACMD. There is a difference between calling for a No Platform and actively providing that platform... and if Christian Raabe wants to shout about prohibition and "curing the gays" he can shout all he likes, just not on tax payers money. And I reserve the right to shout louder ;)
    Youre right that the DM has never been a friend to the oppressed. But we should care what they think - we should always know what are enemies are doing :)

  6. ACMD appts are unpaid. Raabe speaks for many people, just we don't agree at all. I think it is worth kicking off, but like I say, his views need taking square on, not banning or curtailing his rights to speak. Like I say, if he was making decisions I would oppose it strongly, if he is on the ACMD, then he should just be challenged, constantly. Ridicule is great and Hitchens is an ignorant man as well - thing is, you can't put a rizla between these types and official policy - that's my point that they are easier to deal with than the more sophisticated bigots who run the country.