Once a month I do a vlog with someone who is in recovery and part of the LGBT community. The reason I do it is because the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) studies indicate that LGBT people experience substance-use disorders at a rate of 20-to-30%. That’s way higher than the general population’s rate of 9%.

Maybe addiction is high because the same things that help a person to stay in the closet, and partly safe, are the same conditions that make a person ripe for addiction. Things like secret-keeping, numbing out, isolation, and comparison all keep us stuck and make us ripe for addiction. These are things that we live with every single day. Maybe because recovery is greater than addiction, we recover despite those things. Maybe we even come out a little better off in the long run. We’re resilient. We have grit. We know ourselves. That’s the reason I do the vlog – I need to see people who’ve overcome my kind of adversity.

That’s the same reason we need to aim for thriving and not just surviving. Addiction is not the only thing that’s at stake here. Statistically our community faces higher rates of:

  • Mental disorders – LGB folks in states without protective policies were five times more likely than those in other states to have two or more mental disorders
  • Cancer – we have increased cancer risks, lower cancer screening rates, and increased challenges in survivorship
  • Eating disorders – Gay men represent 5% of the total male population but 42% of males with eating disorders identify as gay
  • Psychological violence – Over 13% of transgender people report that one or more professionals tried to stop them from being transgender
  • Sexual violence – According to the Centers for Disease Control, 75% of bisexual women, 46% of lesbians, and 43% of heterosexual women experience some form of sexual violence over their life
  • Physical violence – Nearly a fifth of the drastically underreported 5,462 hate crimes the FBI reported in 2014 were because of the victim’s sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation
  • Poverty – African American same-sex couples have poverty rates more than two times the rate of different-sex married African Americans
  • Under-insurance – 17% of LGBT adults lack health insurance versus 13% of non-LGBT
  • Homelessness – 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ

As bad as all these things are the number one thing at stake is that not all of us are treated the same from state to state. Which means that not all of us are free to be ourselves. Not being free to be ourselves means these statistics won’t get better.

According to the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) State Equality Index report 71% of Americans support LGBTQ non-discrimination laws like the Equality Act. Yet that’s not reflected from state to state. Using the HRC’s own grading system:

  • “Sixteen states and the District of Columbia are in the highest-rated category, “Working Toward Innovative Equality”: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington
  • Four states are in the category “Solidifying Equality”: Hawaii, Iowa, Maryland, and New Hampshire
  • Two states are in the category “Building Equality”: Utah, Wisconsin
  • Twenty-Eight states are in the lowest-rated category “High Priority to Achieve Basic Equality”: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming” (source: Hrc.org/blog/hrc-releases-2018-state-equality-index)

What that means is that in 30 states we can marry the love of our life in the morning and lose our jobs, homes, and safety in the afternoon. This means that our biggest success in the struggle for equality so far is marriage.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, marriage equality was passed in 2015 after two decades of legal strategy and an emerging social movement. In other words, the law changed because of brilliant legal minds doing the work. Society changed because LGBT people like you and me decided to come out of the closet. Our act of social defiance was what gave us the opportunity to begin to move past mere survival and for everyone to start to see that we are the same as everyone else – no matter our sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity. Embracing our own equality is a big step towards thriving – as a people and as individuals.

Author Profile

Johanna Dolan
Johanna Dolan
“The principal of Dolan Research International, Johanna M. Dolan brings nearly two decades of personal experience as an entrepreneur, nine years as a professional financial planner, eighteen years as a life coach, and eight years as an ordained minister. She speaks openly and candidly on issues ranging from addiction, dysfunctional relationships, finances, the effects of long term chronic illness on life, and more.”