November 20th is Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR), a day to memorialize trans people who have died from transphobic violence and other intersecting forms of oppression and marginalization. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) report on LGBTQ and HIV-affected Hate Violence, 16 transgender and gender non-conforming people were killed in 2015 in the United States, 13 of whom were transgender women of color.
At the recent 11th National Harm Reduction Conference, Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Patrisse Cullors stated, “We have to center the people at the margins….When black trans women get free, we all get free.” Transgender and gender non-conforming people use drugs at higher rates when compared to the general population and face higher rates of mental illness and suicide. The lack of access to transgender affirming mental health care and drug treatment is a product of the stigma that transgender people who use drugs face on a daily basis. TDoR highlights the need to focus on the intersections of transphobia, violence, and drug use and to include transgender community members who use drugs in programs and advocacy. We must address the intersecting forms of violence and oppression that impact trans people who use drugs and the mental health of all transgender persons.
The lack of trans-inclusive services for drug users leaves transgender people vulnerable to violence. There are urgent needs for appropriate and culturally competent housing, harm reduction and drug treatment, access to safer injection of hormones and silicone, and sexual health services. Harm reduction services are especially vital for transgender people who engage in survival sex. Meaningful employment and educational opportunities, health care provision, and radical inclusion of transgender and gender non-conforming people must be at the forefront of our work.
TDoR is a call to action for harm reductionists around the world:
- We must create safe and affirming spaces for transgender people in harm reduction and drug treatment programs.
- We must work diligently to increase access to harm reduction services, including syringe access for hormone and silicone injection.
- We must address social and health disparities, including violence and homelessness, that impact the lives of transgender people who use drugs.
- We must involve transgender participants in program development, design and implementation.
Jarad Ringer is the Capacity Building Services Program Manager at Harm Reduction Coalition.