Two Halifax advocates are tackling addictions in the LGBTQ community with their peer support group.
Friends Patrick Maubert and Liane Khoury noticed there wasn't a space for people in their community to share their experiences with addiction and support one another. So, they founded UNtoxicated Queers just after the pandemic began.
Maubert says the group is for people at any stage of addiction or recovery.
"The idea of it is having a safe space to come and to talk about the underlying issues of, you know, why we might feel extra triggered or the need to use substances," Maubert said.
Both Maubert and Khoury are on the Halifax Pride board, and this year they lobbied to create the first adult, sober space at the event.
Khoury is also the health and wellness lead for Pride, and said that it can be a triggering event for those experiencing addictions.
"It made me just realize how important these sober spaces are for queer and trans folks in Halifax and across across the world, really," Khoury said. "I made sure that we pushed harder for that."
Natania Marcus is a psychologist in Toronto who specializes in LGBTQ care. She says people in the community are at a higher risk of mental health challenges and substance use disorders compared to heterosexual and gender normative people.
"That's not because LGBTQ folks are inherently sort of pathological. Really, what we see in the literature is that time and time again, it's connected to minority stress," said Marcus.
Minority stress, Marcus said, is the stress of having to deal with more stigma, discrimination and violence.
"When we see people who use substances, typically it is a way of coping and a way of making it easier to move around in the world."
Roz is a gender-fluid woman and uses she/they pronouns. They have been dealing with addictions since they were 15-years-old. Now, she's a regular member of UNtoxicated Queers.
They say addiction is an isolating experience, especially when you're in the LGBTQ community, and the meet-ups every Saturday help her feel supported and understood.
"Having that connection at this time where I would usually be getting ready to go out or like starting to use for the evening or like, you know, all of that stuff. You can instead go to this space very consistently and you know that there's going to be a good group of people," said Roz.
Roz said Maubert and Khoury have made a big difference in making her feel comfortable at the meetings.
"I think they're very amazing. They have been like a big part of why I have so regularly attended UNtoxicated Queers."
The group was originally supposed to meet in person in Halifax. Because of the pandemic, they decided to host meetings online.
Maubert said it's been a benefit, allowing them to reach more people farther afield, like Roz who lives in Victoria.
"We have the kind of spectrum of care which doesn't often happen in which folks can come and literally just be where you're at on your journey and, I think, feel safe and accepted and a sense of community and love."
UNtoxicated Queers are hosting an event on the evening of July 16 after the Pride parade. There are also sober spaces open every night of Pride celebrations.
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