Pride Month: A Time to celebrate LGBTQIA+ Identities, and Improve Delivery of Queer-Affirming Care


This guest blog was written by three licensed counselors of SouthLight’s Opioid Treatment Program: Jacki Agusta, LCSW, LCAS, CSI, Marianna Durfor, LCSWA, LCASA and Shaun Thomas, LCMHC, LCAS .

This Pride Month is a time to both celebrate our LGBTQIA+ identities and identify steps we can take to improve our delivery of queer-affirming care.  

It’s no secret that substance use rates are higher among the LGBTQ+ population, and that their substance use disorders are frequently more severe than the general population, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

This may be due to circumstances like social stigma (including within the healthcare and treatment systems) or a potential lack of family support. 

At the same time, people who identify as transgender are less likely than the general population to engage in substance use treatment at all. This can likely be explained by stigmatization, lack of specific, queer-affirming services, and past harmful experiences with medical or healthcare professionals.   

This is why it’s so important to have ongoing, thorough training on ways to provide queer-affirming care. Many things can have a major impact on folks’ experiences with an agency, including:

Ways to Engage Queer-Affirming Care 

On an individual basis, developing ways to engage in queer-affirming care is an ongoing practice. There is also no simple “step-by-step” order you can follow, as it ultimately involves a lifelong commitment to learning and cultural humility.

Here are four actions you can start to take today whether you are a behavioral health professional, caregiver, co-worker, friend or advocate.  

ACTION 1: Normalize asking for pronouns. 

We can all take steps toward normalizing asking for pronouns, chosen names, and how individuals identify themselves. For example,  

“What pronouns do you use?” 

“How would you prefer that I refer to you?” 

“What name do you go by?” 

ACTION 2: Educate peers. 

We can help educate our peers in this area. At first, it may feel nerve-wracking or uncomfortable asking for pronouns, names, and identities, so it may help to practice different ways to ask these questions on your own or with peers. This should start from the minute people first walk through the doors at SouthLight, and their chosen pronouns, names, and identities should be respected and affirmed throughout every step of treatment and discharge.  

ACTION 3: Know what to do if you make a mistake. 

It’s also important to think about and practice what to do if you make a mistake. We’re all human, and the situation may come up where you misgender someone or use the wrong name. In those moments, often the best course of action is to calmly apologize, correct yourself in the moment, and move on, rather than making a big deal about it.  

ACTION 4: Advocate! 

Another major thing we can do is advocate! Speak up if you hear someone misidentify a client or peer; advocate for increased resources and services for the LGBQTIA+ population; and vote!  

LGBQTIA+ Resources  

World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH)

The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, interdisciplinary professional and educational organization devoted to transgender health. WPATH offers a robust Provider Search for trans-affirming providers.

LGBQTIA+ Language Guide

Keep in mind that language is constantly changing and evolving! Always defer to how clients and peers choose to identify themselves, and there’s no harm in asking what a particular identity means to them specifically as sometimes folks have different interpretations or feelings about terms. Access the language guide here.

LGBT Center of Raleigh 

The LGBT Center of Raleigh serves to empower and advocate for the well-being of our diverse LGBTQ+ communities.

SouthLight is an LGBTQIA+ friendly provider of both mental health and substance use services. To learn more about our services, visit the services page of our website or call 919-787-6131 ext 1135.