A qualitative study of transgender individuals’ experiences in residential addiction treatment settings: stigma and inclusivity Lyons, Tara; Shannon, Kate; Pierre, Leslie; Small, Will; Krüsi, Andrea; Kerr, Thomas
Background: While considerable research has been undertaken on addiction treatment, the experiences of transgender individuals who use drugs are rarely explored in such research, as too often transgender individuals are excluded entirely or grouped with those of sexual minority groups. Consequently, little is known about the treatment experiences in this population. Thus, we sought to qualitatively investigate the residential addiction treatment experiences of transgender individuals who use illicit drugs in a Canadian setting. Methods In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with 34 transgender individuals in Vancouver, Canada between June 2012 and May 2013. Participants were recruited from three open prospective cohorts of individuals who use drugs and an open prospective cohort of sex workers. Theory-driven and data-driven approaches were used to analyze the data and two transgender researcher assistants aided with the coding and the interpretation of data in a process called participatory analysis. Results Fourteen participants had previous experience of addiction treatment and their experiences varied according to whether their gender identity was accepted in the treatment programs. Three themes emerged from the data that characterized individuals’ experiences in treatment settings: (1) enacted stigma in the forms of social rejection and violence, (2) transphobia and felt stigma, and (3) “trans friendly” and inclusive treatment. Participants who reported felt and enacted stigma, including violence, left treatment prematurely after isolation and conflicts. In contrast, participants who felt included and respected in treatment settings reported positive treatment experiences. Conclusions The study findings demonstrate the importance of fostering respect and inclusivity of gender diverse individuals in residential treatment settings. These findings illustrate the need for gender-based, anti-stigma policies and programs to be established within existing addiction treatment programs. Additionally, it is vital to establish transgender and/or LGBTQ specific treatment programs as recommended by the participants in this study.
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