Updated: Dec 9, 2019
One of the key points when designing the service from T&Coffee was to ensure that all of our safe spaces were Alcohol Free. The question is, why does this matter..?
Isolation does horrible things to people. Even with supportive online communities on social media, being a trans or gender-diverse person can be. very lonely experience. People on the whole are social creatures, we need to have real world interaction with each other. The problem comes when fear of how people will react to us becomes part of our decision making process...
So, rather than face the fear of heading off into the world on our own, we look to find "trans friendly" or "LGBT friendly" venues. It's good logic right? If you can't be sure if you'll be welcome somewhere, have a look for the rainbow flags and know you'll be in likeminded company. The problem is, where are these places?
Generally speaking, the list is made up of Nightclubs and Bars. Which is fine right? I mean, who doesn't like to let there hair down every now and then. The issue is that we can become reliant on these venues as our only option. Sure, we've fixed the isolation but, a reliance on these venues inevitably leads to being involved in the drinking and potentially even drug culture.
Don't worry, I'm not getting all preachy on it. I like to have a night out and bit of drink as much as the next person but, it can become a way of life for people who don't feel safe outside of "the scene." In a recent Stonewall Survey it was identified that One in six LGBT people (16 per cent) said they drank alcohol almost every day over the last year, with One in eight LGBT people aged 18-24 (13 per cent) taking drugs at least once a month. That is nearly twice the level seen in cis-heteronormative communities...
So, why is this such a problem in LGBT community? Could it be stress?
Let's face it, whilst we have seen some improvements in Trans Rights, many Trans & Gender Diverse people still have a long history of social prejudice. Whether its discrimination in law, employment, housing, relationships or health care, there are stigmas and challenges. This type of stress can lead to higher levels of anxiety, depression, isolation, fear & anger, which can increase the risk of "self-medicating" with alcohol or other drugs.
In addition to the stresses of a gender diverse life, some people may be reluctant to seek support with these stresses or substance abuse. We have had members tell us that they are afraid to seek treatment for stress, out of concern that is could be used to delay or prevent the medical transition they are working towards...
Whether it's social pressure, a lack of support or simply ease of availability, it is a problem in the community. When the only safe space you have is one where drink and drugs are at its centre, is it really a safe space at all?
I have had literally hundreds of people ask me over the years for somewhere to go, away from the pressure of drink and drugs, where they can still get that community feeling. It is a huge part of why we have structured T&Coffee the way we have.
Thanks to the amazing support from Tesco, we are able to offer Alcohol Free Safe Spaces all over the country. We have chose to work with Tesco because of the easy access, perfect facilities and their total dedication to supporting this project. We didn't want to set you up in grotty village halls or secretive little clubs. We want to give you the friendly, relaxed, bright, clean, safe and familiar surroundings you deserve. Our chosen venues can help us do that.
If you are affected by any of the issues in this article, please don't hesitate to get in touch. We are happy to help you find specific substance abuse resources in your area. Don't forget, we will always welcome you to T&Coffee events. Just having a safe space where you can share your story can make all the difference. It's what we're here for. Supporting You, To Be You.
So, if you're feeling ready to start getting out and about but, not sure "the scene" is the best place for you, come and join us. Our Members Forums are open now and if you want to come along to an event, please join our Facebook group for your free invite.
Together we can create genuinely safe environments for all Trans people.