TransTalk: Trans People Deserve To Recover In Affirming Spaces

My name is Atticus and I’m an alcoholic. I’m 4 and a half years sober. When I hit my bottom, I was pulled over by the police, kicked out of my apartment, and my girlfriend broke with me.

I’m embarrassed and ashamed of a lot of my actions when I was active in my addiction. Now, though, I barely recognize that person. I like to joke that I used to be an alcoholic lesbian and now I’m a sober guy. While emerging as male didn’t cure my alcoholism, it certainly helped.

I actually hit my bottom about 5 months after starting testosterone. I thought once I started HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) that everyone would see me as the guy I am and things would be better. It doesn’t work that way. HRT is essentially a second puberty and it takes a few months before anybody can really notice the differences.

I was angry early in my transition because I was doing everything I could to be seen as the guy I am but nobody was seeing it yet and I was still too often being misgendered. While my alcoholism started years before, it actually got worse after starting HRT. Luckily, I found my way into the rooms and got myself a sponsor. I haven’t had a drink since April 20, 2014.

While I’m an alcoholic, I didn’t actually attend any addiction treatment programs or halfway houses. Nevertheless, there are times when I’m in the rooms that I sometimes feel out of place, even in an LGBT recovery setting. While I was out to my sponsor about being transgender, I wasn’t out to most of the people in the recovery community, and when I did come out, I got a lot of inappropriate questions, even from other members of the LGBT community.

Although this was about 4 to 5 years ago when transgender was really starting to hit the mainstream, I was still disappointed in fellow members of my community for not understanding what being transgender meant. I started talking to other transgender people in recovery and they echoed my sentiments. When I started as the Director of Transgender Services at SunServe and started training organizations in LGBT cultural competency, I got in contact with a few addiction treatment centers who wanted training. I found out that LGBT people often weren’t being properly treated.

If a transgender person comes to an addiction treatment center, they need to be placed with the gender with which they identify, even if their legal gender hasn’t changed yet. If there is another patient who has a problem with the transgender person in their gendered section, then you move the person with the problem to the single room. This lets the other patients and staff know that we accept and respect the trans person but that we don’t tolerate someone who has a problem with a trans person. Transgender is just the latest scapegoat.

Before, people would have said the same thing about a gay man sharing a room with them by saying something homophobic or comparing a gay man to a pedophile or sexual harasser. We don’t tolerate those kinds of statements today and we should not tolerate transphobia either.

When addiction treatment center staff treat a trans person incorrectly by misgendering them, refusing to use the name that’s appropriate for them or placing them with the wrong gender or only placing them in a single room, what they’re doing is creating a smaller world like the one that helped put them in the addiction treatment center in the first place - a world of transphobia, violence, disrespect, and micro- and macro-aggressions. The trans person in the treatment center is there to achieve sobriety and to make their life better. We can’t create the same environment that helped put them there in the first place.

For more information on transgender people and addiction or if you have any questions or are interested in receiving a training, please reach out to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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