Problematising LGBTIQ drug use, governing sexuality and gender: A critical analysis of LGBTIQ health policy in Australia

Kiran Pienaar, Dean A. Murphy, Kane Race, Toby Lea

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21 Citations (Scopus)


It is well-established that a high prevalence of substance use is found in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) populations; a finding that researchers attribute to the stigmatised status of non-normative sexual and gender expression, and the role of illicit drug use in the collective production of socio-sexual pleasures, expressivity and disclosure in LGBTIQ communities. Despite the connections between sexual experimentation and substance use, LGBTIQ consumption practices have rarely received the attention they deserve within the alcohol and other drug (AOD) field. In this paper, we draw on concepts from post-structuralist policy analysis to analyse how AOD consumption among sexual and gender minorities is constituted in the policies of three Australian LGBTIQ health organisations. Following Carol Bacchi's (2009, p. xi) observation that we are "governed through problematisations rather than policies", we consider how substance use in LGBTIQ populations has been formulated as a policy problem requiring intervention. Doing so allows us to identify the normative assumptions about minority sexual and gender identities that underpin dominant problematisations of LGBTIQ substance use. These include: a) high rates of AOD use in LGBTIQ populations constitute problems in and of themselves, regardless of individual patterns of use; b) LGBTIQ people are a vulnerable population with specialised needs; and c) sexualised drug use is associated with "disinhibition" and a range of risks (including HIV transmission, drug dependence and mental health issues). Addressing the implications of these assumptions for how LGBTIQ communities are governed, we suggest that problematisation is an embodied, situated process, and that there is much to be gained by reframing dominant problematisations of AOD consumption so that this process is better informed by the inventive practices of LGBTIQ consumers themselves.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-194
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Publication statusPublished - May 2018


  • Australia
  • Bacchi
  • Carol
  • LGBTIQ alcohol and other drug use
  • Post-structuralist policy analysis
  • Qualitative analysis
  • Sexualised drug use

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