The Value of Recovery Services for the TRANSGENDER COMMUNITY

Estrella, our patient for many years, was certainly a handful. She came to the clinic high, came when she was coming down, and once even shot up in the clinic restroom. She was talkative and friendly and would tell us stories of her life and her problems with her married boyfriend.

That was until they found her passed away in an alley behind a 7‐Eleven in Downtown Los Angeles of an overdose.

The devastating effects of addiction are disproportionately increased within the transgender community, who face discrimination and violence in their daily lives. This in turn leads to engaging in higher risk activities, such as sex work and increased dependence on substances. This creates a vicious circle of discrimination, prejudice, stress, and substance use that many find difficult to break free from.

This particularly affects transgender youth the most, with trans youth being 12% more likely to abuse drugs than their cisgender counterparts, and three times more likely to use substances such as ecstasy, cocaine, heroin, and meth.

It is incidents such as this that illustrate the need for recovery services in the Transgender community. At St. John’s, we have started a support group specifically for the Trans community named “Trans Addressing Recovery and Addiction.”

This group was started by Jennifer Rodriguez, who started as a Peer Recovery Specialist and was recently promoted to the Clinic Manager position at the St. John’s clinic at Dominguez High School.

Jennifer has her own story to tell.

“When I found myself in a dark place while learning to live with HIV, addicted to drugs, on the verge of being homeless, and transitioning into living in my authenticity I had to cope with the rejection of most of my loved ones on that day I walked into a St. John’s clinic asking for help.

With time, I became a different woman and my fears transmuted into empowerment. I want to share my story with the people out there living in struggles, pain, fear and who are trapped in the alley of hopelessness to convey a simple message: “If I succeed anyone can. Don’t give up because there is always hope”.

Through her lived experience she wants to make a difference for the Transgender community because when she was trying to get clean, there was no representation in the recovery community. She believes that it is important for her to be out and visible to serve as a beacon of hope for Transgender individuals seeking recovery and that recovery is a lifelong process. She wants people to know that there is support for them.

Through the T.A.R.A. group and St. John’s we can provide referrals to rehab centers, residential treatment programs, counseling, and sober events specifically for the transgender community.

For Jennifer, recovery means a series of steps on the journey rather than a race to the end.

“Y yo como Latina quiero comparatir mi esperanza” Yes, recovery is possible. “si se puede”

Kazumi Yamaguchi,
Associate Director, Transgender
Health Program
Jennifer Rodriguez,
Clinic Manager – Dominguez,