Explore our essential guide to harm reduction for the holiday season and beyond.
By Zarina Crockett and Daniela “Dani’ Capistrano
ESSENTIAL STRATEGIES FOR SAFER CELEBRATIONS AND INCLUSIVE SPACES
I am a Black trans woman, DJ, songwriter and performer, event producer, and experienced party girl. I immerse myself in the world of entertainment, hosting, and attending parties with equal zest.
And while there certainly are nightlife moments where we all move to the same electrifying beat, our individual experiences can vary wildly. Unfortunately, people can end up in some really unsafe situations.
Beyond the thrills of DJing or simply being the life of the party, these are the moments that truly define us off the dance floor: how do we show up for ourselves and each other even after the music stops?
Many of us have faced the sobering reality of what happens when harm reduction is an afterthought, or worse, forgotten.
All it takes is one bad experience to make a once beloved venue or go-to party no longer feel safe.
Facts only: more people overdose during the holiday season. This reality deepens the need for safety and inclusivity in nightlife, particularly for LGBTQ+communities.
I’m reaching out to my queer & trans family with this message: Don’t use alone.
In our era of constant digital connection and doomscrolling, we must amplify the importance of harm reduction in LGBTQ+ nightlife.
Team TransLash supports making spaces accessible for all. In this guide, we do not judge you based on the substances you do or do not use. We want everyone to have what they need to share space together, safely and joyfully. Keep scrolling for everything you need to know about harm reduction during the holidays and beyond:
🤔What is Harm Reduction?🤔
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, harm reduction is an evidence-based approach for engaging with people who use drugs. It supports them with access to life-saving tools and information.
Harm reduction is about saving lives and supporting safer choices.
Rather than demanding complete abstinence, harm reduction acknowledges that while certain behaviors can be risky, there are ways to make them safer and to avoid death. It’s about meeting people where they are and offering tools and strategies to reduce harm. This approach extends beyond drug use, applying to any situation where reducing risk is preferable to ignoring or moralizing it.
Harm reduction is rooted in the understanding that safety and health are enhanced when people are given the knowledge and resources to protect themselves and their communities.
@jamesissmiling, a trans-femme actress, tells us what harm reduction is not:
@jamesissmiling What #harmreduction ACTUALLY is #harmreductionsaveslives #trans #nonbinary #voteblue #midterms2022 ♬ original sound – jamesissmiling
@f_fent_ Harm Reduction explained in a simple way. Credit: the harmreductioncenter.org #harmreduction #SafeInjection #endoverdose #narcan #recoverycommunity ♬ original sound – FFentanyl
🚨How to Prevent Overdose Deaths🚨
In 2021 opioids accounted for 75.4% of all overdose deaths in the United States. Nearly 40% of opioid and stimulant overdose deaths happen even with multiple bystanders nearby!
Dr. Ehsan Seyed Hosseini, a clinical pharmacy specialist, highlights the holiday season’s unique pressures: “Stress and grief are magnified, leading some to opioids for solace. Combined with increased alcohol consumption, the risk of overdose skyrockets.”
As we weigh these risks, discernment in how and where we decide to safely find our holiday cheer becomes crucial. Arming yourself with knowledge, diligently checking your substances, and ensuring you’re not left alone are key steps towards significantly reducing the odds of an overdose.
The Fabu Pharmacist explains why partygoers should never mix these substances:
@fabulouspharmacist 💊HARM REDUCTION FOR DRUG USE AT FESTIVALS💊 Tell your friends if you decide to use drugs at the festival. Try to have one friend who doesn’t use and be with people you trust. Be in the know before you go: See the new HSE festival information on the latest trends. Plan to take less. Your tolerance may have changed if you stopped using drugs for a while during COVID-19 restrictions. Start low and go slow, take a small test dose. Pace yourself by taking a small amount and leaving time between use can help you identify how you are reacting to the substance. Avoid mixing drugs, including alcohol and prescription medication. This can increase your risk of becoming unwell or experiencing a drug emergency. MDMA could interact negatively with some medications such as antidepressants. Keep cool and stay hydrated: Sip water but don’t drink over a pint an hour as drinking too much water can be dangerous. Take breaks from dancing and give yourself time to cool down. Medics are your mates: Don’t be afraid to get help if you or a friend becomes unwell or feels suicidal after using drugs. Know the location of the medical tent at events and what you would do in case of an emergency. Be honest with medics about what was taken, they are there to help. #electricpicnic #harmreduction #festivals #safety #pharmacy #pharmacist ♬ Super Freaky Girl – Nicki Minaj
🏳️⚧️How to Support Harm Reduction🏳️⚧️
Here are some harm reduction-informed strategies for partygoers:
💊 Carry Naloxone (Narcan): Naloxone is an opioid antagonist medication that is used to reverse an opioid overdose. This life-saving medication is a must at social gatherings. Bring Narcan with you in your car, purse, or pocket to help yourself or someone else.
👁 If You See Something, Say Something: When partying in community settings, recognizing the signs of an overdose is crucial to saving a person’s life or your own.
📖Educate yourself: Even if you don’t drink or use drugs, it’s important to be able to spot an overdose and to know which substances should not ever be mixed and consumed.
@queerbassqueen shares rave essentials:
@queerbassqueen What are your rave essentials? I love being prepared for anything at a rave- it helps reduce any stress I feel and make the show more comfortable and enjoyable for me! #ravers #edmcommunity #ravetips ♬ original sound – 🌈COURTNEY
💡Empowering Party Producers & Promoters💡
Event organizers are responsible for cultivating safer spaces, but they can’t do it alone. One thing is for sure: equipping venues with Narcan—while training staff, vendors, and volunteers to effectively administer it to those in need—could potentially increase overall safety.
Here are more harm reduction tips for organizers:
🌊Hydration Stations: provide unrestricted access to free water! This effective measure will prevent dehydration and overheating, particularly for those under the influence of substances. Charging people for access to tap water at your event does not keep people safe.
♿️Accessible Facilities: make sure that restrooms are accessible to support comfort and security. This also supports anyone experiencing distress due to substance use.
💉Partner with Harm Reduction Experts: collaborate with your local harm reduction organizations! They can potentially support your event with experienced consultants and volunteers, helping you to get better at responding to drug-related emergencies with skill and compassion.
🎭Embracing Our Emotional Spectrum🎭
Queer and trans people often experience heightened stress, anxiety, and depression during the holidays. This experience can be rooted in family trauma: everything from being rejected by family members, housing insecurity, feeling uncomfortable in our own bodies due to dysphoria, and more.
Despite the urge to isolate, invest in your own safety and healing and check in with someone you can trust before using substances alone.
If someone you know personally isn’t available to be with you or nearby, the next step is to call or text a crisis hotline where a trained volunteer can provide you with peer support. Don’t sleep on the benefits of peer support; it saves lives.
📍In A Decent Mood? Drop That Pin! Always share your location with a trusted person when you go out at night. Do it before you use any substances or before you’re in an emotionally/physically volatile environment.
Never assume that no one cares! Our trusted or forgotten connections, no matter how small they may seem, can offer you a haven of safety and understanding.
Canadian Association of People Who Use Drugs shares how to spot someone when they are using, so they never have to use alone:
🫂A Community Commitment to Harm Reduction🫂
@mercurystardust reminds us that harm reduction should be judgement-free:
@mercurystardust Harm Reduction is life saving #Lgbtqia #harmreduction #trans #kindness #education ♬ original sound – Mercury Stardust
🛣️More Harm Reduction Resources🛣️
A Journey to Safer Spaces
Explore this collection of resources, articles, and tips focusing on harm reduction and accessible event production. These tools are meant for action, conversation, and for nurturing a community that looks after each other.
Rave tips from @sammy..anna:
@sammy..anna collaborated with @Facebook on this one 🏻🥰 #ravetips #firstrave #ravetok #edmtiktok #ravegirl ♬ original sound – sammy anna
HARM REDUCTION INFLUENCERS
Mercury Stardust (she/they): @mercurystardust
The Trans Handy Ma’am
“Renowned as a trailblazer in home repair and DIY education, I am an acclaimed activist and performer. My unique approach to teaching, characterized by empathy and inclusivity, has captivated over 2 million followers on TikTok. As “The Trans Handy Ma’am,” I blend practical DIY tips with heartfelt guidance, making home improvement accessible and enjoyable for a diverse audience.”
James Rose (they/she): @jamesissmiling
Versatile Genderfluid Actress, Accomplished Writer
& Engaging Content Creator
James, a multifaceted talent, holds degrees in Music Theatre and Child & Adolescent Mental Health Studies from NYU. Further enhancing Jame’s expertise, she earned a certificate in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion from Cornell University. Their unique blend of academic knowledge and artistic flair shines in every project, making them a standout figure in the NYC arts scene.
Courtney Queer Bass Queen (they/she): @queerbassqueen
Dynamic Raver & LGBTQ+ Champion
In addition to their passion for music, Queer Bass Queen blends their passion for LGBTQ+ advocacy with creating safe and inclusive spaces. She happily uses her platform to give tips for ravers that keep people safe.
Harm Reduction Authors, Zines and Handbooks:
Mckenzie Wark (she/her)
Australian-born writer and scholar McKenzie Wark is known for her writings on media theory, critical theory, new media, and the Situationist International. Her best known works are A Hacker Manifesto and Gamer Theory. She is a professor of Media and Cultural Studies at The New School.
More Zines & Guides:
📖Queer zines on sex, consent and harm reduction! *Download Free*
Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention:
📖The Trevor Project: Crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBTQ+ youth.
📖National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 24/7 support for people in distress.
📖Trans Lifeline: Helpline staffed by transgender people for transgender people.
Drug Policy & Mental Health Services:
📖Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Information on substance abuse and mental health services.
📖Harm Reduction Coalition: Advocacy for harm reduction in drug use.
📖Drug Policy Alliance: Promoting health-centered drug policies.
📖Pride Institute: Mental health and substance abuse treatment for the LGBTQ+ community.
Support and Advocacy for LGBTQ+:
📖GLBT National Help Center: Free and confidential support.
📖LGBTQ+ National Help Center: Anonymous and confidential space for LGBTQ+ support.
📖SAGE (Services & Advocacy for LGBT Elders): Resources for older people.
📖The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA): Healthcare provider directory.
📖The Association of LGBTQ Psychiatrists: Mental health resources.
📖LGBT National Youth Talkline: Peer support for LGBTQ+ youth.
📖It Gets Better Project: Empowering LGBTQ youth globally through storytelling.
📖Q Chat Space: Digital LGBTQ+ center for teens with live-chat support groups.
📖RAD Remedy: Connecting trans, gender non-conforming, intersex, and queer folks to comprehensive care.
📖The Okra Project: Addressing the crisis faced by Black trans people with culturally specific meals.
📖Point of Pride: Resources for transgender folks, including health and wellness programs.
📖National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network: Transforming mental health for QTPoC.
📖Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – LGBTQ Youth Resources: Mental health and substance abuse resources.
Did you find this resource helpful? Consider supporting TransLash today with a tax-deductible donation. Did we miss anything? Let us know and we’ll update the guide with your suggestion, crediting you as the contributor.
Zarina Crockett, a multifaceted talent, is a writer, DJ, music artist, and event organizer who passionately advocates for trans communities. Her transition from tech to the arts has amplified her voice, making her a dynamic force on social media platforms, where she actively challenges transphobia. When not immersed in writing or advocacy, Zarina unwinds with video games or delves into coding, blending leisure with her tech-savvy roots.