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University of Auckland Masters student, Taine Polkinghorne, wants to know more about the ways that Aotearoa’s trans and non-binary communities use alcohol and other drugs.

Update: Taine is currently recruiting volunteers for a small focus group running in the first half of April. If you are trans or non-binary, aged 16 or over, live in Aotearoa, and have experience using alcohol or other drugs, you may be eligible. For more information or to sign-up, please contact Taine at tpol048@aucklanduni.ac.nz.

Research shows that rainbow (including LGBTQI, takatāpui, and MVPFAFF+) people may be more likely to experience negative effects of drugs or addiction. While this is a generalisation, there still needs to be more study done – but some communities under the Rainbow umbrella have received considerably less attention in research, support, and policy than others.

Taine Polkinghorne is seeking to learn more about this, combining analysis of the 2018 Counting Ourselves study (a health and wellbeing survey for trans and non-binary people) with a small focus group to gain insight about their patterns of substance use.

After working in the human rights space for several years, Taine developed an interest in the right to health and enrolled in a Master of Public Health to pursue this further. He’s been able to identify ways that public health applies to his own life and those of his friends and loved ones, and now wants to examine substance use through the same lens. As a trans man, Taine wants to learn about his communities’ experiences of alcohol and other drug use, including how common it might be, and whether those experiences are similar to his own and those around him.

About Taine's research

Taine has already spent the last few months analysing data from Counting Ourselves, using this to help inform a set of questions to explore in-depth through the focus group. At this stage, he hopes to recruit a small group of between 4-10 trans and non-binary people aged 16 or over, who have experience using alcohol or other drugs (including prescription drugs not for their intended purpose) for a semi-structured online session that will take approximately an hour. Taine will present what he’s found so far in his research, and explore how this compares with the group’s own experiences around alcohol and drug use.

If people are unable to make the time the focus group is scheduled for, but still want to take part, Taine is also able to arrange a 1:1 interview on an alternative day. He hopes to have a diversity of volunteers across a range of genders, ethnicities, locations, and ages within trans and non-binary communities. As the group will be held online, people from across Aotearoa are invited to participate. The focus group is intended to be held in the first half of April, as this stage of his analysis needs to be completed by the end of the month.

What are the potential impacts of this study?

Taine hopes that his research will be able to further our knowledge about substance use within his communities and how it may differ from the wider context of alcohol and other drug use in Aotearoa. As the first study of its kind here, it may also allow for comparisons with research from other countries to see if similar patterns emerge.

This has a range of implications – Taine says, “the results could be used to meet our needs better, to design more inclusive programmes, show the need for tailored information for trans and non-binary people, encourage service providers to have a greater awareness of us, and of course – because this is only a small exploratory study – seek funding for more research.”

“In community leadership models, trans people do amazing things to support each other. We could do so much more with better access to resources and funding. My humble goal is to make a useful contribution to the lives of my communities.”

Interested in taking part in Taine’s study?

You can participate in Taine’s online focus group from anywhere in Aotearoa, and 1:1 interviews are possible either online or in-person if based in Auckland.

Taine says, “For anyone who is interested in taking part in the study, might want more information, or has questions, they are welcome to contact me on tpol048@aucklanduni.ac.nz. Tēnā tātou katoa!”

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