Transgender people who inject drugs in Australia: An ethnography

Stream: Drugs: Experiences of drug use, prevention and treatment across different populations
Date: Thursday, 31 March 2016
Time: 11.15 am – 1.00 pm


Introduction/Objective: “Trans” or “transgender” refers to people who identify as a sex/gender different from that assigned to them at birth. In Australia and worldwide, trans people comprise one of the most marginalised social categories and face dramatically reduced life chances compared to cisgender (non-trans) persons. Marginalisation is further compounded where trans people occupy multiple social categories, such as people who are trans and are also people who inject drugs.

Much Australian research looks at drug use in Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, Transgender populations, as well as women who use drugs. However, to date, there is a considerable dearth of qualitative research that explores the lived experiences of trans people who inject drugs in Australia.

Methods/Approach: Working from a critical trans and critical drug user politics, the study uses trans scholar, Viviane Namaste’s Reflexive Poststructuralist Sociology. This qualitative approach is undergirded by a Foucauldian epistemology and uses Dorothy Smith’s methodology of institutional ethnography to undertake in-depth interviews with 25-40 trans people who inject drugs in Australia.

Results/Findings: Having began data collection in late 2015, this presentation will present the preliminary findings from the in-depth semi structured interviews. This will comprise main themes arising out of interviews.

Conclusion/implications:In opposition to current “disease” models of “addiction”, this presentation presents the research through a critical trans and critical drug user politics that center the lived experiences of trans people who inject drugs. This has the potential to contribute new scholarship and to empower trans people who inject drugs in Australia.


Nyah Harwood (Presenter), Centre for Social Research in Health (CSRH), UNSW, Australia
Nyah graduated from Southern Cross University in 2013 with 1st-class honours and the university medal. Nyah was on the organising committee for the first Queensland Transgender, Sistergirl and Gender Diverse Conference in 2012. Her research interests are strongly focused on critical drug-user, sex work, and trans-feminist politics.

Commencing her PhD at CSRH UNSW in 2014, Nyah's research explores the experiences of trans people who inject drugs in Australia, positioning injecting practices as forms of resistance with the potential to form new power relations, and a re-claiming of the body.