From Darkness to Light: The LGBTQ+ Community’s Journey with Psychedelics

In honor of Pride Month, explore the complicated history and promising future of psychedelic drugs in the LGBTQ community.

Girl smiling holding Gay Pride flag
Image/Ronê Ferreira

Today, June 28, marks the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Inn raid, a pivotal event in the LGBTQ+ rights movement that inspired Pride Month. The raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Manhattan that served as a safe haven for the LGBTQ+ community, sparked days of protests and clashes with law enforcement, igniting a broader fight LGBTQ+ rights and visibility. Pride Month now celebrates this historic uprising and the ongoing struggle for equality and acceptance.

Reflecting on this history, we acknowledge the intersection of psychedelics and the LGBTQ+ community—a journey that has evolved from being used as tools of oppression to becoming a beacon of hope for mental health and self-acceptance.

A Dark History

In the mid-20th century, homosexuality was classified as a mental disorder by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) until 1973. During this period, harmful methods, including psychedelic aversion therapy, were used to “cure” homosexuality. Psychiatrists subjected individuals to traumatic experiences with substances like LSD to induce aversive responses to same-sex attractions. Shock therapy and other extreme measures reflected the societal prejudices of the time.

Activism played a crucial role in changing this perspective. The Stonewall Riots of 1969 ignited a wave of LGBTQ+ activism that challenged the medical and societal stigmatization of homosexuality. These protests led to increasing pressure on institutions like the American Psychiatric Association (APA). At the 1973 APA annual meeting, activists successfully pushed for the removal of homosexuality as a mental disorder from the DSM. However, a diagnosis related to “sexual orientation disturbance” and later “sexual distress” associated with homosexuality remained in the DSM until 2013, reflecting ongoing societal biases.

During the 1950s and 1960s, psychedelics were also embroiled in political controversy and their association with counterculture movements, including gay rights, positioned them as targets of governmental control. Fear and propaganda suggested that these substances might promote homosexuality, disrupting traditional values. This fear contributed to the government's heavy-handed approach, culminating in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which severely restricted psychedelic research and use.

Shifting Perspectives

Despite intense propaganda and strict regulations, the 1960s and 1970s saw perspectives surrounding psychedelics begin to change in communities that rejected these government narratives. The 1970s saw a transition from using psychedelics as tools of repression to viewing them as facilitators of self-acceptance and healing. Activists within the LGBTQ+ community began reclaiming these substances to explore their identities, overcome internalized stigma, and build resilience against discrimination.

Today, psychedelics are recognized for their potential to address mental health challenges, many of which disproportionately affect the LGBTQ+ community. Modern studies reveal that LGBTQ+ individuals are at higher risk for mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD, largely due to societal discrimination and marginalization. According to research from UCLA, “LGBQ people were 92% more likely to think about suicide, 75% more likely to plan suicide, and 88% more likely to actually attempt suicide that resulted in no or minor injury.” Additionally, according to a survey from the US Census, LGBTQ+ adults across all age groups suffer from symptoms of anxiety and depression at disproportionate rates compared to non-LGBTQ+ individuals.

Older generations, particularly those who survived the AIDS crisis of the 1970s and 1980s, carry unique, complex traumas. These individuals' trauma often stems from the homophobia, racism, transphobia, and disease-based discrimination they faced, combined with the immense loss of life in their communities. Psychedelic therapy provides a promising avenue to address these layers of trauma, creating safe spaces that acknowledge and respect their experiences. A study from the University of California, San Francisco utilized psilocybin-assisted group therapy to address the complex trauma of 18 gay men who are long-term AIDS survivors. The trial found that most patients showed meaningful changes in demoralization, as well as reductions in anxiety, depression, PTSD, and complicated grief. However, as noted by Vice News, such LGBTQ+-centered trials are rare. 

Looking Forward

Integrating LGBTQ+ narratives into psychedelic research and clinical therapies is essential. Expanding the representation of diverse sexualities in clinical studies will ensure treatments are effective and affirming for all identities. Modern therapies must adopt inclusive strategies that recognize and address the unique experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals, fostering environments that encourage their participation and provide meaningful support.

To learn more about how we can support this integration, we encourage you to read the Chacruna Institute’s “10 Calls to Action: Toward an LGBTQ-Affirmative Psychedelic Therapy.” Additionally, resources such as the book Queering Psychedelics offer invaluable insights into the intersection of LGBTQ+ experiences and psychedelic therapy.


At Wondermed, we are dedicated to supporting the mental health and well-being of the LGBTQ+ community through innovative and inclusive therapies. We recognize the potential of psychedelics to facilitate profound personal insights and healing, and we strive to make these treatments accessible to all. As we celebrate and reflect upon Pride Month, we honor the resilience, diversity, and strength of the LGBTQ+ community. We stand in solidarity with those who continue to advocate for acceptance and equality, and we believe in the power of healing, love, and authentic self-expression for everyone.

Learn More 

Ready to embark on your own healing journey with Wondermed?

Get Started

Want to learn more about at-home ketamine therapy?