LGBTQ In A.A. History

In 1985 I was privileged to hear Barry L. of New York speak at the 2nd Gay and Lesbian Roundup in Minneapolis (now known as MinneSober).

Barry L. came into Alcoholics Anonymous in 1945. Early in his sobriety, three women became friends with him, and realized the struggle gay men were having in AA. The women suggested that they ask Bill Wilson what he thought of there being special meetings for gay people. Bill told Barry to wait a while and he would think about it. (This was in 1946.)

In 1947 Bill was in Boston for a meeting when three men approached him and asked if it would be OK to start a gay meeting. Bill asked them if they were willing to go to any length for sobriety. When they answered yes, he said if that was the length they needed to go to, then to go ahead and do it. (According to Barry, this meeting did not survive long. The place they met was the basement of the YMCA, and the members often got side tracked.)

Another big step for the homosexuals in AA came in year two of the Akron group. A man came to them who was an alcoholic and wanted to join, but admitted to being a sex deviate. The question came up concerning should there be rules to exclude certain people. Bill W. asked, “Who are we to deny anyone this opportunity?” Dr. Bob asked, “What would the Master do?” This was the start of the idea for the Third Tradition.

Another big step came in 1973 at the General Service Conference. A question came up concerning listing groups as being gay in the directory. The subject was heatedly discussed and tabled until 1974. In ’74 there was a lengthy and heated debate, but when it came to a vote there were 131 for and only 2 against the listing of gay groups in the AA Directory.

In 1976 the question of having a pamphlet for homosexuals was brought up. This was voted down, but the pamphlet “Do You Think Your Different” was accepted. Since that time a pamphlet for Gays and Lesbians in AA has been published.

The most recent big step that affects us in planning for the International Convention of Alcoholics Anonymous is that in 1980 at the Conference in New Orleans, homosexual speakers were officially on the program. This was a big issue to accept of the idea that homosexuality is controversial.

I am so grateful for the members of AA that have gone before me! As Barry L. put it, “In 1945 we were not in closets, we were sealed in vaults!” Coming from that to having our own groups, literature, speakers, roundups, and hospitality rooms at AA Conventions, is quite a leap. It took a lot of work by, not only homosexual members, but may others, whose only concern was what can be done to help achieve sobriety and stay sober. It is a wonderful legacy for us, to, in return, ask what can we do – not only in our homosexual community – to help others get and stay sober.

In 1984 Jerry S, now passed on, spoke at the Gay and Lesbian Roundup in Minneapolis. He was one of the founders of groups for homosexuals in the Twin Cities.

When he was about 8 months sober (in the late ’60’s), he got a call from a friend one Sunday morning. There were three gay men that wanted to get sober. By the end of the day, Jerry had helped them get to treatment, but he was a wreck! He needed other gays to turn to for support, but where should he turn?

In the fall of 1969 Jerry and a few other men started Maverick AA Feelings Group, which has been in existence every since. Next, they started Lavender, which was a step group and then came Brothers and Sisters. Although the two step groups folded, the Gratitude meetings sprang from them. There are now over a dozen GLBT AA groups in the Twin Cities (as well as Al-anon, NA, and ACOA).

MinneSober, started as the Twin Cities Gay and Lesbian Roundup, was started in 1984. Out and Sober Minnesota, started as GLBT in AA started in 1998 to help plan the International Convention of Alcoholics Anonymous in the Twin Cities, was organized to help provide social and educational functions for the GLBT clean and sober community.

The history of GLBT AA is part of our experience, strength, and hope. Many of our founders are no longer with us. I would like to urge everyone to search out as much of our history as possible before it is lost. Please research your area, state, city or group for yourself and to pass on to those who will come in the future. The IAC archives, as well as Out and Sober Minnesota, would like to have copies of those histories. Please send a copy to us. You can contact us here.


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