Saturday, May 02, 2015

The History of Gay People in Alcoholics Anonymous

This is not news. We know that the wording of the Third Tradition hinged on a request by, and conversations, with men and women who identified as Gay or Lesbian in the earliest days of Alcoholics Anonymous. And we know that Bill W. was very supportive of listing the gay groups in the early AA Directories. 

But the story—and AA’s history—is not without controversy. Our Traditions were not codified until 1950—surprisingly late in our story, but they were first developed in 1946 by Bill Wilson in a series of articles in The Grapevine called, “Twelve Points to Assure AA”s Future.” The Third Tradition (the only requirement…) was one of those important points. The focus is on inclusion and removes attempts at exclusion. 

But, while I did know a little of that backstory to our Third Tradition, and the role of gay men and lesbians in assuring inclusivity, I did not know that the history of gay people in Alcoholics Anonymous had been written.  And that it had been published.

It was this spring while visiting my mother-in-law at the inspiring St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Lake Worth, Florida that I got my history lesson. This is the same church that introduced me to the Episcopal Recovery Services of the Episcopal Church USA, and its Twelve-step Eucharist Program. It turns out that The Episcopal Church USA also offers a program for its churches called “Integrity” –a program which assures that Episcopal churches are similarly inclusive to all people regardless of sexual preference or gender identity.

On our visit to St. Andrews with Mom we attended the monthly Integrity Service, which includes a Eucharist, a supper and a speaker. And that night the talk was based on the book, “The History of Gay People in Alcoholics Anonymous” by Audrey Borden --published by The Haworth Press.  That night, back at my mother-in-law’s home, I whipped out the I Pad and ordered the book. 

If you are a member of the LGBTQ community and not in recovery—this is your book. If you are LGBTQ and in recovery—this is your book, and if you are straight or undecided and in recovery this is also your book. If you consider yourself knowledgeable about AA history, and have not read this, hurry up.

Researchers and academic folks—you will love Borden’s work. Her timelines, bibliography, chronologies and footnotes will help you in your work.

I promise you many surprises, many moments of grace and gratitude, and many moments of happiness as you get to see parts of our “family” story click into place. And you will be so inspired by the acts of courage and wisdom revealed by this history.

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