You gotta fight..... for your right.... to (not) party.....
Happy New Year
Authenticity through Anonymity
Gay and Lesbian Times
April 16, 2009
It’s Saturday night and Reba S., a 6-foot-6-inch drag queen is dressed to the nines. But Reba’s not dressed for a performance, and she’s not going to a party.
Reba and the dozen or so of her “sisters” mingling in the crowd of about 100 are attending a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous at the Live & Let Live Alano Club (LLLAC).
LLLAC sees approximately 1,000 people cross its threshold every week, during which time it hosts 41 meetings – a great many of which are attended by GLBT community members like Reba, who find LLLAC a welcome and a safe place to become free of their addictions from alcohol, sex, narcotics, food and other substances or addictive issues at LLLAC.
But that hasn’t always been the case. “Gay people were [once] shunned in the AA community,” says Gordon W., the first manager of Stepping Stone, a recovery home with an emphasis on serving the GLBT community. “We were not allowed to talk about our personal problems if they pertained to a gay lifestyle.”
If you ask any of the GLBT “old timers” (as long-term recovering addicts are affectionately dubbed in 12-step communities) how it was when they got sober, you’ll hear the same story. Because in the 1930s, when AA was born,12-step communities considered being gay to be a “character defect” – an attitude that remained unchanged until the early ’70s. As a result, countless GLBT alcoholics and addicts perished.
With the 26th anniversary of the Live & Let Live Alano Club pending, preparations are under way to celebrate that times have changed. LLLAC will once again hold its Annual Benefit Event on Friday, May 1, at The San Diego LGBT Community Center to recognize the GLBT community’s trials, tribulations and successes in recovery.
To commemorate the continuing progress of our community in recovery, The Gay & Lesbian Times spoke with Arlene J., the aforementioned Gordon W. and John C., all of whom were paramount in establishing a foundation for GLBT recovery here in San Diego, home to one of the strongest GLBT recovery communities in the country.
Gay & Lesbian Times: How were GLBT people helped and treated with substance abuse here in San Diego in the ’70s?
Gordon W: If you [talked about personal gay life], you were shut down and discouraged not to share. The only way you got help if you were a gay alcoholic was by word of mouth, and even that was hard to do!
Many people were once shunned in the [recovery] community.
GLT: How did that change?
GW: The head of the Coordinating Counsel’s (San Diego AA’s Service Board) son was gay. The son committed suicide because when he told his father he was gay, his father rejected him. That opened the door for us to be recognized in Alcoholics Anonymous. It was shortly after that when San Diego AA Central Office started including us as legitimate members of AA.”
Arlene J. was the first lesbian woman to attend the “gay meetings” when they started. Unfortunately, she experienced discrimination from the men within gay
AA, as they would only let her attend that meeting once a month as opposed to every week.
GLT: Why did the gay men in AA only let you come to the meeting once a month?
Arlene J: We met on Friday nights at St. Paul’s Church on Sixth Avenue. They had a guard at the door. He was there to keep troublemakers out of the meetings. And there were troublemakers! I think they thought I might be a troublemaker! (She laughs)
GLT: Did that bother you?
AJ: Not really, because it was not uncommon for me to sit in a straight AA meeting and hear the word ‘fag’ being referenced to me by the other members. I would get up and leave that meeting and go to another one, and the same thing would happen there. At least I could go to the gay meeting and not worry about that. I just made up my mind I was going to stay no matter what! (She laughs again)
I think the best thing about GLBT recovery today is you can go practically anywhere in the world now and find a gay meeting.
And so it began. Shortly afterwards, small bands of gay and lesbian meetings started to pop up around the city.
Stepping Stone opened its door for sober residential living and began hosting a men’s meeting called “At Home Men’s,” which is now the oldest gay men’s meeting in the county.
The lesbians started Sober Sisters, a women’s meeting designed to help lesbians with issues in recovery, which is now the longest-running meeting for lesbians in San Diego.
As the meetings began to grow, the members realized that they needed a community meeting both men and women could attend. As a result, The 2 Bit Speaker Meeting was formed for all groups to attend every Saturday night At 2 Bit, two speakers tell their story about being gay or lesbian and about their recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction.
Tonight, as Reba S. tells hers story at 2 Bit, she is in good company. There are literally thousands of GLBT people who have found a new way to live happy, productive, clean and sober lives through the recovery services available at LLLAC and other programs in San Diego.
John C. (one of the first LLLAC board members) summarizes the process well.
GLT: “What role do you feel the LLLAC has had on shaping the GLBT sober experience these past 26 years?”
John C: “As one of LLLAC’s founders, I can hardly be negative about it, but there is nothing negative to say. When first we opened on Fourth Avenue, it became a haven. If you were struggling to remain sober, it wasn’t necessary to hide in bed or sit on your hands; you had a place to go. And when you got there, other sober people would be willing to talk, listen, ignore you if that was what you wanted, or ask you to get involved in some task.
I’m amazed that it has lasted for 26 years. We did it on a wing and a prayer and never, in the time of my close involvement, had any certainty of financial security. Perhaps the most meaningful thing you can say about LLLAC and the sober gay community of San Diego is that it has endured and even flourished. If it and the people it serves had no meaning, no place in the context that is San Diego, then we, and it would be gone.”
With nothing more than sheer determination and need, these pioneers, a small group of a dozen or so men and one woman, bravely stood up and risked criticism, ridicule and discrimination to meet the dire need of the GLBT community’s substance abuse problems.
They helped bring meaning and dignity to the countless GLBT men and woman who lost their lives to untreated alcoholism and drug addiction because they were not accepted for who and what they were.
Most importantly, they continue to bring hope and encouragement to the countless others who will look to the GLBT recovery community for help in future.
Editor’s note: It is general AA policy that, in order to assure anonymity to all its members, no member should be identified by full name in printed or broadcasted media. The Gay Lesbian Times followed this policy out of respect to A.A. and its members.
this story was found at the online home of FAVOR
kiss kiss in the rearview....