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History of Gay AA

Gay alcoholics have found help in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous since its early days. In big metropolitan cities with a large gay population (such as New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco) gay men and women came to Alcoholics Anonymous as early as the 1940’s and their numbers have exponentially increased since then.

In meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous Members of the LGBT community identified with the drinking and feelings of straight AA’s, however many had difficulty being comfortable openly sharing their experiences and feelings in front of straight people. Due to the discomfort, in 1967 members of the gay community in San Francisco wanted an AA group that was exclusively gay. This drew a great debate within the gay AA community on whether or not this was the right move to make. They finally made a decision and held an exclusive gay meeting in downtown San Francisco at the Episcopal Church on Fell Street. At this meeting, members introduced and identified themselves as gay alcoholics (“Hi my name is Bruce and I’m a gay alcoholic”). This was soon changed and most members simply identified as “alcoholic.” The founder of this group said the purpose of creating an exclusive gay AA group was to have a place where gay men and women could come, openly share and not feel intimidated.

In 1971 across the country in Washington D.C., two gay men and two lesbians started holding a meeting at a private home. They all felt that an exclusively gay AA group was helpful to their recovery. They continued meeting on Sundays at two nearby homes in Virginia until the summer of 1972. It was then that they approached the St. James Episcopal Church and requested a meeting space. Their request was granted. As time went on, Gay AA continued to grow. However, up until this point there was no notation in the AA meeting directories whether meetings were gay or not. It wasn’t until 1973 at the General Service Conference where a question arose concerning the listing of groups as being gay in the directory. The subject was heatedly discussed and in 1974 it was voted (131 for and 2 against) to list groups as gay in the AA directory. Another question arose in 1976 on whether there should be a pamphlet for gays and lesbians. The pamphlet was initially voted down, and instead a pamphlet titled “Do you think you’re different” was released. Since then a pamphlet for gays and lesbians has come out and is still available.

In 1976 the first AA gay roundup was held in northern California with over 200 attendees. This idea spread and conferences started being held in cities all over the country. Eventually the International Advisory Council for Homosexual Men and Women in Alcoholics Anonymous was organized. The council was listed in the front of AA directories and worked with G.S.O (General Service Office) in helping provide workshops and social events for gay and lesbians at International conventions since 1980. The LGBT AA community since then has grown exponentially and today there are thousands of Gay AA meetings and roundups happening all over the entire world.

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