The “gay bar” is iconic in gay and lesbian culture. Since long before the riots at the Stonewall Inn, LGBT men and women have gathered in bars and private clubs to meet, mingle and mate. Even before the bars and the clubs however, there was the liquor. Alcohol eased the pain of both living in a silent closet and the pain of rejection by family, friends and society. Alcohol fueled the confidence to approach potential friends, sexual conquests and potential romances. The clubs just brought the drinking into the dim light of the night.
In the 1940s, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), opened their doors to gays and lesbians. It wasn’t an easy thing to do and the path forward for AA and for those from the LGBT community seeking help was by no means smooth. Aside from all of normal hurdles an alcoholic faces, there was organizational prejudice against gay and lesbian participants and there was animosity and hate from straight participants. Today, AA can proudly say they are one of the first of such organizations to accept everyone and can point to a record of acceptance, tolerance and genuine assistance that few other mainstream organizations can match.
In her 2007 publication, History of Gay People in Alcoholics Anonymous: From the Beginning, author Audrey Borden chronicles the full history of gays in AA, oftentimes in the voices of the participants themselves. Borden interviewed more than 30 influential LGBT AA graduates. Interestingly, this book covers not only what AA did for gays, but what gays did for AA. It’s a great story.
I have one complaint and one complaint only about this book. It, like so many other LGBT related works, is focused on events and people in New York, L.A. and those environs. This is another great book that could have been even better by adding even a couple of voices each or some background from middle America and the south. I’m willing to bet the struggle for full inclusion in outside of New York and California was quite a bit different!