Barry L. – LGBT Gay AA Speaker – “Living Sober and Thriving”
Barry is a true pioneer and one of the most influential gay AA speakers of all time. He is often credited with penning the book “Living sober.” He has an awesome story and great sobriety! The great thing about Barry is the simplicity he embraces while carrying the message. From the podium, he is able to reach in to the hearts of listeners and connect with the audience on a deep level. This tape is a treat for anyone who listens and is a great representation of LGBTQIA folks in the fellowship! Some of the share below has been a little bit modified and modernized, but it is important to not just how revolutionary it was back in the early days of AA to have meetings with such a vast differences between members. Back in those days, being openly gay or transgender was something that was very uncommon. How wonderful it is to see the spiritual wisdom and spirit of inclusion that Bill W. knew would help alcoholics the best. This is such a beautiful aspect of the twelve step fellowships. No matter who you are, where you have been or where you are going, the door is always open if anyone is looking for help.
Barry L.’s experience with the Third Tradition, diversity, and inclusion in the early days of AA
Back in my early days of sobriety I stayed sober one day at a time. I didn’t take the first drink which seemed to me very sensible. I did my service work sitting at the desk at the clubhouse. We did not have an office, we had an old clubhouse in Manhattan. It is no longer there, but as long as it stood there, I went back once a year to look at it and reminisce. There’s an old abandoned church building with a marvelous old building.
One day I was doing my turn at the desk, answering the telephones, greeting people who walked in, and there came in a policeman on the corner who brought in a black [woman who was transgender]. We had at that time in New York no black members. We had seen a few black people come into the meetings and had tried very hard to befriend them and talk to them, but they usually left us they did not stay with us. The man said: “the police on the corner told me that maybe you could help me.” He was not only black, but [she] had long blond hair like Veronica Lake. [She] was a real artist with makeup and was beautifully made up. [She] had on strapped on [her] back [her] entire belongings.
[She] said: “I just came out of prison, and I am a dope fiend, I am also an alcoholic and I need help desperately.”
I was the last person in the world to know what to do so I ran around trying to get people to come in and help me in the office. One woman, one marvelous woman came in and sat there for a long time and talked to [her] and but we didn’t know where to start. How do you start helping somebody like this when so many problems? None of those people could give me the answer. So I said: “I’m going to call the person I know I’ve been sober longest,” and I called Bill W.
Bill asked “Is [she] an alcoholic?”
I said: “oh yes we can all tell that right off the bat we could tell!”
Bill said: “I think that’s the only question we ask, it’s up to us to help.”
Friends and I are planning to do a Zoom cast for the LGBT community on AA pioneers. We are looking for resources that can provide us some historical perspective. If you can recommend any I would appreciate it.