Signal boosting: Alcoholics Anonymous, minorities, and abuse

AA has a pretty spotty reputation outside of conservative Christian circles, and typically for a good reason. Here’s a perspective from a trans women of colour on their principles and how they ignore or exacerbate minority stress, a dangerous prospect considering substance abuse is often a coping mechanism for said stress.

At the first AA meeting I attended at the hospital, I was pulled aside by one of the speakers, who told me I should get off my hormones and pray for God to “remove my problem.” It was clear he wasn’t talking about my drinking or my using, but my gender “problem.”

And so it was that my rocky relationship with 12-step programs began. I enjoyed, and would still enjoy, the AA and NA meetings I felt comfortable attending. But as I was typically the only trans person in the room — and in some cases, one of the only people of color — I also often experienced harassment and humiliation.

Members at subsequent meetings told me to pray my gender dysphoria away, or declared that the dysphoria remaining was a sign that I failed to move through the steps thoroughly. Complicating this was the fact that that my drug abuse did start off as a way to cope with gender dysphoria (and my being trans in a Latinx household) — but because of the judgemental environment, I never felt comfortable expressing that.

Other times, members would attempt to use meetings as their conversion therapy camp. In one instance, a group of religious men gave me their phone numbers because they felt that I needed men to set me on a religious path and make me masculine again. They seemed to believe that trans women who used and abused drugs and alcohol became trans as a “symptom” of addiction or alcoholism.

Other times, I faced sexual harassment or physical intimidation (usually if I rejected advances). One incident resulted in me having to change my phone number because I was getting threats and insults daily for refusing a man.

Read more about it here.


  1. besomyka says

    I drank a lot for similar reasons back when. This sort of situation combined with court mandated attendance that I read about is a nightmare :/