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Old 01-21-2013, 04:24 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Gender separation in AA

Hi everyone, I don't come on this forum often but I wanted to ask a specific question about how you have dealt with the whole gender separation thing in AA.

I am a bisexual female, all my friends, family, work colleagues are aware of this and it isn't an issue, but I don't announce it to people I meet.

When I went to AA I was told to get numbers from the women and find a female sponsor, so I thought I'd go with that. I didn't want to rock the boat. However I have asked 4 women if they would sponsor me and they all said no, for various reasons. I have literally run out of women to ask now. I want to ask one of the guys but it is really frowned upon in my homegroup. I don't really feel like I want to explain myself though, I dunno, it just doesn't feel right and it is irrelevant in some ways. I just want help with my drinking issues and I don't feel like I should need to explain my sexuality in order to get a sponsor and move forwards...

There are no LGBT groups near me unfortunately and I know of one gay guy in my area but I haven't had an opportunity to speak to him. If I ask one of the straight guys I know they will just say, 'well really you need a female sponsor' and I'll have to explain myself, so it's a conversation I'd rather do in private rather than on the tail end of a meeting in earshot of other members. The other option is just saying it in a share but I haven't even shared in a meeting before so that idea is quite frankly terrifying.

I'm aware that this probably comes across as if I am uncomfortable with my sexuality but my experience on being open about it has been largely negative. I am lucky enough to have some wonderful friends who have known me my whole life and have accepted this fact about me. My family and work colleagues are great too, my mum not so much but that's just because the whole concept is alien to her. But otherwise, I have had close friends tell me that bisexuality doesn't exist and that people who say they are are just emotionally needy, men seem to think it just means 'up for a threesome' and even in the gay community I get the whole 'pick a side' response. I predict that if I came out in AA they would look at me like I'm an alien, and then tell me to get a female sponsor

I just wondered what other people's experience is of this?
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Old 01-21-2013, 04:33 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Hi . I have been in and out of AA for awhile,and just getting back. I currently have a temp sponser who is a man, I'm a woman. In previous times, I had a lesbian sponser for some time, and we worked well 2gthr even though I'm straight. I would just not labels and gender affect this. Work with someone who clicks with you. I know a lot of people will argue this, but just my opinion on it. Hope you find 1 soon.
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Old 01-21-2013, 04:33 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Girls with the girls and guys with the guys is a suggestion only. And a suggestion that generally applies only in early recovery. I know lots of people who have had sponsors of the opposite sex. And gays and lesbians with sponsors of the same sex. The dangers of this are kind of obvious, so you might just want to put a little thought into who you choose. If you feel any attraction towards them, or think they might be attracted to you, it might not be such a great idea. I think our instincts are generally in tact enough, even in early sobrity to figure that one out. You need to do what's right for you. If you have a belief in a higher power, you might want to ask you HP to guide you.
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Old 01-21-2013, 04:50 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I have no doubt in my ability to pick an appropriate sponsor, it's more the logistics of it I have a problem with. The men I would like to ask are (rightly) very proper about this stuff and wouldn't sponsor a woman, so I would have to 'come out' to them to get them to sponsor me, that's kind of the issue.
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Old 01-21-2013, 05:41 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I have no doubt in my ability to pick an appropriate sponsor, it's more the logistics of it I have a problem with. The men I would like to ask are (rightly) very proper about this stuff and wouldn't sponsor a woman, so I would have to 'come out' to them to get them to sponsor me, that's kind of the issue.
Got it. You say you're bi though, so it's not going to matter then anyhow. If they're opposed to sponsoring someone of the opposite sex, they're not going to want to do it. Maybe you might want to look for someone who isn't going to be a perfect fit, just for now, and then see where that leads you...
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Old 01-21-2013, 06:08 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I think they are opposed to sponsoring women because it's better for me Joe, that's where it is irrelevant. They are the type of blokes who will protect the newcomer. I have had men offer to be my sponsor but it was not with the best of intentions I think and I'm not prepared to settle for someone who is that not perfect.

I'm kinda interested in hearing peoples personal experience with this really. It is just unusual for me to be in a situation where my sexuality is relevant and I am aware that it may cause problems for me if I am not open about it.
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Old 01-21-2013, 06:13 AM   #7 (permalink)
 

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But otherwise, I have had close friends tell me that bisexuality doesn't exist and that people who say they are are just emotionally needy, men seem to think it just means 'up for a threesome' and even in the gay community I get the whole 'pick a side' response.
Don't even get me started. I hear the same nonsense. I won't digress here though...that's for another thread...

Well, in my opinion, the notion of same sex sponsors is outdated. Just because someone is straight, doesn't mean they are attracted to everyone they encounter of the opposite sex. Just because someone is gay, doesn't mean they are attracted to every single person they meet of their own sex. And for someone identifying as bi-sexual, it doesn't mean we want to "do everything on two legs". That's ridiculous. For me, when I am attracted to someone, emotionally or otherwise, their gender is secondary.

If I were you I would find a sponsor that I do not find an intimate attraction to. I would find someone who would agree that gender is not an issue....that's the kind of person who "has what you want" anyway, right?

OK, I'll add that it may be hard to find.
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Old 01-21-2013, 06:42 AM   #8 (permalink)
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The whole point of same sex sponsee and sponsor is to keep sex out of the mix in the relationship. There are a whole bunch of reasons that this is a good idea but it is by no means mandatory. Some of the reasons are a very close personal relationship is formed, jealousy by the partners, looking for something to substitute for your addiction, vulnerability, being able to talk about sexual and gender specific items and likely others that I cannot think of.

That said, I am male and I know of at least 5 women I would feel comfortable with if they were my sponsor and I think they would likely sponsor me if I asked them even though it is frowned upon in my group as well.
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Old 01-21-2013, 07:06 AM   #9 (permalink)
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The whole point of same sex sponsee and sponsor is to keep sex out of the mix in the relationship.
Yeah, this is a massive problem for me MI, lol Only joking. I don't go to AA for sex and I am able to compartmentalise my life quite well. I don't always assume that an emotional connection translates into an intimate one. I would rather have a sponsor who is in a relationship anyway because I am very respectful in that department and that would rule out any possibility of the s word. That or a gay man. That's what I'm praying for

Thank you soberlicious, I agree it is outdated, maybe we are just more evolved x
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Old 01-21-2013, 07:23 AM   #10 (permalink)
 

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Thank you soberlicious, I agree it is outdated, maybe we are just more evolved x
Well, it's not hard to be more evolved than the 1950's mentality of separating genders. I get that the sponsor/sponsee relationship is close, but so are lots of other very close relationships that don't focus on gender. Therapist/client, boss/employee, doctor/patient, priest/parishioner all come to mind off the top of my head.

But yeah, hypo, you're probably right lol
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Old 01-21-2013, 07:35 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Hmmm, I also know people with opposite sex sponsors. They will work if both parties are in it for the right reasons. It's been said already, and I believe it, it is a suggestion only. It is important to be sponsored by someone you are comfortable with, not what your group feels comfortable with.

Going by your group's logic, you may only use bisexual sponsors... You should not have to come out to the group if you are not comfortable in doing that. If your group has an issue with who you have as a sponsor, that is their problem. Remind them to 'live and let live'... This is your recovery and your program; you need to do what is right and comfortable for you. If there are a lot of groups in your area, is there a way for you to find a sponsor elsewhere?

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Old 01-21-2013, 07:53 AM   #12 (permalink)
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I think by my groups logic I would have to have a gay man as a sponsor. I can go elsewhere but I would have the same problem. I don't feel comfortable coming out in AA. I'm going to go to a few different meetings and use the 'wait and see' approach x

Are you in AA catallus? How did you approach getting a sponsor? x
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Old 01-21-2013, 08:47 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Well, it's not hard to be more evolved than the 1950's mentality of separating genders. I get that the sponsor/sponsee relationship is close, but so are lots of other very close relationships that don't focus on gender. Therapist/client, boss/employee, doctor/patient, priest/parishioner all come to mind off the top of my head.

But yeah, hypo, you're probably right lol
Yes but all of the ones you mentioned have very strong safe gaurds so that inappropriate relationships do not develop or if they do there are pretty severe consequences. AA has none of those safegaurds or consequences not to mention their are preditors that take advantage of vulernable people.
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Old 01-21-2013, 10:34 AM   #14 (permalink)
 

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AA has none of those safegaurds or consequences not to mention their are preditors that take advantage of vulernable people.
Correct, and it is misguided to think that a suggestion of same sex sponsoring is in any way an actual safeguard against inappropriate relationships or predators.
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Old 01-21-2013, 11:28 AM   #15 (permalink)
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I too was told that women should get female sponsors and men male sponsors. The reason I was given was because the sponsor sponsee relationship is one where there is a power dynamic at work which if one side has difficulties with sexual boundaries then problems can develop. Duh, that is for any relationship in my opinion as all relationships have some power dynamics involved and all require some sort of boundaries to prevent problems from arising.

Even though I was out in early sobriety I went along with the same sex sponsee relationship thing even though it made no sense to me. Since I am a lesbian my having a woman sponsor should have been a disaster according to their thought process. But even after having several female sponsors I have never had any problems with inappropriate sexual relationships arising. I have had a lesbian sponsor and two straight women sponsors over the years.

My experience has taught me that it really doesn't matter what sex the person is that sponsors you what matters is whether one or both of you is able to maintain sexual boundaries. The sponsor/sponsee relationship can become quite intimate but intimate does not have to mean sexually intimate that is where boundaries come in. I would suggest finding a person who reflects the quality of sobriety you are seeking. Listen when people talk in meetings. Listen to them talk after and before the meetings. If you have the chance to observe them outside of AA that is always a good thing to do to see if their words in AA meetings match up to real life. Once you have found someone like that then talk to them and tell them that they appear to have the type of sobriety you are seeking and that you want to learn from them. Then ask if they would be your sponsor even if it is on a temporary basis. Very few people will say no when asked in this manner. Of course the fact that you are gay will come up at some point but if you don't make it a focal point they usually won't either, at least that has been my experience. Then remember that there are boundaries that should never be crossed and sex with a sponsor is one of those. It is kind of like a teenager having sex with their teacher, quite inappropriate and has the potential to be quite damaging.

There was one thing that has been brought up in this thread that I would like to say something about
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Yes but all of the ones you mentioned have very strong safe gaurds so that inappropriate relationships do not develop or if they do there are pretty severe consequences. AA has none of those safegaurds or consequences not to mention their are preditors that take advantage of vulernable people.
AA is not a counseling service. It is a recovery program to help people find a solution to their alcoholism. Yes, there are some sexual predators in AA just as there are sexual predators in every walk of life. One can find them at the corner grocery store and even in their own church and for many people they are in their own homes. Many in AA do recognize that these people exist and many groups do what they can to protect newcomers from these individuals. My home group has run off two of these people in the years I have been attending it. When a group recognizes these individuals they usually are shunned and often talked to and told the behaviors will not be tolerated. Predators like the dark and the shadows and when they know a group knows what they are about they tend to disappear back into the shadows. I attend other meetings in the large city I live in and I never even see the two people my group had run ins with. I don't know if they wound up in jail or just left AA because they no longer felt welcome.

I guess what I am saying is that I feel it is wrong to judge AA as a whole by the acts of a few individuals which are the same type of individuals one can meet in every day life which has no real safeguards either. It is also not AA place to dictate to people what relationships are appropriate by making firm demands and putting formal safeguards into place. The only formal safeguards I can think of would damage the sponsor/sponsee relationship rather than help it. I am happy that AA makes a suggestion but does not make this a formal thing that a man has to sponsor a man or a woman a woman. I for one know I don't want anyone else telling me who I can and can't develop relationships with regardless of whether it is a sponsor/sponsee, friendship, or intimate relationship. I get enough of that from the many states, religious groups, political groups, and even our Federal government that want to dictate to me whom I can and can't love.
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Old 01-21-2013, 12:29 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Thank you for sharing your experience Nandm It is gratifying to know that someone else found the scenario a little odd. And thank you for your advice. I found it very grounding and I feel less panicked now x
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Old 01-22-2013, 04:52 AM   #17 (permalink)
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I think by my groups logic I would have to have a gay man as a sponsor. I can go elsewhere but I would have the same problem. I don't feel comfortable coming out in AA. I'm going to go to a few different meetings and use the 'wait and see' approach x

Are you in AA catallus? How did you approach getting a sponsor? x
I am in AA. Before I came out I had a straight male sponsor - as I began realizing I was, in fact, gay, I did not feel comfortable with this sponsor any longer, I couldn't be completely honest and open so I sought out gay groups in AA and played the wait game (sponsor hunting takes time; not just anyone will do). Eventually, I found someone (a male) that connected. I felt comfortable with him, but I if I had felt comfy with a woman at my new gayAA meetings, I would have asked her.

In my area, straight or gay, gender between sponsors and sponsees is not really an issue - until it seems that male/male or gal/gal has gotten too personal; then tongues will wag.....
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Old 01-23-2013, 04:00 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Thank you Catallus. It is interesting that this issue changes so much in different areas. Although it has made me a little uncomfortable I actually kinda like the way they do things in my area. It kinda sweet in a misguided way. It's just the presumed heterosexuality which is a problem x
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