by Carla H.

Most Saturdays, Lush Lounge looks like a women’s meeting, but appearances can be deceiving. A regular once said, “This is the women’s meeting for women who don’t like women’s meetings.” But it’s not a women’s meeting. Attendees can be trans and nonbinary people. I’ve learned to ask members what pronoun they use. We meet 2:00 p.m. Saturdays at the Dolores Street Community Center, 938 Valencia Street in San Francisco and have been a Beginner Step Study since the early 2000s. The meeting itself has proven to be consistently warm, honest, raw and healing for me. I have spiritual experiences each week listening to speaker share emotions, issues and facts of life as lived by transgender people, gender queer people and women. Issues that don’t come up in mixed meetings that often.

Lots of small talk and laughter before and after the meeting

With 17 different service commitment possibilities, Lush Lounge usually has 20+ attendees. I’ve been a regular for five years and have held several different service positions, most recently as the General Service Representative. Doing service at this meeting has changed and improved my program. I started with an easy commitment as a literature rep. It turned out to be so much fun that I next volunteered to help with setup, which required a lot of work and substantial reliability, mostly because two setup people are responsible for keys to the building and our meeting supply cabinet. 

Five years ago, it required four people to move two heavy conference tables out of our room to make space for the three kinds of chairs, which we had to arrange a certain way. I, along with the other setup person, discovered how reliable we truly were. My setup partner and I bonded easily over our shared professional backgrounds. I would have never learned as much had I not done setup. This bonding helped me feel like a real part of the group. It also encouraged me to stay after the meeting and help with breakdown, a separate service commitment. Breakdown people needed to know how the room looked before we set it up. I was able to help with that.

photos by Navarre

Lots of small talk and laughter happens before and after the meeting. That’s also when people have asked me to sponsor them. It’s why coming early and staying late is being of service. I’ve learned that my past dislike of women’s meetings meant I disliked women. Over time, I realized that my dislikes are my inner misogynist in action. I was shocked that I’m not as feminist as I had thought. Fortunately, learning that has helped increase my compassion. 

Coming early and staying late is being of service

I listened to how other members directed people with setting up and breaking down the room. They always did it with kindness. I learned how to deal with a drunken attendee who wouldn’t move or talk. (There were kind, quiet discussions about who to call for help. Someone knew the member’s partner, who was phoned and asked to help.) I’d never seen an active drunk at a meeting at that point and had no idea what to do.

As General Service Rep, I also asked for volunteers to do service each week when absent members hadn’t found substitutes. I facilitated our monthly business meetings and experienced a wide range of behaviors that can happen during them. I asked for help from my Service Sponsor, who was instrumental in helping me learn how A.A. functions as a whole—with the principles of kindness, patience, tolerance, and listening to everyone.

Commitments has shown me how important service of any kind is, and how to let go, accept, and turn it over. I’m not in charge. Hooray for that! Lush Lounge is a safe, welcoming space for any transgender, gender queer or women alcoholics—as well as anyone who needs a meeting.

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