SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS – a discussion as to the appropriateness of having gender specific or other specific meetings

The comments below were given by various members of the Conference Steps, Traditions, and Concepts Committee and do not represent a group conscience of the entire committee. The opinions expressed here are solely that of the person giving them. Take what you like and leave the rest.

The Question:
Someone was told she couldn’t host a women’s only event because it violated the Traditions.  Can you help?


This question brings up several possibilities of answers, so I will follow what seems right to me. I personally, do not see a violation of Tradition 3 which I believe was the response originally given to the original inquirer by someone at a meeting. This is because this would not be a restriction made to deny a woman the opportunity to receive recovery at a meeting in which she could feel comfortable.

A gender specific meeting would be supported by Tradition 4 which says “Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or S.L.A.A. as a whole.” This tradition allows each group to set its own focus and format as to the type of meeting which they are going to conduct. We already have women’s only meetings in many areas as well as women’s phone meetings. We also have meetings which are limited to men only and those of certain sexual orientation or gender identity. This is because some members would feel unsafe or possibly even triggered should they be in a mixed meeting. The same holds true in some areas where those who are convicted sex offenders have felt the need to establish a new meeting due to members having been judgmental toward them and making them feel unwelcome.

A gender specific meeting still supports Tradition 5 which says, “Each group has but one primary purpose – to carry the message to the sex and love addict who still suffers.” Here again this allows everyone to recover in a place where they can feel safe. This would also be true for the anorectics who cannot identify with those who had a version of sex and love addiction which involved others. I prefer to look beyond our differences and allow everyone an equal opportunity to recover. I was made to feel welcome in spite of one of the manifestations of sexual addiction in my life and feel compelled to offer to others the same welcome and opportunity.

I am aware that in some areas certain members have been made to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome due to the nature of their addiction and they have begun specific meetings limited to those who have had the same experiences. Personally, I welcome every sex and love addict, regardless of the manifestation of their disease, and anorectic to a meeting because I believe that we are all there for the mutual purpose of recovery from our sex and love addiction.

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I do not believe that special interest groups are a violation of Tradition 3. We are all addicts and it might be difficult for certain, at the beginning of recovery most likely or because of certain traumatic past experiences, to be confronted to the situations or people that have triggered them. Tradition 4 allows groups to be autonomous and I don’t see that creation of such groups hurt the fellowship as a whole.

The Basic Text does refer to the special interest groups at pages 131-132 (of the 1986 edition). At the time of the writing, of the book nine years after the beginning of the fellowship, there seem to not have had many requests for such groups. The authors also suggest that recovering addicts need to eventually learn to deal with the attraction created by the addiction where ever is being triggered. However, I did not read anything that would suggest not allowing such groups.

I believe, the important thing for S.L.A.A. is to carry the message, according to Tradition 5. I can also understand that similarities of experiences might support recovery in a way mixed groups cannot provide at one point. Hence, if creating a special group is the way to do it, it might be considered an appropriate way.


What do you think?
The CSTCC is a group of volunteers, some of whom were ABM delegates, and others who volunteered out of interest. We do not represent a group conscience of S.L.A.A., but are committed to bringing thoughtful discussion and study of 12 Step Fellowship literature and experience to the questions that are brought to us. We offer this summary as the results of our discussions. We present the major points of concern in the hopes that wider discussion in the Fellowship will help us evolve our customs and practice of the S.L.A.A. program of recovery to better represent the loving guidance of a Higher Power. Always, we affirm the autonomy of each group and the need for each individual to follow her/his own conscience. No decision of this group, or any other, is ever forced upon another, even when we believe a practice is clearly in conflict with the Steps, Traditions, or Concepts.