Galano is a nonprofit whose mission is to provide spaces for 12-step programs that are welcoming to the LGBTQ community. Images via Facebook

Galano Creates Space for LGBTQ People to Pursue Sobriety

Editor’s note: A tenet of AA is for members to remain anonymous in the press. It is for this reason that Jason’s last name is not used in this article.

Whether limited to Dry January or as a year-long resolution, many folks consider sobriety in the new year. For LGBTQ people, however, fear of discrimination and religious trauma may prevent them from attending a 12-step program for their addiction. That’s what Galano works to avoid. Galano is a nonprofit whose mission is to provide spaces for 12-step programs that are welcoming to the LGBTQ community. Galano acts as the landlord for the slew of 12-step groups that meet in its building: groups including, but not limited to, Alcoholics Anonymous, Crystal Meth Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Sexual Compulsives Anonymous, and Narcotics Anonymous. Basically, any 12-step group that wants to meet in Galano’s building is welcome, on the condition that they explicitly accept the LGBTQ community.

“Because we are so out front about being a welcoming, safe space, it lets our community know you can come here and be yourself and you’re going to be accepted,” Galano president Jason C. told Georgia Voice. “You don’t have to worry about coming out. You don’t have to worry if you’re gender nonconforming, you’re not going to have to worry about being shoved out the door because you’re different … If somebody does come in and makes it feel unsafe, they will be banned from the building.”

Jason, who has been sober from alcohol for more than a decade, learned about Galano from his partner at the time and was looking for a space where he knew he wouldn’t have to be worried about disclosing his identity.

“I did want to be in a gay clubhouse if I could, or at least go to a gay meeting,” he told Georgia Voice. “And part of that was just because I didn’t want to have to worry about coming out.”

In many 12-step programs, God is framed as a central motivator to sobriety: some of the 12 steps outlined in the AA Big Book include believing in a Power greater than ourselves, turning our will and lives over to God, admitting to God the nature of our wrongs, asking God to remove shortcomings, and praying. For LGBTQ people, religious trauma stemming from connections between religion and homophobia or transphobia may discourage them from trying the 12 steps altogether.

“Twelve-step programs do have references to God and/or a higher power, and that’s a tricky subject for [the LGBTQ community],” Jason said. “The kids in their early 20s that may come into the rooms nowadays may not be as traumatized as, say, a Gen Xer like me and certainly everybody older where religion was a source of abuse, pain, and suffering for us growing up, especially here in the South. Some other clubhouses and meetings across Atlanta will lean heavier into the Christianity aspect. Because of who we are and the community members that tend to make up the majority of our meetings, we’re a little more sensitive to the whole higher power God question because that does scare some people away for quite a while.”

According to data from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, LGB adults experienced higher rates of opioid and alcohol abuse than the overall population: 6.7 percent vs. 3.6 percent for opioids and 21.8 percent vs. 11 percent for alcohol. These higher rates may be explained by Minority Stress Theory. Research suggests that minority stressors like discrimination, identity concealment, and internalized homophobia are positively associated with substance abuse.

This means that access to 12-step programs and the community they provide is even more crucial for LGBTQ people struggling with addiction.

“I refer to my sober friends as kind of my sober family,” Jason said. “There was a group of us that came in around the same time, and for those of us who have stuck around, we knew we were going to be lifelong friends. And it is self-reinforcing, especially early in sobriety. You’ve got people who are willing to hang out and mentor you. Your brain’s trying to dry out from the booze or the drugs, and that can be a messy process. It’s messy emotionally. Having people that understand that and are supportive of you is very important.”

If you’re considering sobriety or even just drinking or using less, Jason suggests attending a meeting, even if you wouldn’t call yourself an alcoholic or addict. Most, if not all, of Galano’s programs are open discussions where you can sit, listen, and talk without strictly identifying as an addict.

“Come with an open mind and listen and see if anything resonates with you,” Jason said.

To find Galano’s schedule of meetings, visit