Episode 62: Carmen X.

I met Carmen at my home group, and have always enjoyed her thoughtful comments, intelligence, and her honest, open, and warm personality. This podcast features a portion of her story followed by an interesting conversation based on her experience as a transgender woman and a freethinker in Alcoholics Anonymous. 

Carmen has the utmost respect for AA and credits it for her sobriety, but she says, “facts and events are what they are.” And it’s a matter of fact that three different AA groups suggested she belonged somewhere else. They asked her to leave, and she thinks her belief system was just as much a problem for these groups as was her transition. They told her that she was a “distraction.”

Seeking another way, Carmen read Charles Bufe’s book, Alcoholics Anonymous Cult or Cure, and began to google “Secular AA.” Her search results produced a long list of possibilities, including our group, We Agnostics Kansas City. I’m glad she found us and that she now has a place in AA where she is accepted and feels at home. I’m also grateful to her for enriching my own life and for teaching me through her example.

There are many things about Carmen that I admire, but what I find perhaps the most inspiring is her ability to transcend pain and to offer understanding and forgiveness to those who shunned her.  

During our conversation, she made the comment, “there comes a time when we just have to be comfortable with who we are.” That time has arrived for Carmen. Sitting across my kitchen table, as we recorded this podcast, was a woman beaming with self-confidence and contentment— completely comfortable with who she is. 

When I asked her about the AA program and if she believes in the Steps, she told me quite plainly that she believes in herself. She believes in living a moral life, which to her means being good to others and treating them as she would want to be treated. 

Relying on her intellect to search for the truth, Carmen finds herself drawn to people who are seeking the way. She’s wary of those who are certain they know the path, because those people don’t have to think. One of the gifts of sobriety, she believes, is that we can use our intellect as part of the recovery process. I believe this is a healthy attitude and a welcome respite from the anti-intellectual sentiment found in many AA meetings. It’s an attitude that embraces the spirit of a sign we often find hanging on the walls of our meeting places—a slogan urging us to “think…think…think…”

Thank you, Carmen, for our fascinating conversation and for agreeing to share your story with the rest of us. 

To learn more about Carmen, check out these links:

The Tenth Voice KC’s LGBT Radio: Trans Talk Featuring Carmen!: This is an informative program featuring two guests who talk about issues facing the transgender community. Carmen’s segment begins at about 27:04.

Carmen’s Performance at the Outburst Gallery: Carmen gives a performance narrative of her loss of innocence on a grade school playground, providing a look at one of many events that hinted at her gender dysphoria. 


Download the transcript, or read it by scrolling through the embedded pdf below.

Episode 62 Carmen X

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4 years ago

This is why I moved away from Agnostic AA. While I am atheist and an AA member I want to learn and hear about peoples’ experience of getting and staying sober without a deity. This conversation starts out talking about step twelve to practice these principles in all our affairs.. but it rapidly moves into just carping criticism of regular AA. I personally don’t find that helpful.

John S
4 years ago
Reply to  DerekV

To be fair Derek, many if not most of the podcasts that we produce feature discussions that center on recovery in AA through a secular perspective. The conversations often flow on their own. In the case of Carmen, three different AA groups asked her to leave. They told her that she was not welcomed. She believes this is due to her atheism as much as her transition. In view of this, I think a little criticism is understandable. At our meetings, we don’t criticize AA or even talk about God or lack of belief in God all that much. I… Read more »

Angie Lee
Angie Lee
4 years ago

Very great to listen to Carmen. Great you can share like this. True compassion comes from you. Definitely a great topic. Glad your life has improved over the years. So much I agree with taking your power back.  Thanks for sharing

Diana R
Diana R
4 years ago

I loved your discussion together–so very honest and refreshing. This is what AA is about for me–frank sharing of our struggles. You  highlighted both AA’s strengths and areas in need of improvement. I particularly enjoyed the discussion about sponsorship and some of it’s pitfalls.

Thomas, I am looking forward to your article “AA and Original Sin”.

4 years ago

Thanks, both of you. This was really inspiring, you touched on so many of my “favorite” topics, most of all how unnecessary the concept of a higher power is to recovery. These days when i get my hands on a grapevine first thing I do is scan the article for god and higher power. if it is in there I simply don’t read it anymore. This is not to say that there may not have been something the author could teach me, but I figure i will probably stumble upon someone else without god who can teach me the same… Read more »

Joe C.
4 years ago

I love a podcast that gets me thinking. Thank you Carmen, thank you team-Beyond Belief. I thought about something Andrew Solomon said in a Ted Talk: “There is always someone there to talk our humanity away and always someone to restore it. Oppression breeds the power to oppose it. Identity politics always works on two fronts. First it gives pride to someone who has given characteristics and secondly, it causes the outside world to treat such people ore gently, more kindly.” This isn’t an AA thing anymore than AA is just a microcosm of our larger community, but when Carmen… Read more »