Motion 13: To direct the World Board to create a project plan for consideration at the WSC 2022 to investigate changes and/or additional wording to NA literature from gender specific language to gender neutral and inclusive language.
Intent: This motion will give the conference and the Fellowship the ability to meaningfully discuss changes to our literature to be more inclusive of all our members.
Maker: Sweden and Australia Regions
Financial Impact: There is minimal cost in creating a project plan. The cost to NAWS would be in the project itself if the WSC were to adopt and prioritize the plan.
Rationale by Regions: Our literature currently makes multiple references to gender specific and exclusive language.
We recognise the importance of being able to identify oneself with the language described in our texts in order to embrace the programme. In our Fellowship there are many who identify as LGBT+, who have experienced being made invisible in a great variety of situations. As a worldwide Fellowship we acknowledge that many cultures embrace non-binary individuals.
Many of our members have expressed reservation at the male pronoun references to God, which may invoke an image of a specific God or religion. We believe this conflicts with our philosophy which encourages all members to develop a personal relationship with a God of our own understanding.
In NA we are addicts first and foremost and we must always keep our doors open for all addicts who have a desire to recover. We want our literature to be inclusive to all, regardless of how we might identify.
The personal stories section of our Basic Text contains stories from transgender individuals, and we wish to build on this gender-neutral foundation to reflect in all NA text. We allow for personal stories to be exempt from gender-neutral language and remain as they are currently written.
When collaborating with Sweden and Australia it became clear that Sweden wished to have gender-neutral language that was complimentary to the existing language, whereas Australia felt that replacement was the way to proceed. The motion has been written as such that all options can be explored in the project plan and recommendations provided back to the WSC and Fellowship.
World Board Response: The project called for in this motion does not direct any change. It seeks to open a discussion. As the intent explains, “This motion will give the conference and the Fellowship the ability to meaningfully discuss changes to our literature to be more inclusive of all our members.”
We anticipate the discussion would be focused on English-language literature, because our literature is developed in English, and the English texts act as the prototype for any translation efforts. Translations may raise issues beyond the scope of this discussion. Different languages handle gender differently, and local translation committees are familiar with what they need to do to be consistent with the English texts.
We have had related discussions in the past, but not since the early 1990s, and those discussions were dominated by a consideration of whether to use the word God in NA literature, while the discussion this motion seeks to open is specifically about gender neutrality. The trustee bulletin on gender-specific language was written in 1992, when there were fewer than 20,000 NA meetings worldwide and the Basic Text was published in four languages. Now there are more than 70,000 meetings and we publish the Basic Text in 32 languages. Our membership has grown and diversified over the years.
So again, this motion is not a decision to make any changes; it’s about whether we’re willing to have the discussion. We support the idea of having a discussion and believe it is our collective responsibility to look at how our message is perceived. Policy Affected: None.