Quakers & LGBTQ+ History

On Thursday 18 February, we had an exciting event on Zoom with around 90 participants. There were 70 names on screen, but lots of couples on sofas. We heard the story of how Quakers worked for gay rights, how Friends Homosexual Fellowship evolved over the years, how Quakers achieved and embraced equal marriage, and how work progresses on welcoming gender diversity. 

This event was a collaboration between Quaker GSD Community, and the Quakers in Britain LGBT+ staff group. This is how it happened. Grace from Friends House emailed one day to ask if we fancied joining together for History month, and did we have any ideas? Well, as we considered this, I mentioned the presentation we had shared at our retreat weekend at Woodbrooke three years ago. Those who were there will recall we each read pieces of text while looking at projected images. Could we do this online we wondered? Everyone said, let’s have a go!

I had originally put this together for the retreat at Woodbrooke, then modified it for an event with Chichester SOGII Friends. Feedback from the Chichester event helped with some more editing and I added more recent events and a general introduction to Quakers. Grace publicised it on various Quaker channels and people began to sign up on Eventbrite. I received a phone call from Jan from my old meeting. She said, ‘Would you like a photo of possibly the first ever Quaker same sex wedding – me and Sue’s own in April 2011?’ I said, wow, of course. Jan and Sue sent photos of everyone at their wedding, their cake and certificate. I was able to include this lovely additional part into the presentation. 

Grace told us the bookings were rising, she said ‘it has reached 50 – amazing’. As people signed up, some ticked a box if they wished to read. The text was chopped up into 31 separate files, and emailed to each reader.

On the day, Grace and I welcomed the huge crowd gathering on Zoom and introduced the presentation. As each image appeared on screen, a different voice read the text. It felt very warm, and we had no mute problems! Jan and Sue read their own story over two images. At the end Michael Booth introduced a sharing discussion and we heard many participants recall memories, meetings and turning points and their current situations. There were familiar faces and new faces, old and young. This was perhaps the biggest turn out for a Quaker GSD event ever.

Yvonne Wood