A great day in Manchester – Quaker gathering on transgender

QLGF hosted a stimulating day on 31 October 2015 exploring gender identity and spiritual lives – Knowing Ourselves: Gender and Faith.


It attracted a buzzing audience of 50 who were informed and inspired by six excellent speakers, above – Helen Belcher, Tina Beardsley, Maurice Nagington, Jennie Barnsley, Surat-Shaan Rathgeber Knan and Jenny-Anne Bishop. The day was facilitated by Maurice, a Quaker and an organiser of Manchester Pride.

The contributions focussed on spiritual and faith responses to gender identity and transgendered lives. Jennie Barnsley, a Quaker and researcher on transgender identities started the day talking about how our understanding of non-binary gender identity is changing. Jenny-Anne Bishop, trans ministry coordinator at the Metropolitan Congregation in Chorlton, talked about practical ways a faith group can reach out and sustain transgender people in their fellowship. Surat-Shaan Rathgeber Knan spoke about the Twilight People project and the way that transgender lives can be shared and celebrated through this creative initiative.

Maurice Nagington grounded the day in the Quaker approach to worship and living our faith in the world. He spoke about ways the Quaker way helps all of us know and accept ourselves, strengthen our faith and affirm our lives. He invited us to share our own reflections on this.

Tina Beardsley described the background and achievements of the Sibyls Christian spirituality group for transgender people, showing how a spirituality-based community can support transgender people in their personal journeys. Helen Belcher of Trans Media Watch related a number of significant media stories relating to transgender people and reflected how media representation and their reactions have challenged conventions. She looked at the signs of hope for wider public understanding and acceptance. Rosalind Mitchell spoke about her own experience twenty years ago, feeling more isolated in her own personal journey. This was before supportive information and communities existed, before changes in legislation and before understanding within Quakers.

The afternoon workshops explored the personal experience of gender identity and living it in our everyday lives. There was a great atmosphere through the day and lots of contribution, especially within the concluding worship-sharing.

This was the first event dedicated to gender identity organised by the Quaker LGBT+ Fellowship. It attracted people who were glad to be amongst other transgender people, and people who learned a lot about a subject they were unfamiliar with.