Responses to the reframing the gender and women matter

From Lucy

I have some comments on what’s shared in the newsletter that I hope might be helpful. There’s a bit of a preamble first, and then some suggestions [shown in blue].

Hannah Brock-Womack’s experience really brought home to me the issue of naming and framing, further clarified by my own recent experience of queerphobia in local meeting. I realised that the notoriety attaches to the wronged, not the wrong-doer, for want of more nuanced terms.

In my case, I can fully believe that the incident will be known as the “Lucy Issue’ before it is “the Charles and Lesley Issue’. Anyway, I’m mentioning this because it’s also previously struck me that we don’t have a transgender issue in Quakers, we have a cisgender issue – depending on one’s perspective, of course -which is sort of the point: the current narrative is shaped by heterosexism. A narrative shaped by the will to inclusion would take a different stance. I wonder what you think? 

In wider conversation I have noticed slippage in how the term ‘women’ is used, to be sometimes synonymous with cis-women in ways that exclude trans women. I think that’s what happened here too, though I might have misunderstood. I’ve shared my thoughts on a short paragraph as edits in case it’s useful: 

There is a continuing difference of opinion between acceptance of trans people as we are; and safeguarding cis-women’s safety as we have fought for. Within Quaker meetings and QGSDC there are cis-women who are uneasy about the implications of transgender inclusion ; there are trans Friends who are not  being accepted; and there are family and friends of trans Friends, and others, who try to uphold.

I really value the huge amount of work that those more active in QGSDC than I am have put into making meeting safe for everyone, and intend my comments to honour this labour, and maybe  build on it in some way. And also show my appreciation. 

I would be very happy to discuss these ideas further at any stage.


From Sabrina

I think it’s important to address some of the language used in this article here (https://qgsdc.org.uk/workingforequality/a-brief-introduction-to-gender-diversity/).

Similarly, there is a use of “biological sex” vs “gender – an argument which is well-meaning but results in a number of issues:

https://www.vox.com/identities/2020/7/17/21328708/proposed-anti-trans-rule-homeless-shelters-judge-women – it also leads to thinking such as this, which ultimately damages Gender Nonconforming Lesbians – the comic below shows what I mean:

This is from 1995.

I ultimately do not believe in a compromise in this ‘debate’, for fundamentally I do not think it benefits those involved & distracts us from helping with: queer homelessness, discrimination in the workplace and very gatekept healthcare system (with 193 week waiting list for a Gender Identity Clinic for a first appointment: https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2020/08/13/nhs-trans-patients-laurels-gender-identity-clinic-south-west-waiting-list-yeovil-pride/)

Ultimately I challenge all of QGSDC to ask: who gets to define womanhood? Who doesn’t? And where does that come from?

I have included these links as research; to ensure that our discerning is conducted with real truth.


From John

I totally support the idea of seeking discernment on trans issues, but I was also very nervous today and hence made no real contribution to the debate. My nervousness was from the perspective of being new to trans issues and being very wary of saying the wrong thing.

Having reflected, besides endorsing discernment on this issue, I would just like to make a couple of points I hope might be useful even though they have not put to the discussion this afternoon:

Firstly, thank you to Sabrina for the thoughtful and courageous comments made; I learnt so much from it and admired the way it was put, at the same time concerned about the point of not feeling able to attend a Local Meeting. Quakers must reach out if there are people who are not able to attend Meeting because of their feelings of vulnerability.

Secondly, I hope people can give priority to people’s lived experience of being trans and that from all sides there is a willingness to listen to personal accounts rather than being too bogged down with a concern for specific terminology and language. For example during the AGM there was a reference to the use of the word  ‘queer’ as a positive reference to one form of gender diversity. That is perfectly valid and yet, for me, the word is an awful reminder of things said to me as a teenager labelling me as immoral and illegal (in those days) While we have a great deal in common our lived experiences can be different – my view is that dialogue and trying to understand is more important than very precise language.

Much of my professional experience has been working with people with learning disabilities, people whose care was once labelled as ‘medical’ to disguise its harshness, and even when it became ‘social care’ they still had absolutely no rights in law.  The differences in perspectives/ opportunities/ knowledge has changed a great deal over the last 40 years – realistic, measurable change takes time to bed in and can still be partially reversed in periods of economic uncertainty, and, of course, pandemics! Sometimes debates about language can be so intense they can blind us to the bigger issues and slow progress down. Policies and constitutions are important but without dialogue, genuine concern and a seeking of understanding they can be very limiting.

I probably have not explained myself very well, but my objective with this email was to acknowledge, as a newcomer to the community, the value of the thoughtful contributions made today.