Quakers and gender identity
This is a page about gender identity. Whatever our sexuality, gender is a part of our personal make-up that we either take for granted or find endlessly baffling. Sometimes troubling, often socially out of sync, variant-gender identity is not easy to live with, but sometimes liberating and enriching. As part of our human nature, and as part of our whole personal identity, it is part of our spiritual life. Quakers believe we become closer to the divine by knowing and accepting ourselves. Many gender-variant people find it difficult to feel comfortable in some faith groups.
Whether we relate to the term transgender or not, whether we are private or out, Quaker Meetings can offer a spiritual home. There are Quaker members and attenders who are unsettled by, or accept their variant gender identity – but who can bring their truth to silent worship without shame or guilt. Some however struggle with faith, as well as work and family; some are transitioning, or want to transition, or can’t transition. There are those who are in-between, whose sense of self is non-binary, neither female or male. There are those who have secret lives and dual-lives. As well as the challenges of gender identity within faith groups, there is also a spiritual richness.
The Quaker testimonies to simplicity and integrity, to peace and to equality provide a solid foundation for faith and our service in the world. They also help us to strip away the confusing language and media representations of transgender to find our own spirit.
Articles on this website
Have a look in the posts for a short report about the Manchester gathering in October 2015, about transgender and faith. Transcripts of the talks will follow.
In the Articles section, you will find a few topics of interest.
Quakers Tabular Statement and gender identity
The annual census of Quaker members and attenders has of many years recorded each person as male or female. For a small number of Friends this was not comfortable – while in everyday life, we all identify ourselves in tick-boxes with titles and gender, not always exactly what we feel, in our Quaker Meetings and in our spirituality and worship, our gender is not relevant or doesn’t fit either male or female truthfully. After this was raised at Britain Yearly Meeting in 2015, Friends House was quick to respond. The annual form now includes ‘Other’ and Friends can choose to be neither male nor female, for whatever reason.
Transgender lives and interfaith fellowship
Stonewall After a long and turbulent hesitation, Stonewall has embraced transgender and is steaming ahead with campaigning and education relating to transgender lives. Stonewall have formed a transgender panel to steer their activities. We were pleased to have two of these panel members speaking at our Manchester gathering – Helen Belcher and Surat-Shaan Rathgeber Knan. Stonewall have also embarked on interfaith activities, with their first interfaith seminar in late February 2016.
Twilight People The Twilight People project assembles oral history accounts of transgender people of faith. It held a major exhibition in March 2016, in Islington London. Large photographs of individuals with diverse spiritual practices were accompanied by biographical notes. Enlightening, uplifting and affirming, the exhibits show people who bring their gender identity to a deeper spiritual practice and service to others. The exhibition will travel to Manchester in the summer.