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.
We have a gathering in Manchester on Saturday 31 October about gender identity and faith – within Quaker Meetings and across other denominations and faith groups.
Quakers in Britain have just embarked on an exploratory reading of Quaker faith and Practice – a book of guidance for our spiritual life as well as the way we conduct our Meetings for worship and business. In the programme of readings, October is for chapter 21 – Personal Journey.
This chapter contains the section called ‘Knowing and accepting ourselves’ and is where Friends with variant gender identity or questions about themselves might look for acknowledgement and support. Hence the title for our gathering.
This of chapter 21 deals largely with the propensity of each of us for good and evil, and how to embrace our whole selves.
But perhaps the section could offer more on knowing ourselves in terms of our personal identity, who we are in a human and spiritual sense. This certainly embraces different experiences of gender identity, including those who have changed their sex and those who do not relate to either of the binary male and female and who feel positively non-binary or gender-fluid.
And it could indeed reflect the experience of knowing our personal sexual identity.
But the idea of personal identity goes further in terms of who we are, where we have come from and how that enriches our spiritual experience. Our identity relates to ethnic and religious future, to family, to gifts and afflictions we discover about ourselves.
Quaker Faith and Practice embraces many aspects of our spiritual lives and use of our gifts, but this section has great scope for acknowledging the huge depth and variety of self identity – who we really are, what we bring of ourselves to worship.
Trans issues have been gaining increasing coverage in the British media over recent years. This mirrors increasing political debate over trans rights, including the Equality Act 2010, evidence presented at the Leveson Inquiry and the debates over same-sex marriage. The Westminster Government issued the first ever Transgender Action Plan in 2011 and many politicians were contacted regarding press coverage of trans people following the suicide of Lucy Meadows in 2013.
The idea of a trans manifesto was first raised in discussions with Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green politicians during the summer of 2013, and the idea was enthusiastically received. Accordingly a number of trans groups met and three core statements were unanimously agreed – read it in full below.
Trans Manifesto 2014
Holyrood has passed a bill legalising same-sex marriage by a huge majority of 98 votes to 15 with five abstentions.
Welcome to the new-look website for QLGF, the Quaker Lesbian & Gay Fellowship.
We hope that this heralds a dramatic change in the way we communicate with each other. And more important, the way we keep the news up to date.
We hope we will still be able to provide a friendly (and Friendly) place where those who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, transgendered, bisexual, queer or any related word of their choosing, or just in sympathy with those who do, can come together in the Spirit for news, discussion, and perhaps even a bit of fun.
Let us know what you think, now that you are free to comment on what is posted here. What would you like to see here? What do you think would make this site better?
Me, I’m just going to lurk in the background and keep the thing running. After all, you could say I was the first Quaker Internet Service Provider, in a manner of speaking.