Baltimore Yearly Meeting has issued a statement in support of the civil and human rights of trans and non-binary people. They mean well, that’s part of the problem; but when something written about trans seems off, try replacing with “people of colour” to see why it is objectionable:
Baltimore Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) rejoices in the presence of transgender people [people of colour] in our midst including non-binary [mixed race] people. Our transgender members enrich our community and deepen our worship. We believe that there is that of God in everyone [even people of colour and trans folk] and everyone has gifts to bring to the world. Whenever anyone is excluded, God’s ability to work in our midst is diminished.
It should not need to be said. It makes me wonder if some Friends balked at it. If Quakers feel the need to state that I am welcome in their meeting, it shows that could be doubted: at best because trans people are generally wary of transphobia, at worst because we have experienced it among Baltimore Quakers. They may know this, so have chosen the words “rejoices in” rather than “welcomes”. This is just saying the same problematic thing, more effusively.
We commit ourselves to support transgender people in our meetings
Ah. There’s the issue. I want everyone supported in our meetings, to learn the full beauty of the Meeting for Worship. We welcome enquirers. Why would we need specifically to commit to supporting transgender people? Perhaps because Friends are best at welcoming people who look like them, and sound like them- in Britain, mostly though not all white, educated, prosperous. Everyone needs support, to learn what centring down means, what being moved means, but trans people might need additional support, to show that those who are unwelcoming are balanced out by the particular welcome by some. That is, this others trans people.
and the civil and human rights of our transgender members and all transgender people.
Yes. Because our civil and human rights are not recognised by some, including the US President.
We also commit to enlarging our understanding of the experience of being transgender.
Um. Well. No two trans people are alike, and no two have the same experience. The risk is that we are classed in one type, the trans people, who have to be welcomed and managed in a particular way. The “trans expert” of the YM might be called in, when one of us becomes particularly problematic. Yes I’m being a bitch. You’ve admitted you have had problems welcoming us in the past, so I am suspicious of you. I will hold you to what you say, and point out where you fall short of a proper welcome: for there is that of God in me, and my leadings and service are as valuable as the next Quaker’s.
No one should face discrimination in employment, housing, health care, or otherwise, or have their dignity assaulted and their human rights curtailed because of their gender identity.
Indeed. What are you doing to do about it? “There is an injustice,” you say: will you oppose it actively, with your time and resources, or be satisfied with merely pointing it out?
What would I want instead? What I say is affected by my understanding, that there is not a single group of trans people, to be distinguished from cis people who have no problems with gender. I use the term “non-binary” as a permission rather than a description of a particular group: when it is too much trouble to attempt passing as a woman, I say I am being non-binary. Others see these things differently. Here is my attempt at an inclusion statement:
We recognise that gender stereotypes are oppressive to many people, and that people are damaged by that oppression.
I am traumatised. That will make me behave oddly occasionally. I want all of me welcome, not just when I pass as normal. I tried to make a man of myself. I suppressed my feelings. I don’t mean that I want to be some sort of parasite on the Quaker meeting, which becomes a support group for me; I have responsibilities as well as rights; but I want to be safe enough to show my hurt, and be valued for my gifts.
We recognise that gender stereotypes have no place in God’s Kingdom, nor among Quakers, but that Quakers are infected with worldly standards of what it means to be masculine or feminine. We pledge to search out whatever in our lives may contain the fruits of those stereotypes.
That’s a reference to Britain YM’s Advices and Queries paragraph 31: Search out whatever in your own way of life may contain the seeds of war. I like religious language, but would not insist on it- only on the underlying sentiment.
Our aim is to welcome each person as a unique, precious child of God, without judgment or stereotype.
A&Q 22. All this is generalisable. People of colour are affected by racism. Disabled people are stereotyped, and many of their difficulties arise from a society made for a stereotype normal/healthy.
We recognise the right of all to escape or subvert those stereotypes in any way they choose, using whatever theory or belief most works for them: we welcome transgender, non-binary and gender-critical people and pledge to learn from them, to grow in mutual understanding and acceptance. We recognise that they are part of our community, like any other Quaker.
Advices and Queries 18: How can we make the meeting a community in which each person is accepted and nurtured, and strangers are welcome? Seek to know one another in the things which are eternal, bear the burden of each other’s failings and pray for one another. As we enter with tender sympathy into the joys and sorrows of each other’s lives, ready to give help and to receive it, our meeting can be a channel for God’s love and forgiveness.
As part of my research writing this post, I came across BYM’s statement on spiritual unity. BYM split in the 19th century, as many US meetings did; and in 1964 they came together. I find that beautiful. They did not minimise the difficulties, but found value in them: We usually find ourselves richer for our differences… From the stimulus of dissimilarity, new insights often arise. That can be true of all human diversity, not just religious disagreement.
This is my 2,500th post.