Is Quaker dialogue on trans rights possible?

A friend has just shared,

Keep my anger from becoming meanness.

Keep my sorrow from collapsing into self-pity.

Keep my heart soft enough to keep breaking. Keep my anger turned towards justice not cruelty…

Keep me fiercely kind.

So I would have said, no, dialogue is not possible with the anti-trans campaigners, they will not give any ground, just demand my exclusion from the spaces I have been in since 2001. But wearily I try to imagine the possibility.

This is the problem when seeking dialogue with those campaigners who oppose current trans rights. They do not see any value in my position, but are unswervingly for my exclusion.

Yet I have been reading Amos Oz, on the terror of the Jews of Jerusalem as the British were about to leave. I sympathise with those campaigners.

The Law

They dispute what the law is, and I feel dialogue is impossible without a common understanding of that.

The Equality Act protects people who seek gender reassignment from one sex to the other. To be protected you have to decide to transition. I don’t just declare myself to be a woman, I take a female name, dress as a woman, take steps to speak in a higher register, and commit to this life long. Unless you commit to this you are not protected, with no right to be in women’s space. Dressing up at weekends does not get you protection. A trans woman can be excluded from women’s space if it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, even after she has a gender recognition certificate.

There was a report by the Women and Equalities Committee of the House of Commons, recommending that people with a GRC could not be excluded from women’s space, but the government rejected that. There was a proposal to make getting a gender recognition certificate easier, but three years on nothing has been done. Trans women can be excluded from women’s space and there is no proposal to change that.

I could refer to Schedule 3 of the Equality Act and the government responses, but thinking of the fear of those Jews, I don’t know that the anti-trans campaigners can be convinced. Certainly their videos express fear of the enquiry’s recommendations being implemented, despite the Government’s response, and failure to act.

So an independent party should enquire into the law, reports, consultations and government statements, and permit no exaggeration of trans rights or possible law reform.


Who are the victims here? Certainly the anti-trans campaigners. One has told me some of the domestic, sexual and other violence she has suffered. There is pervasive violence against women and girls in our culture. My uncle beat my grandmother. My friend was rescued from her abusive son. You need not dig far for tales of extreme yet quotidian violence against women.

Yet this pain is below the surface. They usually express only the determined campaign for “sex-based rights” (trans exclusion) not their own hurt. That is understandable. Expressing hurt makes us vulnerable, and they feel no certainty of sympathy and solidarity to remove the wrong; but I would love to campaign against violence against women together, if only we could get past this threat to my way of life.

Hear the feeling. That is how we communicate, not by implacable demands.

And we trans women are victims too. Not to be mocked as “ultra-vulnerable” and unable to tolerate contradiction, but worthy of consideration. I too have been assaulted, and sexually assaulted. The anti-trans campaigners have a tactic of referring to shocking individual cases, to make all trans women look bad. This is a standard dehumanisation tactic, aided and abetted by the press who portray ordinary trans women as ridiculous or vile and newsworthy. I would want such tactics blocked. Or see what such cases mean: Karen White sexually assaulted two women in prison. That means that prisons should be properly funded, not that all trans women should rot in vulnerable prisoner units in men’s prisons.


I would want the conversation to focus in part on positives of trans recognition. It is a paradox: I both reinforce gender stereotypes by following female gender norms, and subvert them by not following the norms of my upbringing. I want the second part recognised. That is why Charles Koch and The Heritage Foundation fund some anti-trans campaigners, not caring that they are mostly on the Left: they know opposing trans recognition decreases the space available for being gender non-conforming.

There should be recognition of what might be realistically achieved. If trans women were banned from women’s refuges, there might be an 0.1% increase in the spaces available for cis women. Is it worth it?

Could we not rather campaign together for more funding for refuges? The government has reduced the money available.

I recognise that there are hard questions for me. I know that some women are repulsed by me. This makes me sad. My colleague, who admitted that she found my transition repulsive, accepted the office diversity policy and we kept out of each other’s way.

And losing male privilege can be a shock for us.

The anti-trans campaigners seem a small determined group. Possibly no dialogue is possible. They would not be satisfied, but Quakers could simply enforce the law, allowing trans women in women’s space unless there was a reason not to, on a case by case basis. Quakers could accept the expertise of the specialist psychiatrists in the case of children, few of whom receive any medical treatment beyond counselling. But if there were listening sessions, Quakers should be aware of the difficulties.

5 thoughts on “Is Quaker dialogue on trans rights possible?

  1. they know opposing trans recognition decreases the space available for being gender non-conforming” speaks volumes to me. I was well into my thirties before I understood that there is a section of society – both male and female – for whom gender is absolutely binary, is always consistent with one’s sex and no other paradigm is acceptable. I still bear some scars from that time – both mental and physical.

    Perhaps, their black and white thinking, where gender expression and biology are directly related, provides these people with the opportunity to use what they see as being black and white solutions to what they perceive to be a black and white “problem”. For them, do concepts such as agender, non-gender, gender non-conforming, and gender-fluid, etc only muddy the water so are best avoided?

    I wonder where these folk sit when it comes to the concept of a “third gender” found in most Pacific societies? Whether it’s whakawahine, tangata ira tane and takatāpui in Māori society, fa’afafine of Samoa, fakaleiti of Tonga, or akava’ine of the Cook Islands, they’ve been around for centuries. Although the zeal of Christian missionaries in the 19th and 20th centuries have marginalised the “third gender” to some extent, it hasn’t been able to destroy it.

    I’ve often wondered: if the concept of there being three or more genders existed in “Western” culture, what impact would that have made on people who identify as being trans?


    • There are two issues in the UK: whether people should be able to present in non-standard gender, and whether trans women should be treated as women. The Left-wing case against trans is for cis-women only spaces. I tend to feel they would be very happy with gender variant AMAB if we accepted that we are men. I wonder what those societies have in the way of women only spaces. Is the third gender a third gender, not treated as the opposite sex to assignment at birth?
      In Britain there is some evidence to indicate that more people identify as “non-binary” rather than as trans in the sense of transitioning from one sex to the other. What difference that will make I don’t know.


      • I came across an article the other day but can’t locate it at the moment, which made the claim that 100% cis heterosexuals who are attracted solely to other 100% cis heterosexuals are possibly a minority. The largest minority, but still a minority. It’s just that our culture has settled on a purely binary paradigm instead of accepting it’s anything but.

        I believe Aotearoa New Zealand was the first nation to officially recognise a gender other being male or female. I’m not sure how many other jurisdictions have followed suit.

        It seems that here the TERFs are an extremely small but vocal minority. Every significant women’s group and organisation here appear to be inclusive as far as I can tell and have little sympathy for them.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Is the third gender a third gender, not treated as the opposite sex to assignment at birth?

        I overlooked answering this question. It is looked upon as another gender, neither male, nor female. Perhaps the best documented are fa’afafine of Samoa. There’s a reasonably good Wikipedia entry for them and a few documentaries can be found on YouTube.

        As for women only spaces, in many traditional Polynesian societies there’s no more need of them than there is for men only spaces, with the possible exception of childbirth. Where spaces had some restriction, it was based on one’s role, not on the genitalia one was born with. The concept of one gender having ownership of another which all too often still lingers in the West, didn’t exist within Polynesian society.

        Liked by 1 person

        • There are people who do things, and then a dialogue in society how to respond. So, I wear women’s clothes. Then there is the ontological question, what does this mean that I am, and the deontological question, what does this mean for my and others’ rights and duties?

          And what people do is affected by that dialogue, in which some people have more power than others; and there are countercultural spaces.

          Some men have always worn women’s clothes, and some have undergone castration for the right to do so. The priests of Cybele. Deuteronomy 22.5. Elagabalus. Molly clubs.

          Liked by 1 person

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