Are Quakers transphobic? Yes. Not all, perhaps, but there is a vicious, self-righteous, self-pitying strain of transphobic hatred in many Quakers. At least one cis ally had to step away from her meeting because of transphobia there, and trans people are leaving.
“The Friend” magazine regularly prints the letters of transphobes, and there is a fine example in this week’s. It is anonymous, as the writer fears their vile prejudice becoming known.
It attaches Quaker virtues falsely to the transphobe cause. “The promptings of love and truth” and “sitting with uncertainty” allegedly lead the writer to transphobia. Wokeness is mocked with scare quotes, and being a trans ally called the “easy”, thoughtless path.
Trans concerns are minimised, and myths peddled. “We heard about the trans woman who feels alienated”- this sounds abstract, beside the account of our “victims”. “A young man pressured to redefine his gender rather than accept his homosexuality” as if that ever happens. No-one who cannot accept gay people can accept trans people.
The answer, they imply, is just to exclude trans women. How else to protect vulnerable, fearful women? Well, you could introduce them to the trans woman and show fear of her was unjustified. Few meeting houses have communal showers and changing rooms, and the risk in a toilet cubicle from trans women generally, if it exists, is far less than the risk anywhere else of male sexual violence.
“The Friend” printed an excellent article by James Barrett, specialist psychiatrist, who wrote “it is soul-crushing and miserable for someone to live their lives pretending to be something they are not”, a quote made prominent in large print. The editor is not a transphobe. But letters show a steady drip of poison.
On 17th May, a woman claimed to have had transgender friends! Then she said “the recent politicization of transgender has adversely affected women, girls and lesbians” (sic). She then wrote of “misinformed trans activists” in misogynistic bullying of rape survivors. She wants a “safe space for debate”, or to be able to hate trans women without criticism.
Elsewhere, the self-righteous attempt by some Quakers to promote hate and fear against trans women was on full view. One claimed that being asked what her “gender” was, was a lie- she has sex but no gender. So she works to deny the ordinary descriptive language we use to explain our experience. Another complained of trans women being referred to as “she”.
One suggests the “theory” underpinning our identity is “unhelpful”, and “just be kind” “gets nowhere”.
One asserts “female-bodied people calling themselves non-binary is anti-lesbian”. Some AFAB non-binary people have male partners. She wants to regulate the words we use about ourselves. Another says “it isn’t about trans rights, as gender-critical progressive women are in favour of trans-identified people having fully the same rights as everyone else”- as long as those rights are defined to exclude us. She is against our rights under the Equality Act. Despite all the open transphobia, she claims “honest and open discussion” (transphobia) is “suppressed”. One claimed that trans women talking about our experience “causes pain to other Friends”.
Then there is the old lie, “This is an issue which will affect everyone, not only Quakers”. Gender recognition, the only new right on offer, only affects trans people.
Are Quakers transphobic? Not all, but some are grimly and self-righteously so. If you go to a Quaker meeting there may be someone there resenting your presence. They are unlikely to say anything- despite talk of Quaker “plain speech” we are not good at handling conflict- but you may find yourself frozen out.
As an antidote to the hate, a beautiful picture.