Anticipating the Quaker Gathering on Diversity and Inclusion

What would I contribute to a weekend on diversity and inclusion with Quakers? I imagine crying like Cassandra and being ignored. Transphobic campaigning spreads through society like Anti-vaxx, or conspiracist lies, I would say, and people would switch off. Or I would speak of trying to become aware of white privilege, and be so caught up in internal anxiety that I could not be present to the actual situation. How would I simply become present, when all this is coming up?

The organisers are supportive on trans issues. I should calm my panicked soul. They advise listening to a podcast on race, watching the keynote speeches from the previous gathering again, one from a non-binary person, and reading some resources. These include two books, one on race and the other Trans Britain, edited by Christine Burns; the YFGM trans statement and the North East Thames AM statement, both supportive. And this blog post, where I read [The previous] gathering clearly showed that there are members of the Quaker body in pain. The way through this conflict is for every Friend in the Yearly Meeting to take on the pain of this conflict as their own. We need to embrace a corporate suffering. We can’t distance ourselves from it and say ‘it’s that Friend’s/that Meeting’s problem’. The issue of trans-inclusion is an increasingly visible open wound in British Quakerism. For its own health, the whole Yearly Meeting needs to inform itself about this raw subject.

Because it was my pain, and my Friend’s, who said she might be driven out of Quakers by our untruthfulness (our willingness to accept trans people in the “acquired gender”) at that last weekend. My LM had powerfully affirmed her position, and yet she felt driven away by the trans-positivity of that gathering. And I see another AM’s minute supporting “sex-based rights”, code for trans exclusion, and despite all the trans-positivity I fear exclusion too. There is no “we”, but she and I both focus on the negatives for our respective sides in this dispute.

If I went, my fear is that in my anguish and desperation I would explode, and rant about the signs of trans exclusion in the Society. I know a truth, and that truth imprisons me: trans women are harmless, but trans excluders Threaten us! I thought of asking for a non-gendered toilet as I am afraid of using the women’s, in case someone objects to my face.

Might I just accept my pain and fear, my resentment, the current events which raise echoes in me of all the rejection I have suffered before, and sit with them? The rejection was huge, and left me alone.

What might I be doing wrong?

I cannot admit my vulnerability. So I suppress the signs of it and use my gifts of articulacy to Demand all signs of rejection be removed, even the ones I imagine. I still have a big red button: it is less obvious now, but someone might still find it, reminding me of hurt, past rejection and vulnerability, and I would go off on one. The need to not go off, which would lead to me fruitlessly trying to suppress rather than accept my feeling, would make things far worse.

Another post by Mark Russ is recommended, which comments on Revelation: Before the silence of true worship comes the inward earthquake. Fox saw this as the experience of inward judgment, the shaking out of all our false illusions, our self-deceptions, everything that is not of God and God’s Kingdom. This is partly why we’re called Quakers! We cannot examine our privilege and avoid the difficult emotional, inward work. We cannot have God’s Kingdom without God’s judgement. Although painful, the purpose of God’s judgement is our liberation. We must allow the Light to illuminate our chains if we are to be released from them.

What would I say of white privilege? It seems to me that I am noticing what before was unconscious, that I act to put non-white people in their place, to enforce white superiority. I see after I have done it and feel shame. In the situation itself, I do not see. It can be as subtle as a look, or a way of walking using the width of a corridor and making the other step to the side to pass, or a way of speaking to different people differently. My purpose in confessing would be to suggest this is a widespread pattern of behaviour amongst whites. I would fear not being understood, being seen as confessing solely for myself and so becoming one of the bad, racist people outside the in-group. Here too there are my needs, getting in the way of my actions.

I like to think of myself as effective and persuasive. My greatest fear is that I am not, that my best expostulations meet derision and disbelief. So I would bring my wounds, scars and vulnerability, and being aware of them and not ashamed might bring my humanity, too.

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