Trans excluders at the “Inclusion Gathering” shock

The Quaker “National Gathering on Diversity and Inclusion” weekend started with a talk from Heather Brunskell-Evans, “philosopher and social theorist”, “Gender concerned” Quaker, campaigner who claims the greatest threat to women’s human rights comes from trans inclusion and “trans ideology”. Edwina Peart, organiser, phoned me up beforehand to warn me about it, saying when we carefully and with boundaries open this conversation we begin to see some similarities between what have been seen as diametrically opposed positions- I don’t believe they are. I applauded the bravery, and felt it might be too much for me personally to bear. I frightened my friend, who emailed, Be just another woman, don’t be the ambassador for trans, let others wrestle with the issues.

The programme, sent to participants on Monday 13 January, said something different. Other arranged speakers were introduced as keynote speakers, but not Heather. Edwina Peart wrote, It is one of my goals as diversity and inclusion coordinator that Quakers sit with issues around gender diversity and trans inclusion and ultimately reach a position. I feel that momentum is building through the strands of work that are occurring under this theme. However, this cannot develop into an active standpoint without the inclusion of the Gender Concerned group. This is an opportunity for deep examination of their position and an analysis of its base. It will encourage us to consider how we can be inclusive and welcoming of trans Friends living their gender truthfully. I do not think a position will be achieved without acknowledging, laying bare and ultimately allaying the fears of some cis gendered women and men.

I found that disrespectful. One “allays” fears that are groundless. Meeting with and hearing anti-trans campaigners, I do not hear fears. Yes, they talk of individual trans women who have committed crimes as if we should all be judged by the worst acts of the worst of us, but what I hear is righteous anger. They think it is part of the systematic disrespect the Patriarchy shows women that they should have to share spaces with trans women, and women’s spaces are valueless if trans women might be there. I am aware Heather in particular finds the thought of chest masculinisation surgery, which she would call double mastectomy, revolting.

As far as I understand it, she finds gender stereotypes oppressive, and finds that oppression only gets worse when we are driven to surgery to alter our bodies in order to escape them. Whereas, in the imperfect community we find ourselves in, I find surgery a completely reasonable thing for someone to choose. She thinks we will find freedom from gender norms by rejecting the norms but valuing our beautiful bodies. I think freedom from the norms is harder to achieve than that, and any tool- even surgery- should be permitted. This is different from the usual trans view, that trans people need surgery to cope with gender incongruence.

This is my disagreement with Heather. While she sees denial of trans subjectivity as essential to empower women to fight patriarchy and cast off their oppression, I see trans expression as a reasonable way in an imperfect world to cope with gender variance, and a way of publicly resisting and subverting gender norms. Use of the pronoun “they” rather than “she” or “he” is an act of resistance. As I understand it we agree that gender norms of masculinity as well as femininity can be oppressive. I consider that if trans expression becomes more difficult, it will be more rather than less difficult to reject and subvert gender norms. I believe she shares my goal of subverting gender norms.

Edwina also alluded to “white feminism”, a “feminism” which centres campaigns and theory on white experience, ignoring the different BAME experience where the norms imposed by patriarchy or kyriarchy can be entirely different. White feminism can be an imperial or colonial project where, for exampleMuslim women are assumed as passive, oppressed, and in need of being saved by feminists. Male violence against women may be seen as “cultural” if it is by an Asian-heritage or Muslim man.

I was not sure I could listen to Heather speak. I find doctrinaire intolerance spoken as reasonable obvious truth hard to bear. My Friend thought her stridency might put people off, but, knowing her, I feared she would charm them. I hoped I could notice I was being triggered before it was too late, and get out, and decided to listen out for anything I could agree with. I call this the Agreement challenge. And- could our spirituality, our seeking to express the leadings of the Holy Spirit, find unity and see “that of God in every one”, save us?


I arrived early to settle in and become present. On the train, I talked to Louise, who works in a care home with elderly residents, encouraging them to take up activities, doing art or bingo with them, bringing in dogs and children to engage their interest. Some she just talks to: some frankly tell of their desire to die. I was going to publish this on Saturday afternoon, but there was a request not to share on social media until after the weekend was complete, so will not.

I met lovely people. I chatted to them. I can’t remember it now, Friday evening. Over dinner a woman said she could not understand the “gender critical” position, and I had to breathe it in. There is so much acceptance here. I must not exaggerate the importance of the anti-trans position; but when I perceive a threat it consumes my attention, as I have suffered so much rejection before. I met a trans woman, and our first conversation included our feelings about genital operations.

There was more acceptance in the Welcome, of every group, all named, and starting with All genders women men trans genderqueer and others. It included all languages and nationalities, activists and not-activists, survivors, and ended with a welcome to the Spirit of truth, unity and love.

Introducing: we are socialised into a culture, and we filter our new experience through our past. It is an effort to set that aside to encounter each person anew. We are racialised, sexed and labelled. There are fault lines in the wider community, and among Quakers.

Heather’s gender critical talk was horrible. She talked of the pain of “gender concerned” Friends who felt unheard and ignored, and of women who felt that their need for women’s spaces was ignored. She talked of the humiliation and pain of women in prisons, hostels, hospitals and toilets forced to share their spaces with “men who identify as women”: women needed single sex spaces which ceased to exist if trans women were included. She said trans men do not expect to be in men’s spaces, and I understand that is not true. She said that was a matter of women’s socialisation. The RSoF had faced conflict before, but we had to discern including all people. Gender concerned Friends were distraught that Friends House appeared to have taken a trans-inclusive position. Quaker lesbians say they are attracted to women’s bodies and they were entitled to define their own orientation and material reality. Men cannot become women.

This weekend had asked people to read inclusion statements but not South London AM’s minute on “single sex spaces”. She was called a hater, but she was concerned for rights. I noted that as their demands got more extreme, that we be expelled from women’s toilets now, their names for themselves got more innocuous. “Gender concerned,” indeed.

And there were bits I agreed with. Gender stereotyping oppresses us, and oppressed people organise. Edwina said that all of us here agreed that gender stereotypes constrict all of us and they need let go. No-one demurred.

I asked a question. I wanted to use her expertise. Are there any other feminist issues in the wider society or among Quakers we should campaign on? She said that Quakers are a good example of sex equality, and transgenderism is deeply problematic, excluding women. Children are not safeguarded, and Mermaids should not be teaching about children. Gender freedom for children would mean no stereotypes.

I am supported. I go and have hot chocolate with Friends, and talk of trans inclusion. They are in favour. I have to trust the process. And, we come up with several feminist issues. It is our feeling that though there are more women Quakers, men talk more and more men are heard in business meetings. There is gender violence even among Quakers.

With a bi woman I agreed that our task was to get rid of all stereotypes- class and race as well as sex, because they get in the way of equality, and of the I-thou encounter, seeing that of God in the other rather than ones own cultural preconceptions. But that is full on, and difficult. We could start by recognising when we stepped on each other’s corns. We could tell each other when assumptions hurt. We could notice our own. And she noticed her own internalised biphobia. She feels “less queer” than lesbians.


On Saturday morning we have worship sharing entitled, “on the faithful inclusion of trans Friends”. Over breakfast, I asked a woman if she thought all women are oppressed by feminine gender stereotypes, and she was clear. All. No exceptions. Another said she heard “bitterness” in Heather’s talk.

I disobeyed my Friend. I stood in the early worship, 9-9.30, and said, I want to hear the hurt, even if I share my hurt I may be dismissed as an emotional woman. And, rather than telling my own, I told of when I had hurt another, and how she had reacted. So I was pontificating, rather than ministering; or if that is too harsh on myself, not getting there.

I want to hear the joys as well. I want to hear the personal statement of hurt. Someone came over and said I looked well. I do. I look confident, serene, forceful; and I am desperate to get a loving Unity including all. Including Heather and the campaigners she represents here.

In worship sharing we are told to Reach as Deeply as you can into the sacred centre of your life, your experience, feelings and changes. I want to share my share, and allude to positions.

One man said prejudice against trans echoed prejudice against gays in the 1980s, including saving children from us. A lesbian said she had wondered if she was a boy, and had deep compassion for teenage confusion, but does not believe teenagers can understand who they will be. A Quaker chaplain said she was atheist in her head but in her heart had a relationship with God, whom she thought was a social construct. At this point, I think that we are not getting anywhere, and we won’t, today. I thought I might tell the facts of my rejection.

A man said it was a matter of equality and a woman said it was a matter of vulnerable women’s need for single sex spaces. A woman said being called cis made her feel physically sick.

A man said that when he began to have a sense of self, and expressed his self, he experienced physical violence. So he hid himself to avoid the violence.

A trans woman said she had to make her outside like her inside.

A man said we needed a big tent to accommodate everyone.

I confessed that I peak-transed someone, and explained what that meant. See her comments here. I do not define womanhood for anyone else. I see oppressed people set against each other.

At the end of the session I found myself wanting to rage and weep like a toddler, and to be cuddled and coddled and made to feel better, like a toddler. Then suddenly I am holding all my pain, and I can bear it. Edwina offered me a hug, and I declined. I want to hold my feeling. I do not want to be consoled.

And then we moved on. We started talking about racism and oppression of Black people. At the end of Anthony Reddie’s session, Heather Brunskell Evans lurched to her feet again and started spouting the same stuff as before. I took notes for a moment: Almost total agreement [with Reddie]. Conundrum: from last year’s gathering. Why talk of Q mobilising power inadvertently and desire to be inclusive unreflective and excluding. Patriarchy. With issue of transgenderism I can’t use word patriarchy. Impulsivity of transgenderism mobilised ideological

Then I walked out. I could not bear it any more. Leasa, an elder, followed me, and offered a hug, and again I declined. This time I wanted to scream at the floor in rage and frustration. The sense of needing to scream communicated to my conscious mind the depth of my feeling, and I was able to hold it.

Over lunch, Nim said to me, “All the time you have been spot on”. I need to record his support.

I wanted to talk to M, who is “gender concerned”. I loved the motto on her bag: “Behave Badly “. We agreed to walk together after lunch, and there were moments of delight. We sat in the garden by the lake, and looked at leaf buds on apparently bare shrubs, and incipient shoots from bulbs. We shared our love of the psalms and of Quaker business method, and talked without dislike; and yet we were both unyielding. She needs single sex spaces. She had some difficulty talking of “trans women”, and I said she could call me a “trans identified male” if she must. At the end, I thought of saying I did not think she was a “hater”, but when people call her that they are expressing a necessary truth: if she gets her way their way of being authentically themselves will become impossible, and she will gain nothing of any value. I did not say this. We agreed there were questions theoretically open to research, whether anyone was not particularly oppressed by gender stereotypes, and how many trans people there were.

Both of us have fear of great loss if the other’s position is confirmed. That is tragic. I would rather campaign together against male violence than become a symbol of it.

I nodded a greeting at Heather when I first saw her over dinner, and at one point happened to be walking to my room finding myself just behind her, and very glad her way to her room was completely different. I wondered if I could say something, if we could agree on anything, or have any friendly terms together; yet I don’t know what I could want of her and ask of her, and I do know that she is most unlikely to give it; and yet I mourn the loss of our friendship. There is so much loss and hurt. One woman heard Heather’s talk as abuse personally directed at me, though I did not. Later I saw her, the consummate speaker, holding forth to a spellbound audience round a table.

On Saturday afternoon I saw four women, “gender concerned Friends” or trans excluders, sitting talking together. I think they gained comfort from each others’ support, and do not begrudge them it. In the evening I felt like crying with misery at something that happened years ago, took that as information about how deeply sad I felt, and did not cry. So I feel I am making progress with the emotional regulation which I never learned before: I just suppressed feeling because I had to make a man of myself. And I do not have to, any more.

Also on Saturday afternoon, we shared about where our Quaker communities were on diversity and inclusion, and how we might move them on. One woman who had spoken of the “need for single sex spaces” (No Transwomen!) told of the pain of her concern being not considered by central discernment, and I found myself voicing that in the whole group: and saying I neither want to put them (meaning him or her) on the spot or put words in their mouth. And I don’t. I just don’t think excluding all trans women will do it any good.

19 thoughts on “Trans excluders at the “Inclusion Gathering” shock

  1. Wonderful. I don’t think that I could have sat through any of the ‘concerned’ stuff, as I’ve read it often for clues and found it spectacularly hateful. In person is even harder. Some of my lesbian mentors turned out to be hateful and I still grieve their loss. I love that you persist in looking for agreements. You are correct about trans men and male spaces. I think you are marvellous for your willingness to listen and sit with feelings and express your own thoughts and feelings. I love your honesty about falling short of your own aims, and entering the uncomfortable (painful) space once more. Thank you for documenting this. I have not worshipped with Quakers for about ten years now, for personal reasons.


  2. Dear Abigail,
    I speak as a Friend who is in her 40th year of friendliness to transwomen, dating from the 1st BBC2 TV programme about Julia Grant who moved me immensely. I remember it well sitting in my parent’s living room if Wikipedia didnt document it. The 1st time a transgender person ‘came out’ to me was in the early 1990s.
    I speak as a Friend, a member of the Society of Friends since 1982, I speak also a the “survivor” of a life-threatening sexual assault in the course of my Quaker Peace witness at Greenham Common who did #MeToo in 1998 and indeed went completely public on 2016. Anyone can Google: Dimyon Oxford BBC& Independent.
    I was the Friend who having read the preparation materials for the “Diversity & Inclusion” weekend felt there would be no place for my truths. One of those is the truth that, as Brighton Survivors Network has known but clearly concealed from Sally Wrenwood, an analysis also unavailable to YFGM that the ‘gender-inclusive’ rape crisis provision for ‘women’ has already deprived me and other female rape survivors with female specific rape trauma of local rape crisis & concept that I have personally felt had my back for 35 years.Brighton Survivors Network know very well I am a Quaker and it seems surprising to me that the 1st I heard of Sally Wrenwood’s work was in The Friend 31 May 2019 on my return to Brighton from Quaker Meeting.

    3rd October 2018:

    15 April 2016: “Protection of the Light” aka a very Quaker Rape… speaking Truth to life-threatening power & achieving Restorative Justice in a single ‘hit’!


    • Dear Clare,

      Thank you for commenting, and thank you for the links. I am glad you have shared your experience. I hope your sharing will do some good.

      You do not say how you have been deprived of services, how any services might be mixed, or what services might be provided by trans women or by men. I cannot comment on Sally Wrenwood.

      It seems to me that in the debate the most vulnerable people are set against each other. There are women who have experienced sexual violence, and their allies who empathise with their experience. There are trans women, and I can speak to the trauma that we suffer, and our allies who empathise with our experience. This makes for a hideous conflict where our most traumatised vulnerabilities are smashed against each other. There must be a better way.


  3. I may not have been at Woodbrooke but a parcel from Kazakhstan was in the worship sharing, taken by one of those you describe (incorrectly) as “trans excluders”. A parcel containing the video that I sent to transgender friends in a former Soviet country far to the east of Europe because we felt it might help at the 1st LGBT festival in their country.
    I will never forget their account at Moldova Pride 2010 of being forced to strip in front of male passport officers, who with no training couldn’t wrap their heads around thrice female individuals (in their passports) who were gender presenting as men. Nor will I ever cease having a pit in my stomach even thinking about it. When ever I speak in public or comment online, I hold their experiences in my heart. A pity there was little in the “Diversity & Inclusion” preparation materials for this event to reassure me that my experiences as a female rape survivor with female specific rape trauma would be included let alone understood, otherwise I could have shown it to you.
    The video we thought might help? The video in which they would only understand the representative of HM Queen inside Buckingham Palace announcing “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender” as a term of honour, in fact for the 1st time ever. In fact, in the same Birthday Honours List 2010 as one Christine Burns – a non-Quaker who did appear in the preparation materials. That’s how I recognised her name.


    • I don’t recall hearing about the video. Is it available on line?

      I call them trans excluders because they wish to exclude trans women from women’s spaces. Heather in her talk even referred to toilets. I only want to pee! They therefore want to upend what has been informally the case in Britain since before 1970, and is the position under the Equality Act, in a way that just might be bearable for me, nearly eighteen years after transition, but would increase the harassment I suffer, and would be impossible for people just starting transition.


  4. What I notice in this account is the consistent use of the term “trans” in place of the word ‘transgender’. No this is NOT about the exclusion of people because they are transgender, it is about the exclusion of transwomen who gender identify AS women but are by definition biological sex: males from same-biological-sex: female spaces. There is literally no problem with transmen who gender identify AS men using same-biological-sex: female spaces because they are biological sex: females. AND there is literally no problem with transmen choosing to use biological sex: male spaces if they chose to do so. There is however a uni-directional nature of sexual violence in which 90+% of those sexually offended against are biological sex: female and 99.1% of sexual offenders are biological sex: males.

    This is a biological sex ‘thing’ and not a gender identity ‘thing’. Of course if you leave out “gender”, then equally of course you can interpret this as a trans-prejudice ‘thing’ and not a biological sex: male ‘thing’. Of course you are going to feel indignant & hurt about that. As a “Don’t Ask, don’t tell” lesbian teacher at the height of Section 28 the vile prejudice that gay people sexually offend more than their heterosexual counter-parts was something I lived with on a daily basis. It was particularly hurtful to me as a survivor of both life-threatening sexual assault (in the course of Quaker peace witness) but also as a girl child molested by a group of adolescent boys who just thought they were entitled to do that.

    In fact, “gender” might be a better abbreviation that ‘trans’ and then all concerned might be less confused about what the actual issue is. In fact it is neither a ‘trans’ nor a transgender ‘thing’, it is a unique vulnerability of biological sex: female ‘thing’. As I know to my cost, it takes less than 10 minutes for a physically smaller male to overpower & rape a strong physically larger female & with a <2% conviction rate for sexual offences, it would be foolish for female people (including transmen or non-binary females) to not factor that into sensible risk-assessment & risk-reduction strategies.


    • We are trans- which can be used to include non-binary. Possibly there are more people identifying as non-binary than as binary trans. Gay people do not like to be labelled as “homosexual”, usually, so have the courtesy to allow us to name ourselves. I hear your pain, and experience you as discounting mine. Not fitting the stereotypes was unbearable. Transition was the only way I could survive. Trans women are in women’s spaces, often welcomed there.


  5. As a lesbian teacher at the height of Section 28, I was often subjected to the compound prejudice that gay people were more likely to sexually offend than homosexual people. Lesbians laboured under the compounding conflated prejudice that because lesbians were attracted to biological sex: female people that we were acted as per males… including predatory sexual behaviour. In 35-6 years as a lesbian, I have literally never encountered any lesbian predatory sexual behaviour but I have often been subjected to the opposite-biological-sex & unwanted sexual attentions/intimidations of biological sex: males (which isn’t to say it never happens).

    I am aware of predatory behaviour among homosexual/gay/bisexual men including in the old pre-equalisation days against young men thrown out of their homes by homophobic parents who fetched up in Brighton and at the only homosexual pub they could find, where finding a roof over your head was less problematic than the price you paid for it. But no, no greater than that exhibited by the demographic heterosexual males.
    Once again, the idea that this is a transgender or gender identity issue is mistaken. There is literally no issue with transmen because there is no issue of the 1ary weapon & unique functionality of the 1ary weapon of violence used against biological sex: female people by biological sex: male people. [MoJ Statistics 2018 & 2019 definitely – almost certainly stretching back as far as statistics exist]

    Of course the sexual offending metrics for homosexual males are about the same as for heterosexual males & zero evidence I have seen shows that the sexual offending of transwomen AS A DEMOGRAPHIC does not fall into Male-Pattern Sexual Offending rather than the far far lower sexual offending of biological sex: females (including transmen). I’d be happy for you to share such evidence IF it exists. Dhejne C et al (22 Feb 2011) is clear in the 1973-2003 study of that post-surgical transsexual transwomen RETAIN the SAME male patterns of criminal offending including for violent crime as their birth sex controls but NOT of their ‘acquired gender’ controls (ie females). By contrast, Dhejne C et al suggests that the criminal offending of transmen tends to rise with respect to the far lower criminal offending of their birth sex controls ie biological sex: females and be closer to the criminal offending of their ‘acquired gender’ controls ie biological sex: males.Of course, what is needed is continuing demographic research accurately recording crime data according to both biological/birth sex, as well as ‘acquired gender’ rather than the conflation of transgender offending transwomen with female offending and transmen which the far HIGHER incidence of male criminal offending…in the interests most of ALL of transgender people.

    As some who worked in the mathematical modelling of carbon composite components in the aerospace industry, I often find that numerical people are less good at verbal descriptions but that non-numerical people are less good at the nuance of the numerical information. Happily, I am autistic and I can handle both!
    LGBT Language – Public Declarations – FCO – MBE – LGBT – UK – EU & UN
    Sexual Orientation &… Gender Identity #HillaryClinton #BarakObama #YesWeCan #YesWeDID
    “Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering…” #NameThatTune!


  6. I was full of respect for your restraint and gentleness in the face of extreme provocation. I was willing to hear the gender critical element, to allow them to express their view and their hurt. I was not willing to have the constant reiteration, the attempt to take over every session that they bothered to turn up for. It was disrespectful to the other speakers and participants. I am glad that the final opportunity for sharing was limited to the voices that had not been heard so far. It was right. I have now heard their point of view, I tried to have an open mind receptive to new Light. I find I have no desire to be exclusive, it is wrong for me to try and exclude people, it is not what Quakers are about. Trans women belong among us, just as much as anyone else. I believe we are a people in “a big tent”, I’d like it to be bigger and welcoming those who are still excluded, if they so choose. We are called “to answer that of God in everyone”, there can be no exclusions to that. And I was tempted more than once to give you a hug, but it never seemed quite the right thing to do. Hugs over the airwaves!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you.

      Hugs tend to be welcome, but not always: the hug to make you “feel better” so that the problem remains but you’re no longer allowed to complain about it is oppressive. I like to ask: “Shall we share a hug?” “Would you like a hug?” “May I have a hug?” I have a friend who, when asked, hugs me but has said how she loathes people lumbering into her personal space with wide grins and widespread arms.

      And the gender concerned seem to be getting more extreme.


    • I have found that tendency to turn almost any conversation around to their particular concern quite common in online spaces dealing with this issue as well. It is… frustrating.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. A gender concerned Friend sent me here to read your blog, Clare. I’m a gender critical Quaker myself. Given our testimony to speak the truth but also the message from trans activists that it is transphobic to say, for example, that sex is immutable, what canst thou say? Is it acceptable for me to speak the truth to you at the risk of hurting your feelings?


    • Welcome. Thank you for commenting.

      I don’t know what you have read here. I made an attempt to make a case for trans exclusion. But I don’t think it’s a question of GC truth v TG feelings. The Truth for trans people is that we exist, we always have, and we subvert gender stereotypes, which at least means our rights should not be rolled back; and that we have self-declaration already, by the psychiatrists’ definition of gender dysphoria and by the Equality Act. BYM- Quaker Life, MfS, etc- seem to have stuck trans rights in the Too Difficult tray, at least while we are mostly meeting on line; but trans inclusion has to be the way ahead.


  8. “The Truth for trans people is that we exist”, yes, of course, that is not and was never in doubt. What the Trans Ideology throws into doubt is that babies come from fathers and mothers, and all that basic human biology. Why? Talking about birthers and ejaculators and so on flies in the face of Quaker testimonies to truth and simplicity. Then what about peace? The attempts by TRAs to close down meetings of WPUK, eg at Norwich FMH, and the TRA assaults on women, eg Maria Maclachlan and Julie Bindel, are behaviours that are like what the Fascists did to their opponents in the 1930s. Equality? I’ll save that for anoter time. Go in peace.


    • Friend, do you consider that you have produced a balanced and truthful account?

      If it is not in doubt that trans women exist, why do some campaigners seek to expel us from all women’s spaces? We are there now. We are mostly harmless. Given there are so few of us, creating non-gendered space as well is prohibitively expensive. Do you think the harm to trans women from expelling us is balanced by any benefit to cis women?

      Liked by 1 person

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