Quaker Concerns about gender and identity

Some Quaker local meetings and area meetings have agreed minutes on gender, identity, and women’s rights tending to reduce trans rights. Such minutes may raise four issues:

1. A suggestion that there is a conflict between the rights of cisgender (that is, not trans) women and trans women.

I am a trans woman. I could present male as easily as a lesbian could suppress her sexuality: that is, by suppressing and denying an important integral part of my personality. I tried it. It was unbearable. The attempt harmed me. I could no more be not a trans woman than a cis woman could not be a cis woman. Therefore my rights have equal value.

The law balances those rights by treating trans women as women from the moment we decide to transition. We can be excluded from women’s spaces and activities if there is good reason for it. There is a technical explanation below.

So Quaker meetings should allow trans women in women’s spaces, such as gendered toilets. We should not let rooms to groups which would exclude trans women from those women’s spaces unless we are satisfied they have a good reason for it. We should not let rooms to women-only groups that would exclude trans women unless they have that good reason, that it is “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”.

2. A suggestion that the anti-trans, “sex-based rights” position is censored among Quakers or in the wider society. There are articles against trans rights more than weekly in the Times, and regularly in the Daily Mail, Spectator, Guardian, Morning Star and a host of lesser publications across the political spectrum. Campaigns against trans rights are well-funded and vocal, as shown by the legal onslaught, of attempts to defund Stonewall because it supports trans rights, by stopping it auditing employers on LGBT discrimination; one unsuccessful attempt to prevent the Scottish Government from legislating in a way that treats trans women as women; and the so-far successful action to prevent the endocrine treatment of trans children. Anti-trans positions are put regularly in Parliament and among Quakers.

Some people stand up for trans rights. Quakers should stand with them.

3. Puberty blockers (PBs) and cross-sex hormones (CSH) for adolescents. After the Keira Bell case, XY had to go to court to continue getting the hormonal treatment she needs. She was assigned male at birth. She has only been interested in girl’s toys and clothes. At primary school she tried to conform to male gender stereotypes and became withdrawn. She came out to her parents aged 10. She transitioned socially at school, and her confidence grew. She changed her name by deed poll aged 11. She had seven assessment interviews with the Gender Identity Development Service of the NHS, who saw her alone and with her parents.

As the law stands, trans children are being refused the treatment they need, against the advice of their specialist psychologists and endocrinologists.

4. A suggestion that Quakers could bring different groups together to reconcile. If we do this, we should be very careful.

In 2016 the House of Commons Committee on Women and Equalities concluded that gender recognition certificates should be much easier to obtain, and that trans women should not be excluded from women’s spaces. If Quakers would challenge that view, they should at least give as much time as the committee did. The committee heard a wide range of opinion including expert opinion and the demands of trans-excluders. These are complex issues and Quakers with no prior knowledge should be wary of being persuaded by a passionate anti trans campaigner, even one who is Quaker.

Some Quaker women are passionately against the inclusion of trans women as women. They tend to couch their arguments as rational assessments of a conflict of rights. Women are subject to violence, harassment and abuse including sexual violence. Quakers should address that seriously. Quakers do not advance cisgender women’s rights by excluding trans women.

Trans people should not be made to “hear the views” of those who would exclude us from their spaces or deny our sense of ourselves. Trans people should be part of any decision affecting us. This means that Quakers listening to anti-trans campaigners should first apprise themselves of the arguments for trans rights. The anti-trans campaigners rarely come out as that: they call themselves “gender critical” or campaigners for “sex-based rights” but they may simply call themselves campaigners for women’s rights.

Of course, many Quaker meetings have agreed minutes supporting the rights of trans people.

The law on trans women in women’s spaces.

This is section 7(1) of the Equality Act 2010:

A person has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment if the person is proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning the person’s sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex.

That is, we are protected from the moment we decide to transition, perhaps before we tell someone else or dress in our true gender for the first time.

Schedule 3 governs when there can be services for women only. The rules are in paragraphs 26-27. Then, separately, paragraph 28 governs when a trans woman can be excluded from women’s services- if it is a “proportional means of achieving a legitimate aim”. There would be no need for a separate provision if trans women could be treated as men.

There are similar rules in schedule 9 for when there is an occupational requirement for a woman to do a job, and separately for a cisgender woman to do a job.

More details on the legislation here.

2 thoughts on “Quaker Concerns about gender and identity

  1. I’m so sad to hear that the Quakers, of all people, are subjecting you and/or other trans people to these spurious ‘concerns’. You make excellent points.

    Liked by 1 person

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