Can we as [Britain] Yearly Meeting acknowledge and welcome gender diverse people who are or would like to be among us? Can I as a trans woman contribute to our discernment?
I mourn the loss to the Society, and to my nonbinary Friend, who felt forced out of their meeting. I have met a gender critical feminist who also felt forced out of her meeting.
Do you know what “gender critical” means? It is like the few Friends who have a detailed knowledge of the political statements of Hamas, and the treaty obligations relating to Area C, when I mean well but have no real clue about Palestine and Israel: generally Friends do not form sides, but in these issues we come close. Many Friends will not have heard of Helen Joyce or Laurel Hubbard, or know why each is a hero and a villain to different sides. I might think of platypuses, giggle, and then need ten minutes to explain why.
We are constantly triggered. I can barely look at The Times. I read in the New Statesman that gender critical feminism is now respectable, and Cancellation will not work any more. So before meeting with Friends I write a letter, then find Friends sympathetic yet uncomprehending.
Facts matter. The last Labour government constructed a scheme whereby trans people would be treated as our true gender from the moment of deciding to transition, with trans women using what the Equality Act refers to as “single-sex” services for women, when there were only a few thousand trans people who were all expected to fit gender stereotypes. Now there are ten times the number, and the concept of “living as a woman” is known to be indefinable.
Trans women can be excluded from women’s services if it is “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”, and the courts are yet to flesh out what that means.
So both sides can have their cognitive bias of loss aversion activated. I know I am generally entitled to be in women’s spaces, and am triggered when Liz Truss deploys the magic words “single-sex” now redefined to mean excluding me. Others fear a flood of people looking like men in women’s spaces. Misinformation makes it worse: you can read online that only trans women with a gender recognition certificate, after a psychiatric diagnosis, are conditionally entitled to be in women’s spaces.
How can those on a Side hear and value each other when there is this Hell-spawned zero-sum game? For either I am allowed in, or excluded. One’s win is another’s loss.
Some Friends believe that preventing children from having puberty blockers, and 18 year olds from having cross-sex hormones, is protecting those children and young people. I disagree. I know that people of any age beginning to express ourselves in our true gender are intensely vulnerable, often suffering rejection and fearing it everywhere.
I know that Friends, gender critical feminists, have experienced the oppression of patriarchy including male sexual violence, even within our Society. I know that they are entitled that Friends do what we can to reduce that oppression. I do not believe that excluding me from spaces I have been in as of right and often welcomed for years will reduce that oppression.
It seems to me that Friends who are gender critical feminists are particularly distant from feminine gender stereotypes, and have a great deal in common with nonbinary people who were assigned female at birth. To a great extent their aims to subvert gendered expectations are the same, and their conflict is merely over language. But gender critical feminists have told me all women are oppressed by feminine stereotypes equally. Some gender critical Friends have applied the words “gender diverse” to themselves, however uncomfortably.
Welcome means individual meetings welcoming particular individuals, knowing and affirming the whole person. Yet one meeting’s minute can offend Friends in other meetings, who then feel less welcome.
I know that expressing myself as a woman is living my truth, and that living my truth helps others do the same. I know trans men are men, trans women are women, nonbinary people are valid, and that my being trans is as real and worthy of affirmation as anything else that is biological. I know all aspects of being human are subsumed under socially constructed meaning and culture.
I have enough experience of speaking from my Inner Light to believe I can do it all the time, and develop theory around what that means, what helps, and what hinders. I know this means casting aside the stereotypes through which I habitually interpret the World, and seeing people individually. I quail from the overwhelming amount of new information intake that would mean. And sometimes God in me sees God in the other, and I feel joy.
In worship, I feel turmoil. Jesus said,
I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.