Community News

Quakers cancel anti trans group meeting

Besi Besemar July 13, 2018

Brighton Quakers cancel meeting of anti trans group Women’s Place UK at Friends Meeting House in Brighton on Monday, July 16.

A BOOKING by Woman’s Place UK to use Friends Meeting House in Brighton for a meeting has been cancelled by the Brighton Quakers.

Woman’s Place UK, a campaigning group opposing reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, claim that these reforms are a threat to women’s rights.

In their material they misrepresent trans women by calling them men, include them within a predatory male stereotype and claim that men become women to get access to women’s protected spaces for sexual violence.

Prior to booking a meeting at Friends Meeting House which coincided with the opening of the Trans Pride Week of celebrations, Women’s Place UK had booked meetings at Quaker Meeting Houses in Manchester and Oxford.

In Manchester and Oxford the bookings were made with local Meeting-House wardens, managers and lettings administrators, who were not necessarily aware of the group’s stance against trans women.

Following discussions with Trans Pride organiser, Brighton Quakers have issued the following statement:

“Brighton Quakers were asked to hire out one of its rooms to a campaign group set up to ensure that women’s voices are heard in the debate around proposals to change the Gender Recognition Act.

Having considered the issue further and having consulted with other interested parties we have decided to cancel the booking. We have not come to that decision lightly.

The meeting which was to have taken place in our building was advertised as including spoken contributions from people active in the area of natal women’s rights who have expressed concern about the implications of the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act. The meeting was to have been open to anyone who had bought a valid ticket via an internet booking site. As such, the attendance was not limited to members of the campaign group and we believe it likely that many tickets have been bought by people, including Trans women, strongly opposed to the views being expressed by the event’s organisers.

Similar events have been run in other parts of the country and have resulted in acrimony and discord. The organisers of the meeting planned to be held in Brighton were made aware that they would need the services of a private security company to maintain public order. We are also mindful that Brighton Trans Pride is being held in the same week (including events taking place close to Brighton Quakers’ premises on the same evening) as well as the annual Trans, Non-binary and Intersex Conference is due to be held at Brighton University on July 19/20.

We are extremely uneasy that our decision may result in the suppression of free speech and in particular suppression of natal women’s voices. However, we do not believe that a meeting of this kind (open to all with a purchased ticket but focused on one particular viewpoint) will enhance the wider debate or a mutual understanding of the very strongly held concerns of different parties. We think it more likely to aggravate the situation.

Instead we intend to work with local groups and agencies to set up one or more meetings at which the differing views and concerns can be addressed with the help of people skilled in mediation. If it is appropriate to all concerned we would be happy to offer our Meeting House as a venue for these fora. We will ensure that all voices are heard in a safe, respectful and thoughtful atmosphere. We believe this approach reflects our Quaker commitment “to respect that of God in everyone though it may be expressed in unfamiliar ways or be difficult to discern”. It will also align with our historic commitment to work for peace.”

Following the meetings in Oxford and Edinburgh earlier in the year, QGSDC (Quaker Gender & Sexual Diversity Community) tweeted the following statement:

“We strongly challenge the misrepresentation, misinformation, disrespect and intrinsic antagonism towards trans people by Women’s Place UK and others in pursuing their stated aims around gender identity legislation (including the Gender Recognition Act), and want to highlight the hugely negative effect this is having on trans people in Britain, including trans friends.

We believe peace starts with us, and would be interested in seeking a peaceful way forward with those who are open to doing so. For dialogue to be fruitful each party has to commit to ending behaviour that is likely to kill, hurt or antagonise, and thereby clearly demonstrate a change in attitude. If it can be done in Northern Ireland and South Africa, it can  be done anywhere.

We don’t think Twitter, Facebook or any other social media is the place to do this work: it’s too easy for feelings to become heightened and for a situation to escalate very quickly, as demonstrated this week. 

QGSDC continues to be a community of support and solidarity for trans people, and a resource for the wider Religious Society of Friends.

We believe that focusing on, and responding to, that of God (or good) in the other, however hidden, is key in all of this?”