Yesterday I arrived in Johnstown, PA for the yearly meeting of the Friends General Conference, a gathering of about 1500 Quakers from North America and beyond. In my welcoming packet I found a one-page info sheet entitled Creating a Trans*-Friendly Gathering written by Kody Hersh. Kody gave a plenary address last year and shared some of his transgender experiences with the Gathering.
In addition, an Interest Group entitled Trans 101 will be offered later in the week. I feel so pleased to be part of a community that seeks to welcome all. The language in Kody’s info sheet struck me as thoughtful, clear and helpful. So much so I thought I’d share it with you.
*trans: transsexual, transgender, or genderqueer; a person who experiences or expresses gender in a way that is different from social expectations of their assigned birth sex.
FGC Gathering seeks to be a welcoming space for all Friends, with a variety of life experiences and needs. It is our experience and belief that the entire community benefits from the diversity that can only be achieved by careful listening and accommodation.
A growing opportunity exists to welcome Friends into the fellowship of the Gathering who are “stretching the gender box.” These Friends may identify with a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth, or they may simply present themselves in a way that challenges traditional models of female and male behavior or appearance.
The term “trans” includes a wide range of experiences, identities, and forms of expression. We can accommodate many of the needs of these Friends by small changes in how we live together at Gathering, such as the availability of gender-neutral bathrooms and housing options. We can all help to create safe space by our willingness to think outside the box, question our society’s messages about gender and, most of all, to be respectful and loving listeners to the needs of those around us.