Comments: Changing Attitude and LGCM announce merger

My trans and intersex Christian friends will be concerned about an LGBTI* group merging with a group which is shy about the BTI* bit. Certainly the new name will be important.

Posted by Kate at Friday, 13 January 2017 at 10:40am GMT

Excellent news: lovely to see this. Congratulations to all involved!

Posted by Phil Groom at Friday, 13 January 2017 at 7:28pm GMT

This is a very welcome initiative. There's a lot to be gained by joining forces and pooling energies.
I shall continue to do what I can to support the merged group and to progress the cause of lgbt equality in our churches.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 13 January 2017 at 10:30pm GMT

Excellent news, strength in unity. I wish the new group the very best.

Kate, even if there were a serious prospect of lesbian and gay advocates in 2016 neglecting bi and transgender people (and I don't for a second believe that there is), the CoE has already recognized trans people's authentic gender in several instances.

Posted by James Byron at Saturday, 14 January 2017 at 5:58pm GMT

I was fortunate in being present at the meetings where the merger of the charities was discussed by the trustees of both (I have no vote - I was there to provide financial information). I don't believe I am breaching confidentiality in reassuring you, Kate, that there is no danger of the 'BTI bit' being overlooked by the newly merged charity. As you say, the new name will be important in signalling this. Kind regards, Laurence. (Treasurer of LGCM)

Posted by Laurence Cunnington at Sunday, 15 January 2017 at 12:07pm GMT

James: "the CoE has already recognized trans people's authentic gender in several instances." may very well be accurate, but is unlikely to be useful for anyone — there is yet very much indeed to be achieved for TI* folk in the CofE (LGBTI Mission's priorities are an excellent start@ https://lgbtimission.org.uk/our-priorities/)

Posted by DBD at Monday, 16 January 2017 at 8:47am GMT

"Kate, even if there were a serious prospect of lesbian and gay advocates in 2016 neglecting bi and transgender people (and I don't for a second believe that there is), the CoE has already recognized trans people's authentic gender in several instances."

But they do. This is how LGCM describes its purpose:

"The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement works for the full inclusion of gay, lesbian and bisexual people in the Christian churches."

And there is a huge amount to be done:

1. Ministers can opt out of marrying people with a Gender Recognition Certificate. That means the Church has not recognised the change of gender.

2. Ministers can reveal gender history when for others to do the same would be a criminal offence.

3. There is no rite to recognise or even bless a change of gender which is the trans and intersex equivalent of SSM.

4. The Church only recognises two genders - male and female - and can't even cope with people who are gender fluid.

5. Name just one CofE policy which caters to intersex people.

And why is all the emphasis on same sex marriage at present rather than any of the things trans and intersex people need? And, I can assure you, trans people are far more likely to encounter prejudice within the Church than gay men are.

Posted by Kate at Monday, 16 January 2017 at 9:57am GMT

Actually, now I have found more details, Changing Attitude is abandoning trans, intersex and gender queer folk because it is the organisation which is going:


"The trustees of Changing Attitude have decided that our ongoing work will be best served by pooling resources with LGCM to form one new organisation. This will involve Changing Attitude surrendering its charitable status, and merging our assets with those of LGCM."

Posted by Kate at Monday, 16 January 2017 at 10:14am GMT

Kate,

You are simply not correct in your assertions. CA has not abandoned bi, trans, queer, intersex and other sexual and gender minorities. It has taken the decision to vest its work in LGCM and to close as a separate charity. In the very careful negotiations that have taken place preparatory to this difficult decision, there has been important work done on how LGCM's Aims and Objectives will need adjusting so that the concerns that you rightly highlight are included in the A&O of the new body in the future. This is in process.

I would ask you and others to have a little patience, and to think that perhaps those of us responsible for doing this work are people of good will alert to these kinds of needs and concerns, for we are; and are doing our best to meet the requirements of developing and structuring an organisation fit for this century and and the needs of the present.

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Monday, 16 January 2017 at 11:28am GMT

As a transsexual woman, looked after in an Anglican convent for 8 weeks after my gender surgery, and 4 years later prayerfully invited to join that convent, and wholly affirmed for who I am... I must agree that there are wonderful instances of love and acceptance in the Church of England towards people who are trans.

Equally, there is still a mountain to climb to gain warm affirmation in many churches. So yes, there is work to be done.

I don't doubt that the new alliance will faithfully campaign for trans interests (I'll assume intersex interests too, though that's not a subject I have expertise with).

But please: many, many trans people are lesbian or gay or bi-... so the LGB aspects and equal marriage are hugely important to us. To be honest, having resolved my gender incongruency, and living an ordinary life as a parent, a nurse and a lesbian, I'm far more conscious of my lesbian identity than my trans identity.

It's not a zero sum game. It's a matter of solidarity. People who are trans and people who are gay BOTH know what it's like to get abuse on the street, and marginalisation in church, because of sex and gender.

So let's work together - and very importantly, with our straight allies - and give this new alliance our support and work with other initiatives like LGBTI Mission.

One of the crunch points maybe comes quite soon, when the Bishops report on (yet more) deliberations on human sexuality. I've a feeling it may not deliver much more than 'more waiting' in the interests of the global communion.

Of course all is not well. But LGB are 'us' as far as I, a trans female, am concerned. Because I am L, a teeny bit B, and obviously, T. We are in this together, and Kate is right to remind all parties not to sideline one or the other, but I also trust the new alliance to champion all expressions of sexual and gender diversity.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Monday, 16 January 2017 at 3:52pm GMT

I fully agree, Susannah, but I think that Kate wasn't "reminding" people to work together but rather surmising that they would definitely not do so.

Jeremy Pemberton is right. It is important to recognise that we are all on the same side and to approach this merger with a level of trust rather than a deep sense of suspicion.

We are all in this together - everyone on the gender spectrum and everyone on the sexuality spectrum, and all disabled people on those same spectrums.

It doesn't do to divide us into sub-groups.
We hate it when it's done to us, I don't for a minute believe that the new group will do it to anyone else.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 16 January 2017 at 5:14pm GMT

Well said, Susannah and Erika.

Kate, let's put it in terms of brute realpolitik: even if, arguendo, everything you say is true, are trans rights more, or less, likely to be respected in a church that affirms the rights of lesbian and gay people?

Posted by James Byron at Monday, 16 January 2017 at 7:33pm GMT

Erika, nothing wrong with a merger, but it was LGCM which should cease to exist, not the other way around. The LGCM name *HAS* to go - a name which ignores TIQ is useless and discriminatory from the off - and if both names go, both brands are lost with their associated built up visibility. So the only viable option is to close LGCM and keep CA.

Posted by Kate at Tuesday, 17 January 2017 at 10:35am GMT

"Kate, let's put it in terms of brute realpolitik: even if, arguendo, everything you say is true, are trans rights more, or less, likely to be respected in a church that affirms the rights of lesbian and gay people?"

Less likely, but if you put it like this...

"are trans rights more, or less, likely to be respected in a church that is agnostic about sexual orientation?"

...more likely.

Language is everything. The first speaks to a gendered church which respects gay and lesbian rights. The second stresses a church which is entirely agnostic about gender. In which do you think a change of gender is easiest.

That's the thing. It not just that LGCM has ignored TIQ+, but that their language has been strongly gendered.

Posted by Kate at Tuesday, 17 January 2017 at 11:00am GMT

But Kate, the human race itself is strongly gendered. Most trans women are too, otherwise they wouldn't go through the ordeal and social hostility involved in transition. I am strongly gendered. I am also lesbian, with a strong and gendered attraction to other women.

I recognise that some people say they're non-binary, and they can identify for themselves, and should be respected. BUT, all over the world, and through human history and evolution, sex and gender have been recognised and understood: a gender difference between men and women... and a sexual reproductive functionality difference too. Evolution has made us predominantly that way.

That LGCM and Changing Attitude (and correspondents here) press for lesbian and gay rights is entirely understandable in this context. Equally they should press for the rights of trans people, many of them gendered too. And the rights and interests of people who don't fit the gender parameters.

As a femme woman, attracted to butch females, because they are female, "strongly gendered language" does not seem like a threat, as long as we recognise (and I'd expect and assume people like Jeremy Pemberton do) that there is also sexual and gender diversity beyond the norms of society. That does not make the norms of society mistaken. All over the world, men and women comfortably own and inhabit their gender identity. Most lesbian and gay people do too.

But the experience of being marginalised because of your sex or gender surely makes it more likely that you will want less gendered people to be protected as well. But not by abandoning the nature of gender itself. Most of us *know* we are men or women, even if social expressions of gender may be socially constructed sometimes. Some of the ways we express gender may be constructed, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t integral sex and gender self-awareness in most people’s nature and development. It’s not all a construct. Most of the world just gets on with being a man or being a woman. And that then impacts on societal attempts to judge and police our sexual behaviours.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Tuesday, 17 January 2017 at 12:55pm GMT

Gender transition is more than a lifestyle choice. It comes with family hurt, loss of employment, street abuse, sometimes surgical intervention, evaporation of friends, financial cost, social disdain, marginalisation or vilification in church...

... if I wasn't 'strongly gendered' enough to go through all of that, and come out the other side happy, at ease, alive, myself... then why would I have bothered? It's about authentically being yourself. And for most people on this planet, that includes being male or female. So I don't see why lesbian and gay advocates should not embrace that too, and acknowledge that gender is a huge part of why others try to police them. Gender is not going away. It's a valued and integral part of most of our lives.

For me, trans was a transitional thing. Lesbian is who I am, and who my love is, and that's unashamedly understood in terms of female gender. LGCM can defend me up to the hilt. And I'll be grateful for that. That does not lobotomise their ability to consider others. But male and female is the human default.

I don't want the Church to be "agnostic about gender". I want it to celebrate my gender and my partner's gender when we get married. I want it to fully embrace women in church ministry. I want it to recognise that guys have gendered needs as well. Just because male and female gender binary is a human default, doesn't mean that advocates for justice stop there. Gender binary is not the reason churches and societies try to blacklist our sexualities. Indeed, gender binary is an essential aspect of most people's heterosexual dynamics. The problem is the discrimination, not the lovely reality of the gender itself. I assure you, as a lesbian woman, I LOVE gender. I love the female vibe. I love the female body. I am highly gendered. I think most people tend to be.

The problem is policing and the problem is discrimination. Nothing wrong with being male in a gender binary. Nothing wrong with being female. Plenty right about it!

But LGCM has decades of experience of discrimination, and that makes them more likely, not less likely to press for justice for other groups that are marginalised and disdained.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Tuesday, 17 January 2017 at 1:09pm GMT

Kate,
if I understand it correctly, mergers differ from takeovers in that the new organisation is not 100% like either of the two it arose from but that it is a new entity.

I still think we can trust Jeremy Pemberton when he says that the whole team behind this has the best interest of all lgbt+ people at heart.

Shall we wait and see what happens?

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 17 January 2017 at 4:27pm GMT

Susannah

Of many of course those who transition from one social gender to another have a strong sense of gender but so are many people who do not transition. That though is different.

I recall a strict Jewish father who was struggling to accept his daughter's transition because he had strong, religious ideas of gender. He stood by his daughter, but he struggled. His struggle had nothing to do with her (he was very supportive) , but from his concept of what gender meant within the Jewish religion. When religions stress gender, they make it harder for people to change gender role and to be accepted when they do because the (imagined?) theological change is high. That is best avoided by reducing the emphasis a religion places upon gender.

That does not mean that individuals aren't able to express their gender strongly but it should be the equivalent of what football team they support - passionate, even are core part of the individual but still irrelevant for the religion itself.

Posted by Kate at Tuesday, 17 January 2017 at 10:15pm GMT
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