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Good! The choice of words on the poster was important. Organisers of the Cutting Edge Consortium Women’s Group Public meeting ‘Feminism, Faith & LBTQ Women: Is Anybody Listening?’ held on January 18th 2012, sent a clear signal that trans women would be welcome at this event.
There are just a few women only events, the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival being the most well-known, that operate a ‘Women Born Women’ only policy. In other words trans women are not welcome. The reason given is that those who were raised as girls have had different experiences to trans women who were raised as males, albeit they always identified as women. (The exclusion of Trans men, who were, mostly, also raised as girls, is more understandable, since they always identified as men).
The Michigan Festival is fairly exceptional in maintaining this bar, which feels like a relic of an earlier age of feminism. In most settings nowadays trans women are included without fuss, but not always, and the organisers of the Cutting Edge Consortium meeting, aware of recent events where the presence of trans women had become an issue, were keen that this should not be repeated on this occasion. Hence their advertisement stating that the meeting was ‘open to everyone who identifies as a woman.’
Not only that, they invited a trans woman to be one of the panel speakers – namely me, representing both Changing Attitude and Sibyls: Christian Spirituality for Transgender People. It felt really good to be there, and thanks to excellent networking, five other members of Sibyls were also in the audience, which was a great support to me.
Eileen Barnard-Harris, who chaired the meeting, pointed out more than once that, as an organisation committed to the ‘elimination of any faith-based homophobia and trans phobia and institutionalised prejudice towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people’, the Cutting Edge Consortium could not endorse the exclusion of trans women from women’s events. And on the 18th January the Women’s Group created a safe space for women to gather and reflect on the issues that mattered to them. My own talk, about the perils of gradualism, took inspiration from Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928), whose penchant for amateur theatre and passion for the French Revolution served her well when the campaign for women’s suffrage needed that extra push, as the campaign for LGBT inclusion in the Church now seems to do.
The other speakers were Naomi Phillips of the British Humanist Association, Chitra Nagarajan of Southall Black Sisters/Go Feminist!, and Rabbi Judith Rosen-Berry, of BKY/Liberal Judaism, and a report of the event can be found on the Cutting Edge Consortium website
Cutting Edge Consortium is, as you’ll have gathered, a great organisation, and its Third National Conference at the Conway Hall, London, on the 21st April 2012 – Achieving our Equality: Challenging Faith-based Homophobia and Transphobia – when Nicholas Holtham, Bishop of Salisbury will be speaking, should be well worth attending; the details of that are here: