Monday, July 29, 2013

Philadelphia Yearly Meeting 2013 Minute of Exercise (more on the Transgender Youth Policy)

Minute of Exercise from Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Annual Sessions 2013:

On 7/25/13, approximately 60 people met to respond to the Transgender Youth Policy which was finalized by the Education Standing Committee (ESC) about a month earlier. The policy was published by the Yearly Meeting a week later and was suspended by the PYM Clerk on 7/24/13. The group included one member of the ESC who was active in creating the policy and one who was not active in creating the policy.

Many feelings were strongly expressed including: shock, hurt, anger, confusion, pain, rejection, and feeling degraded and devalued.

Many Friends were confused by the policy. Much of the policy used strong trans-inclusive language. And yet the requirement to segregate bathrooms and sleeping rooms by "biological sex" was understood by those gathered to be unwelcoming to trans Friends and harmful to them and others.

We heard many concerns about the process that generated this policy. Prior to finalizing the policy, the ESC heard from staff, Young Friends, and about 15 parents and other adults interested in youth programs. The resulting polcy did not reflect the wisdom or desires of these groups.

We kept asking, "Why?" Why was a policy created for a group of Friends who did not unite with it? Why did Education Standing Committee think it necessary to change the long-standing practice of designating bathrooms and sleeping arrangements by gender identity? One member of the ESC suggested that the Committee experienced both a generational barrier and inexperience with transgender issues, and that the Committee failed to overcome these challenges.

We learned that PYM youth staff communicated to the ESC their conscientious objection to the new policy almost three weeks before it was made public. The Committee did not respond to these objections before the policy was published. Why was the Committee unable to engage with these concerns before the policy was made public?

What is needed now:

Friends called for apology, reconciliation, and healing. One ESC Committee member apologized personally. There will be more work for the committee to do in this area.

We need to examine and understand the roots of this problem. What were the structures and institutional habits that allowed this to happen? How could we change our institutional practices to avoid similar problems in the future?

We need to involve Young Friends in any policy changes that impact them. This means that the Young Friends liasion with the ESC should be a Young Friend. Also, ESC will be stronger if it includes young adult Friends who were in the Young Friends program previously and other adults with connections to the Young Friends Program. [This type of "fix" is applicable to all committees: let's follow the principle of "no decisions about us without us."]

Young Friends policies should be developed collaboratively with Young Friends and ESC, and approved by both bodies.
Many Friends suggested that the next version of the policy be drafted by a group of Young Friends who would then send their draft to the ESC. Ideally, the two groups would communicate with each other until unity is found.

Samara Rockwood, co-clerk, Young Friends, Millville Meeting, Upper Susquehanna Quarter
Sebastian DiMino, participant, Young Friends, Fallsington Meeting, Bucks Quarter
Peter Lane, member, Education Standing Committee, Westtown Meeting, Concord Quarter
Carrie Sandler, mother of Young Friends participant, Birmingham Meeting, Concord Quarter
Grayfred Gray, Lancaster Meeting, Caln Quarter
Traci Hjelt Sullivan, Green Street Meeting, Philadelphia Quarter
Walter Hjelt Sullivan, Green Street Meeting, Philadelphia Quarter
Tesla DuBois
Juliette Lane, Westtown Meeting, Concord Quarter

For background on this issue, please see these two links:

Youth Programs Transgender Policy

Transgender Youth Policy Suspended by Action of the Clerk


Carrie & Amelia said...

Thank you for sharing this!

Carrie & Amelia said...

Thank you for sharing this. It is an important document.

Morgan said...

Yes. It is. Thank you for being part of this process.

Martin Kelley said...

Hi Stasa, thanks for posting this online. It might not be clear from the context, but this is nine people summarizing an open listening session of 60 self-selected people. I was one of the 60 and think they did a great job capturing the spirit. But unless something happened after I left, it was entered into the records but not formally endorsed by the yearly meeting. So it's not "Philadelphia Yearly Meeting 2013 Minute of Exercise" so much as a "Minute of Exercise that took place at Philadelphia Yearly Meeting."

I'm usually not quite such a stickler but one of the take-aways from the sessions was that we need to be sensitive about who we speak for. One of the main structural problems in the process that created the policy is that the document was written by a group that didn't include any of the people it affected (hence "no decision about us with us," which became something of catchphrase throughout YM sessions). By the time this listening session was wrapping up, all but two high schoolers had left for the Young Friends program. It was a great group, but we were echoing some of the structural dynamics that led to the policy in the first place. I also think that anyone who wasn't already a transgender ally probably skipped the session, which means the statement makes PYM look a bit more progressive than it might be. I'm writing up something on all this too, hopefully will be ready late this week.

Morgan said...

Thanks for sharing, Martin! My understanding is that this document is part of the minutes of PhYM Sessions, and I was posting it as such, and simply cut and pasted what was given to me as minuted.