In an October Workshop, using Stonewall’s “5 Ways to be an LGBT Ally” as a starting point, Friends were encouraged to write words, phrases, doodles and comments on what we hope, need and want from each other as allies and Friends, and what being an ally means to us. These were displayed as a Graffiti Wall, interspersed with snippets of our Statement of Inclusion, and this has now been formatted as a poster.
“Being Allies – Being Friends” SOGII Three Years On
In 2016, growing out of a concern brought to Elders, a small group of Chichester Friends met to discuss the issues of Diversity and Inclusion in our Local and Area Meetings. Three years on twenty two of us met to celebrate our third ‘Birthday’ with a workshop on the theme “Being Allies – Being Friends” – Quakers and the LGBTQI Community.
“SOGII”, the memorable acronym of the ‘Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Inclusion’ group, began in Chichester Local Meeting but now welcomes Friends and Attenders from Brighton, Worthing, Andover, Bognor, Portsmouth, Basingstoke and Wanstead as well as linking with QGSDC (Quaker Gender and Sexual Diversity Community) for larger gatherings and information sharing.
When originally discussing our aims and purposes it was suggested that, within Quakers, such a group ought not be necessary, unfortunately we have seen just how much work there is still to do in making our Meetings and Meeting Houses places where everyone feels Safe, Welcome, Valued and Respected.
In March 2018 ‘The Friend’ published Chichester’s “Statement of Inclusion” (“Safe, Welcome, Valued, Respected”), which built on the ground breaking statement on Gender Diversity produced by North East Thames Area Meeting the previous year. Since then SOGII has increased our Quaker visibility in the Sussex West Area taking part in Pride and Trans Pride Celebrations and Trans Day of Remembrance services at Chichester University.
SOGII is made up of Trans Friends, the parents of Trans young people, gay, straight, lesbian and non-binary Friends and Attenders with ages ranging from twenties to nineties. Over the past three years many of us have facilitated discussion groups and taken part in surveys on inclusion and diversity issues such as the Government’s consultation paper on reforming the 2004 Gender Recognition Act; Nim Njuguna’s Eva Koch Scholarship research “Becoming Quaker Diversity Champions” and sent a Minute in response to Quaker Life Central Committee’s initial statement on gender diversity.
So, while we’ve not yet achieved our aim of being unnecessary, we are continuing to learn, grow and support one another while celebrating the rich and joyful diversity amongst the Friends who make up our Meetings.
SOGII meets here at Chichester Quaker Meeting House.