My heart is heavy.
Many, many years.
Head bowed, slightly
Eyes closed, often
Hands loosed, in lap.
To the quiet
The cries of Woman.
by L. Addington
Greetings Multnomah Friends Meeting,
I’ve recently heard that Multnomah Friends Meeting has backed away from hosting an inclusive discussion on gender in the meeting house. The purpose of the meeting was to heal divides between the trans community and radical feminists. I have been told that you make this cancellation this despite directly promising organizers to hold the event in spite of the inevitable controversy. I find this entire situation baffling. Are you not Friends? In the past Friends were loathe to make promises at all; to renege on a promise was a betrayal. For an entire congregation to renege a promise, on the basis of manufactured falsehoods (however elaborate), is an embarrassment to the faith. How is it to be understood?
Perhaps you have decided to accept, in spite of a total lack of evidence, the mischaracterization of radical feminists as violent, transphobic bigots and so on and on, and decided that in spite of a radical belief in inclusion such women should be excluded from your space.
I am not a member of a Quaker meeting but have infrequently attended services (including Christmas services each year) at Freedom Friends Church in Salem since 2006. My wife, who was looking forward to attending the Radfems Respond talk, remains a member of that church, which she started attending at age 14. Her mom, dad, and sisters continue to regularly attend meeting there and have served as Treasurers and Recorders there. My wife and I were married in the Quaker tradition by Pastor Peggy Parsons in 2008, and Alivia Biko, current pastor, painted a beautiful wedding certificate for us.
As I’m certain you know, Freedom Friends Church has always been welcoming to trans people, as I am sure Multnomah Friends Meeting is as well. And this is great. But does your inclusion not extend to women also– women who are spirited to fight for the liberation of women? Are women not people also? As my wife is a radical feminist, and I support radical feminism, would you close your doors to us?
Your action to cancel the RadFems Respond event is truly alarming and disappointing. In the spirit of trying to discharge a situation that has been largely ignited by falsehoods, histrionics, and fear-mongering aimed at silencing the critical analysis radical feminists bring to: prostitution and gender. RadFems Respond’s planned a structured day to answer questions about radical feminists perspective on our views. We did this in order to stop the misinformation and falsehoods thrown out at radical feminists without substantiation on social media and alternative media. And really the harrassment and bullying of radical feminist activists, scholars, and supporters needs to stop.
I am a radical feminist, a teacher, I practise a martial art, Aikido and have been involved in my community as an outreach support worker on the streets of Toronto to homeless and street involved youth. I have also suffered and have survived a violent and sexually exploited childhood.
Did you know it takes three days for a street involved youth to become involved in the porn/sex industry? This is Toronto, Ontario Canada. I would think it would likely take less time in Portland, cities where the porn industry thrives! Youth who are street involved or homeless, from my frontline experience, are usually sexually confused due to violence they have suffered in the home, be it emotional or sexual. Unfortunately there is just too much violence in the home, tv, streets, and young people today end up on streets helping each other and getting guidance from all sorts of predators.
When Radfem:Rise Up Toronto had to move my private event from a public gallery(Beaver Hall) due to 200 harassing and threatening phone calls, the direct connection between the porn industry and the trans-activists quickly became apparent. Shortly after the event we learned that a porn industry stakeholder held a fundraiser to whip up fear of twenty five women meeting to discuss issues of concern to the young radical feminists organizers: just a sampling: abortion rights and access, First Nations women and disappearance, history of feminist organizing, Rateah Parsons, exiting prostitution, not one of these topics was about trans issues!
Beaver Hall is now being investigated for conflict of interest because the Board members who asked for the event to be moved seem have connections/working in and with the porn industry and a blatant conflict of interest in a publicly funded housing cooperative, is cause for alarm and investigation.
The trans- and Men’s Rights activists have joined forces in Toronto and looks like they have stepped up there tactics and have decided to apply them in Portland, you are not their first victim. We had hoped however that your history of supporting human rights would also support women to gather to discuss a difference of opinion safely.
I am disappointed you have given in too bullying and accusations with no foundation. Radical feminism is not going to go away. We have a rich history in length, breath and depth and most assuredly we have the best interests of “women as a class” in our sights and our goal, it is our sine qua non.
Wishing you peace with your decision, while it disappointing, it is understandable that when confronted with such blatant and sophisticated emotional manipulative battering that one succumbs to the fear of ‘what if’; and err on the side of supporting those who threaten violence-men: and as usual throw women’s concerns out the window. Radical feminists are simply no longer going to tolerate the disrespect any longer: you in your actions, clearly demonstrate the raison d’être for the existence and necessity for radical feminism.
Men are so good at threatening and being heard by using violent tactics. Can you tell me really, that you cannot see that, or feel that, the potential for violence, in what they wrote and how they wrote about radical feminism?
Trish C. Oliver
Teacher, Toronto, ON. Canada.
Dear Multnomah Friends,
It has recently come to my attention that you have decided to cancel our booking for the Radfems Respond conference on May 24th despite promising us the venue. It has also come to my attention that this decision was not based on facts and evidence being presented, but was rather based on the absorption of libel primarily written by a small group of outspoken individuals who often outright fabricate their claims as a way of bullying and intimidation.
I am sorry to see that Quakers have caved to that bullying and intimidation. Just wondering, did you not see the photo of Hollis Proffitt holding and licking a machete in his/her photo on the petition against us? I must say, there is nothing quite like the eroticization of violence to make a political statement. Just last night, my partner showed me a photo of a 15 year old “trans-girl” holding a knife with the caption “fetch me some terfs” (TERF is a slur meant to silence gender-critical radical feminists). Can you really truly blame us for wanting women-only spaces away from these types of men? Women-only spaces aside, this event was meant to be an inclusive dialogue, to encourage the open exchange of communication between radical feminists, male feminist allies, transitioned people, detransitioned people, etc.
On the subject of detransitioned people, I was born a female. I realized growing up that I was a gender non-conforming Dyke but due to society’s deeply-entrenched misogyny and lesbophobia, along with a deeply seated hatred of myself, I transitioned medically and socially. I fit all of the diagnostic criteria of a person with Gender Identity Disorder (now called Gender Dysphoria according to the latest incarnation of the DSM manual). I realized that transitioning couldn’t help alleviate my gender dysphoria, and in fact gender dysphoria itself in general is a symptom of a gendered-society. In addition to doing some serious self-growth as a person, I was also getting negative health issues from the testosterone for my hormone replacement therapy. As a result, I detransitioned both medically and socially. I am presenting at the Radfems Respond conference as a way for people considering transition as an option to learn about alternatives to transitioning and to hear a radical feminist analysis, where they had probably only heard queer theory analyses before. I am being incorrectly painted as someone who thinks that just because I made a mistake means that transition is wrong for everybody else. This is only partially true. I made a mistake, one which I do regret, but I remain critical of the medical and social/legal practice of transitioning. I don’t care what personal choices other people make; rather I am asking people to think critically about their choices, some of which might not be the healthiest or correct choices to make. Due to my stance, I am being very incorrectly labeled transphobic. This is insanity.
I am writing to you not only as a panelist/presenter at the conference, but as someone who is incredibly saddened and hurt by your decision to stand alongside bullies. To call our point of view “bickering” is not only grossly inaccurate, it is also very insulting. My boss, friend, and mentor, Lierre Keith had to be escorted to the stage to give her keynote speech by 6 armed police officers at the 2014 Public Interest Environmental Law Conference. The reason for this was because of endless threats of violence from trans activists who hinted there would be a repeat of Lierre being pied in the face with chili pepper laced pies, as she was at the 2010 Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair.
As I mentioned before about my detransition, I also joined the ranks of radical feminists who had been bullied and attacked. My girlfriend’s car was vandalized twice shortly after I decided to detransition and she came out as a lesbian. To be specific, she had “dyke” keyed into her bumper and two tires slashed. We have reason to believe that it was members of the local trans/queer activist community who did the vandalism. Additionally, I also had a local MTF transitioner stalk and harass me, of which I still have screenshots for any curious minds to see.
This is hardly “bickering.” These are women who have been repeatedly stalked, harassed, and threatened, both online and offline.
I do my work specifically as a way for young women who might otherwise hate their bodies in silence find other ways to cope besides hormonally or surgically mutilating themselves. I do this work as a way to help other young girls be able to accept themselves just as they are. I am saddened that my message isn’t one that the Quakers can support and get behind. My message is far from hateful; my message is one that is designed to help other young women. As such, I hardly see why my message in particular should be censored, nor do I see the reason for any of my fellow colleagues to be censored either.
I am disappointed, and while I know it is too late for reconciliation, I encourage the Quakers to be fully informed before booking and subsequently cancelling future events.
Heath Atom Russell
Panelist at Radfems Respond 2014, Writer, and Activist
I’m sorry to hear that you’ve decided to renege on your contract to allow this meeting to take place at Multnomah Quaker Meeting House. As a person who has been questioning my own need to transition I found the idea of Gender Critical thinking quite empowering. It’s frustrating to me that it had to come from a group that is so hated in the trans community. I feel like a lot of people who are in a similar position to me would benefit greatly from it. Despite what most of the Trans* community would say about it, there is almost certainly some truth to the idea. People can and do detransition, it is not some unbeatable ailment that can only be solved by either changing your body or committing suicide. This is a false choice that almost led to my own ruin. There are others like me, and I am confident in time we will see this more and more given the incredibly complex and nebulous nature of this… I don’t even know what to call it that would not offend someone.
And that’s really the problem, there is just too much going on here for any one person or group to really get a handle on it. Right now the screening process is almost 100% self-determined. I live in an informed consent state so that is the literal truth. I know the names of 4 psychologists In my area that I could go to and get a prescription for hormones. While I believe people should be able determine what they want to do with their own bodies this just reveals how little we know about the Trans* experience.
I’m not saying there is some magical cure for the opaque condition of ‘gender dysphoria’; I am still tempted to go get on those hormones. I have been battling with myself about this for a long time. I wish someone could tell me whether I really have a Trans identity or not, but I am the only one who can really decide that. This is the struggle of every trans person. There is no ‘brain-sex’ that has been discovered. Differences in male and female brains have been shown to be small with huge variances in actual behavior for individuals. While there have been a few brain scan studies they show that even cis-identified people often don’t match with their hypothetical ‘brain-sex’. With no possible biological test all we are left with is cues from behavior that are influenced by social condition more than anything else. I have found from my own personal experience that my own sense of dysphoria comes primarily from these social pressures.
This is not to say that every trans person feels this way but I know there must be more like me. Just the fact that there are more MtF transitioners to FtM transitioners seems to bare this out. It is more socially acceptable for a female to act male than for a male to act female. To do so is an attack on the gender hierarchy, this is simply not how things are supposed to work. Many MtF people like to claim that ‘butch’ women are really closeted FtM trans people. While I can’t speak for anyone but myself I can’t imagine those butch females like being ‘misgendered’ any more than a trans person would.
My experience is of someone who is searching for the cause of my feelings. For people like me gender critical thinking can open up a whole new world. There are many people now who claim to have ‘nonbinary’ gender which is a way to say they are between genders. Gender critical thinking dispells the illusion of gender and shows that we are all nonbinary in the basic sense. This is an empowering statement for anyone who is sick of our current gender hierarchy no matter what birth sex they are. Furthermore it is the only logical conclusion when all the current conflicting and confused research about gender is taken into account.
Why do the studies fail to produce a coherent picture of what determines one’s ‘gender identity’? It could simply be that gender is a false construct we have all bought into due to generations of social conditioning. In my personal experience this seems to be the case. I simply don’t like being limited by my gender role although as a born male I understand I have it on the good side of the gender hierarchy.
Before I continue I want to point out that I don’t feel like every single trans person needs to be blocked from transitioning. There are some who do have various biological conditions that are well known about and studied. The best example of this would be intersexed children, who are the most obvious exceptions. It does also seem possible that there may be some epigenetic causes that may produce a more physically feminine boy or more masculine girl. In fact, it is my pet theory that these small epigenetic differences snowball when gender socialization takes place. Usually upon entering public school, these people with perfectly fine, slightly more masculine or feminine biology are picked on and made to conform. This is not because they are ‘really’ a man in a woman’s body or vice versa. They simply don’t entirely conform to a man-made social construction. When these people decide to transition they are giving into the myth of gender being an innate quality and not a learned one.
Notice the link between Trans people and digit ratios. This has nothing to due with ones’ brain being in the wrong body. It has to do with a body being in the wrong society.
From the article:
“There’s more difference between a Pole and a Finn, than a man and a woman.”
I know this is all controversal. It has to be because no one knows for sure about any of this. There are also many mental disorders that can cause one to develop a trans identity that have little to do with any of the social/biological issues I’ve brought up above. This is all off the top of my head honestly. These are the thoughts that keep me up at night. I take this criticism seriously, as should any trans person who really wants to honor what their movement is fighting for. I would like to be able to know more about this but people who question their transitions or decide to detransition are often marginalized in the Trans community. Many are considered fake or ‘TERF sock puppets’ (that’s me apparently). It is sad that only the most ardent and extreme critics of the trans movement have enough clout to actually be heard through the chaos and self-aggrandizing of the current forms of internet-based ‘discussion’.
I have no hate for trans people. In fact I love them and sympathize with them. I have shared many of their struggles and done the same type of soul searching. I know how comforting the thought of simply being a woman trapped in a man’s body can be. A part of me still hopes this is the case. It would make my life so much simpler. All I would have to do is change myself, like I have been my whole life in order to fit other people’s expectations of me; namely as a male who dominates women and does other manly things to commoditize all of existence.
So, like most other trans people I began that process of trying to pass, ironically I went by the mantra “I’m being the real me!” At first this was true, by simply rejecting my hetero-normity I did feel like I was becoming ‘more me’. So I kept it up, going slowly. I felt better about myself, lost a lot of weight, shaved my beard. I set a date to go ‘full-time’ and starting training my voice. This is where the wheels started to fall off. I found a lot of speech pathology is learning to mimic the cadence and inflection of a female voice. Many training programs suggested finding a specific female who’s voice you wanted to sound like and copy their voice. In many voice pathology classes one is also taught to learn female gestures and facial expressions. Suddenly “I’m being more me” didn’t quite hold up. I was just changing one form of socialization for another. I began to really question everything.
During a night of listless google searching I found myself reading stuff I was agreeing. Turns out it was written by these people called ‘Radical Feminists’ who I knew were known as TERFs and obviously hated me and wanted me to kill myself. I didn’t look away and soon found Rachel Ivy’s presentation: “The End of Gender”. It set my world on fire. I saw everything differently, I realized how blind I had been. I wasn’t the one who needed to change my body, it was society that needed to change it’s judgment of me and everyone else. This was the root cause of my suffering and is the beating heart of the radical feminist movement.
I would love to be able to say I’m just an oppressed transwoman and all these radfems are just hating on me because I was born a man. But I know that isn’t true, even if that were the case there is enough substance here that it cannot be ignored. Many radfems are angry and have said hateful things about trans people, but the same can be said of trans people against radical feminists. TERF is very much a slur, it has all the effects of a slur. It is entirely a put-down meant to silence a thought that cannot be debated away rationally. I know I had read more about TERFs being nazi-like borderline gay-conversion Christians than I had ever read about their true thoughts, reasoning, or even their stated views.
Not all radfems are made the same and neither are all trans people. In the past this discussion has been very polarizing and personal but it is a needed one. For this reason having an open discussion can only help us. This goes beyond ‘bickering’ this is a fundamental question of our time. I think there is much room on both sides for more understanding. This issue will shape the future of both the feminist and the trans movement. It is up to us to make that future one we can all share and want to be a part of.
PS Here’s my own story as I posted it on reddit:
Dear Multnomah Friends,
I am writing you today to express my great disappointment in your decision not to hold the Radfems Respond conference at your meetinghouse. We are currently living in a climate of fear reminiscent of the Red Scare, in which any disagreement with the ideologies of transgenderism and queer theory has become completely unacceptable, and is immediately labeled “transphobia,” despite whatever foundation it may have in rational discourse. The entire purpose of the Radfems Respond conference is to create the space in which this conflict regarding the meaning of gender can be openly discussed in a safe environment. By reneging on your agreement with the conference organizers, despite being forewarned that you would face backlash from transactivists, you are only acting in complicity with their attempts to silence the voices of women. You refer to this disagreement as “bickering,” despite the fact that radical feminists are being attacked, threatened with rape and death, and prevented from even speaking publicly. What exactly do you suggest? That women should simply sacrifice the gains won through over a century of feminist struggle because some men have decided that these achievements impinge on their sense of freedom?
The radical feminist organizers of this conference have never engaged in abusive language or behavior against transgendered people, nor have they ever attempted to prevent members of the transgender community from engaging in their freedom of expression. They uphold a vision of universal human rights which are applicable to everyone, including transpeople. And yet they are accused of bigotry for the simple reason that they have a fundamental disagreement with the transgenderist understanding of the concept of “gender.” Whereas transgenderists view gender as an inherent identity, radical feminists consider gender to be a social construct imposed upon people to facilitate the oppression and subordination of the female class. You may think that this is merely a semantic distinction, however it has grave consequences for society at large. For example, the transgendered community would give the impression that sex-segregated bathrooms serve no purpose other than to confirm one’s sense of gender identity. Actually, sex-segregated bathrooms have a very specific function, which is to prevent the sexual assault of women by men. By opening up female-only spaces, such as bathrooms, women’s prisons, and rape crisis centers, to anyone who self-identifies as a woman, females are rendered even more vulnerable to sexual assault and abuse by males than they already are. Consider that a senior Twitter engineer, Dana McCallum, who identifies as a transwoman, was just a week ago charged with raping his estranged wife. 99% of rapes are committed by males. Do you really think that it is reasonable to assume that women who express concern about allowing males into female-only spaces are doing so solely out of an irrational fear and hatred? Do you really think that preventing males’ access to female-only spaces, insofar as it inhibits their ability to identify with female sexual biology, actually constitutes a form of abuse? Or do you simply not want to deal with the transactivist harassment that hosting such a conference would entail?
Whatever your personal opinion is regarding this matter, I would hope that we could agree that radical feminists should at least be given the freedom to speak about this issue publicly, and to engage in a dialogue with the larger community. Considering all that the Religious Society of Friends has done historically in the service of human rights, despite personal risk, it would be very sad to see this resolve collapse under the weight of transactivist slander and lies. The importance of allowing women the right to speak was emphasized by the very “Mother of Quakerism,” Margaret Fell. By cancelling this conference, you have only betrayed her vision of equality. I hope you will reconsider your stance about this issue in the future.
Hi Multnomah Friends,
Good morning. I’m very disappointed to hear that you’ve believed the falsehoods stated about radical feminists and have decided to cancel their booking.
It’s important that women are able to speak about what harms us. Gender and the sex industry are two areas where women face a large amount of harm.
This event was proposed as an opportunity for all folks to get together and talk about these controversial issues. This is not “bickering”- it is political speech.
It’s my understanding that you were made aware of the controversial nature of this booking. Given that fact, it’s really unfortunate that you decided to cancel once a few people tried to silence women’s voices.
Please do what is right and reconsider your decision.
Dear Friends of the Multnomah Meeting House,
It is with a heavy heart that I write to you today concerning your decision to not host the Radfems Respond event. I am a male who supports radical feminism and the reason I do so is fairly simple – because I agree that persons born female in this world share a unique oppression, and that oppressed groups have a right to name their oppressors, organize independent of their oppressors, and actively work to end their oppression.
Admittedly, I don’t know much about the Friends, and I am only vaguely familiar with your traditions and spiritual lineage. However, I do believe there is some common ground we can share concerning your ideals of social justice, peace, and seeking the truth, both in the temporal and spiritual worlds.
Please allow me to make an analogy concerning my own experience. I am an African American male living in a country with a particularly abominable history of racial injustice and cultural genocide. My family, in addition to being the victims of consistent racial profiling and micro-aggressions, has also suffered immensely at the hands of racist policing and discriminatory housing practices. It is common knowledge in the anti-racist movement that people of color have a right to organize independent of whites, for the simple fact that we POC share a common oppression, and that autonomy, independence and decolonization of our own inner selves is key to eliminating racism in this culture.
But there are those who believe that any anti-racist analysis is akin to racism itself. To that end, they make such statements as “Anti-racist is code for anti-white.” These whites believe that affirmative action standards, autonomous POC organizations and a redistribution of wealth and resources in a fundamentally racist society is discriminatory towards whites, and thus constitutes “reverse racism.” Is it safe to assume the Friends do not believe this flawed logic? Would the Friends refuse to platform a POC anti-racist organization simply because the organization believed whiteness is a social construct and that white privilege is fundamentally oppressive to POC? If I am not mistaken, the Quaker movement has a history of hosting radical black and anti-racist movements, with a key example being Quaker doctors in 1970s Philadelphia assisting the local Panther chapter in establishing free health clinics in underprivileged communities. But the Panthers held decidedly radical critiques of the white identity. Though they were not a separatist movement (insofar as there were white allies within the movement who often stood in the ranks of Panther formations during demonstrations), the Panthers believed in black autonomy and independence, as outlined in their Ten Point Program calling for control of their own local economies.
If a black autonomous organization requested your group host them, and you agreed to do so, but then received consistent backlash from white racists, I would like to believe you would not capitulate to the efforts of the racists, but instead you would stand by your promise – and your morals. Yet, this is exactly what you’ve done with the radical feminists whom you have deplatformed. Radical feminists hold an analysis of gender that places this social construct as hierarchy – not a binary to be enforced, and not a spectrum to be subverted – but a hierarchy to be abolished. Just as radical anti-racists do not hate white people but rather critique race and white privilege as the fundamental structure of our oppression, so do radical feminists not hate the trans community, nor do they hold some fear of them. Rather, they critique gender as the fundamental structure of their own oppression.
It should go without saying that there is something terrible about reneging on a promise, a promise made in good conscience and in good faith. This behavior is not in keeping with the standards of your community.
What’s more, the radical feminists whom your organization promised space were attempting to host an open dialogue, specifically requesting diverse communities of people to attend in order to more effectively disseminate the ideas of radical feminism. Instead of organizing an event intended only for female-born persons (which they have every right to do), they invited most everyone. I fail to see how this is sufficient cause for deplatforming. On the contrary, should not this be more reason to host them? Should not this be encouraged in our communities, for the sake of understanding and a healthy exchange of ideas? Is this not exactly what this world needs?
The more one considers your actions, the more one cannot help but to feel that you all have simply capitulated to the violent and incessant threats of misogynists. And make no mistake – anyone who disagrees that women have a right to organize away from men and to name men as their oppressors when all evidence proves this is a misogynist, just as anyone who disagrees that people of color have a right to organize away from whites and name white people as their oppressors is a racist. This does not mean that every member of the oppressor class has some palpable, conscience sense of hating oppressed people, but that the collective behavior of those privileged persons causes the oppression of the oppressed. These concepts are not cognitively challenging. One merely has to consider them through the eyes of justice, which I formally believed was an underlying tenet of your community’s beliefs.
I urge you to reconsider your decision, and to side with justice and not with reactionary behavior. Please host the Radfems Respond event, and show the world that you intend to stand by your values and carry on the strong social justice tradition of your community.
Dear Friends of the Multnomah Meeting House,
I am writing first and foremost today to express my deep sorrow over your decision to no longer host the Radfems Respond conference in May. I am a young man who grew up in the Quaker community; it was through Quakerism that I was first exposed to feminism, and then to radical feminism years later. The two women I consider most important in my personal journey towards solidarity with radical feminists were both Quakers who found in radical feminism the most precise expression of the principles that motivate the Friends: Equality, dignity, compassion, and a true hope for a peaceful world.
It is because of this that I am so saddened to see that you have gone back on your promise to help these women reach out to those who want to learn more about their liberation movement. At a time when these women needed the most support, in the midst of threats and slanders, I cannot help but feel that you chose to side with those uninterested in healthy exchange or peaceful dialogue. By attempting to silence these radical women, you have given creedence to the bizarre and untrue claims made by their enemies and sent the message that violent speech and abuse are appropriate ways to silence women.
I must ask, in my confusion and my frustration: What were the sins of these women that justified their deplatforming? Was it their insistance on women-only spaces, their bold claim that females terrorized daily by males have the right to meet outside the presence of their oppressors? Does that idea so bother you that it justifies censorship and silencing? Or was it their insistance that the mutilation of healthy sexual organs is inhumane and immoral? By refusing to say that anyone’s body is wrong, refusing to say that any body deserves to be torn apart, sliced, and stitched back together to meet the demands of society, did they earn your scorn? These women believe, as I’m sure you do, that Creation is reflected in all of us – and that violent surgeries and body modifications are not the right way to honor that Creation.
If it wasn’t these two positions – that women have the right to define and protect their own spaces, and that no one’s body is a mistake – then I ask, what was it? The only other answer I can imagine would be that this is not a principled move but instead capitulation to violent and abusive individuals who would like to see a conference devoted to starting an open dialogue shut down. And if that is the case, I am very disappointed.
Radfems Respond will continue all the same, but I am still hurt to see the way these women have been treated. As a supporter of radical feminism and a man with a deep appreciation of the Religious Society of Friends, I must express my frustration and ask that you examine your reasons for deplatforming women who have devoted their lives to the cause of liberation. Listen to the Inner Light, as my mentor would say, and see if it does not convict you of an act that appears to so many as anathema to the spirit of the Friends.
To the Multnomah Friends,
I’m a longtime supporter of the Quakers. My grandfather’s memorial service was held at a Meeting House in Seattle, my sister was a former employee of AFSC, and her fiancé is a current AFSC employee who fights social injustice and racism with fervent passion – and is able to do so for 40 hours a week because of the Friends.
My respect for the Quakers has always been unshakable.
That’s why I was so very disappointed to hear that you have reneged on your offer to host the RadFems Respond event. Many people, confronted with the conflict between radical feminists and genderists, jump to the conclusion that radical feminism is bigoted, and rush to distance themselves. This is a mistake.
The radical feminists who I know, including the organizers of this event, are among the kindest, most justice-loving people I know. They want to uphold human rights and human dignity for everyone – something I know is central to the traditions of the Friends – and this event was organized in the spirit of dialogue and open discussion of conflict.
Please reconsider your decision to cancel this event. Do not let censorship of important, non-hateful political ideas become something you endorse.
I was very, very disappointed to hear that you had agreed to de-platform a radical feminist gathering based on lies you had been told about the speakers.
I have always deeply respected the Friends for their courage – e.g. refusing to fight during WWI or WWII on principled grounds.
To now see your organization caving to lies from radical “trans” activists and de-platforming feminist women who disagree with sexist myths about innate or inborn gender is disheartening, to say the least.
I hope you will reconsider. You are on the wrong side of history on this issue if you side with those who work every day to silence and oppress gender-critical women for our principled objections to misogynist ideas about gender roles.
Susan B Journey
Friends, I am very sad to hear that the Multnomah Meeting House agreed to allow an educational conference called Radfems Respond, then allowed itself to be intimidated by some of the same people who have been harassing the organizers for some time, and breached your agreement.
It is not like the Friends to fail to live up to agreements, to condone and assist in harassment of feminists, or to take political positions harmful to women’s speech.
I am terribly disappointed.
My name is Lierre Keith. I am one of the organizers of RadFems Respond as well as one of the speakers. I am writing to express my dismay that Multnomah Meetinghouse has canceled our event.
I grew up in Philadelphia and have known Quakers my entire life. I have been to Meetings for Worship in some of the oldest meetinghouses in the United States. I also acknowledge the influence that the Society of Friends has had in the social movements that matter most to me, the feminist, anti-racist, and peace movements. If I was going to be a Christian, I would be a Quaker.
I have read the petition by Hollis Proffitt, asking Multnomah Meetinghouse to cancel RadFems Respond. I don’t know who in your community talked with you about their concerns, but judging from that petition, you have been lied to. None of the organizers or speakers—some of whom I have known for decades—have advocated for violence or abuse against anyone. If you ask Proffitt and her supporters for proof—and I urge you to ask—they will not be able to provide you with any. I can state categorically that none of the speakers at this event have ever threatened anyone.
The petition is a series of lies, ranging from the bizarre to the offensive. Proffitt says that Sheila Jeffreys (whose name she doesn’t even spell correctly) “convinced congress to cancel a plan to cover gender-related healthcare for those suffering from gender dysphoria.” Jeffreys is not a US citizen, doesn’t live in the US, and has never testified before congress. This is a complete fabrication.
Proffitt further asserts that my group, Deep Green Resistance, has “publicly posted naked pictures of local trans women from Eugene.” Before you believe something so wretched, you need to ask Proffitt for proof. You need to ask her to provide one example of me or any organization that I belong to doing this. She will not, of course, be able to provide an example. The core of my political work for thirty-four years has been fighting pornography as a form of violence against women. Amongst all of Proffitt’s lies, this one is particularly galling. It would be ridiculous if it wasn’t so repulsive. Yet Multnomah Meeting is willing to accept these baseless and frankly vile accusations against me. Why?
Are you going to ask her and her colleagues why they are lying? Why not? And most importantly, if they are lying so blatantly about this, how can you accept anything they say in good faith?
Let me give you some actual facts about the abuse and violence in this conflict. It is the transgender activists and their allies who have made threats—including some horrible sexual threats—against feminist activists. I personally have been targeted repeatedly. In 2012, I was a speaker at RadFem Reboot, which took place at the Multnomah Meetinghouse. Because of the threats against both me and the event, I had to have six members of Iraq Vets Against the War as a personal escort. Sam Berg has all the details about the threats and her experience with the police if you want more information.
In June 2013, a feminist event in London (UK), Radical Feminism 2013, lost its booking at the Irish Centre because of threats of violence made by transgender activists against the facility and the staff. Understand: these threats engendered enough fear in the centre’s professional staff that the venue backed out. The organizers were able to find another venue, the Camden Centre, but dozens of police were deployed around the building to keep the participants and speakers (including me) safe. Again, all of this is documented if you want further details.
In July 2013, Sam Berg and I were both organizers of an event in Toronto called RadFem Rise Up. We lost our venue, Beaver Hall, because once again the venue was flooded with threats from transgender activists. You have received a letter attesting to this incident from Trish Oliver, a resident of Beaver Hall. Despite the hostility, our event went on, meeting at a private location. But the transgender activists stalked and infiltrated our meeting and ultimately we had to involve the police. Let’s be clear about who we were and what our conference was about. We were a small group of women who talked about reproductive rights, prostitution, rape culture and sexual bullying, and political resistance. Participants included survivors of the sex industry as well as a woman with an infant currently living in a shelter. These are the terrible, abusive women that transgender activists are trying to silence.
This past February, I was slated to speak at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference at the University of Oregon. The threats against me were so unrelenting that the university administration hired six police officers to keep me safe. You will not find a single example—not anywhere—of a transgender person needing a police escort to stay safe from feminists. And while I was not hurt, the head of my personal security crew was assaulted while escorting me to my car.
These are a few incidents among many. If you want more examples, I can provide them. The pattern is the same. Women try to meet to discuss the violence, dehumanization, and exploitation that we face as women and we are threatened into silence. Yet Multnomah Meeting is condemning feminists as the abusers. Again, feminists have never attempted to shut down a transgender event, violently or otherwise.
You have also characterized a one-way flow of threats as “bickering.” I need to say: when you require a police escort of six to keep you safe, then you can tell me that death threats are “bickering.” Until then, I would ask you, as Friends and as human beings, to recognize that what my colleagues and I have endured is serious intimidation, including actual violence.
I have abused no one, threatened no one. I have disagreed with transgender activists, and in a pluralistic democracy that is my right. But apparently that is now a sin. Yes, in patriarchy, women saying no to men is both high treason and apostasy. Feminists around the world will keep saying it because “no” is the exact boundary where male entitlement ends and female resistance begins.
I know you have already condemned me, but if you feel any loyalty to either truth or fairness on principle, I urge you to familiarize yourselves with my actual work, rather than the blatant and disgusting lies the transgender activists are spreading about me. The relevant links are below.
What I was going to say at RadFems Respond. Please note the word “transgender” appears nowhere:
My talk at RadFem Reboot, Multnomah Meetinghouse, July 2012:
The only article I have written on the subject of transgender politics:
Dear friends of the Maltnomah Meeting House,
I am writing regarding your decision to deplatform the Radfems Respond event.
The reason for this event is to create a safe space for people to have constructive dialogue about the systems of gender and prostitution. That’s it, a safe space for dialogue.
At a time when peaceful social-justice activists, students and young people are being framed as terrorists, imprisoned, and more often in the past ten years, killed for daring to protest against the degradation of our social system and the very planet we live on; when whistleblowers are imprisoned and journalists are no longer safe to write about the truth, it is both dangerous and unconscionable to capitulate with the frenzied idea that women speaking about gender and prostitution, in the open, is hate speech.
Having been born as a female in a male-dominated society, I understand intrinsically what it means to be at the bottom of the hierarchy of gender, an abusive system so widespread and prevalent it seems normal. I live in New York City. I have only to step into Times Square and see a fifty foot billboard of a woman on her knees, in her underwear, to know what place has been designated to me in this hierarchy.
As a radical feminist, having worked in several domestic violence shelters, over the course of ten years, I have been up-close and personal with the suffering of other women on the bottom of the hierarchy of gender. The women pouring through these domestic violence shelters, and the 1500 other domestic violence shelters across the US, wanted to understand one thing: Why? Why were they being hurt in astronomical numbers?
When I learned of another baby girl in our shelter having been raped, by her father, I had one question: Why? Why would a father do this to his child?
The answer to the “Why?” – Why is one in two women beaten by her male partner? Why is one in three women raped in this culture? Why are pornography and prostitution multi-billion dollar, global industries? Why are children being raped? Why has the sexual trafficking of women and children in poor areas of the world become a tourist attraction? The answer to all these “whys?” can be found in one word: Gender.
And yet somehow, the desire to speak about these issues publicly, to discuss the harm that is happening to all of us, within the system of gender, the plea for a cease-fire of aggression and hope for a civil discourse is being framed as hate speech. Radical feminists are being silenced, along with other social activists, along with whistleblowers and journalists for daring to analyze the systems of oppression that are leaving vast numbers of women and children in their wake and calling for public discourse.
This enrages me. It terrifies me. I wonder if you can possibly understand that this breaks my heart.
I have one question for you, the friends of the Maltnomah Meeting House.
I am deeply disappointed to receive the news that you have canceled the RadFems Respond event. The event would have opened up much needed civil discussion about radical feminism. I am a member of Deep Green Resistance and have witnessed multiple times now how quickly lies about radical feminism and DGR have brought people, who I originally thought were strong in principle, to cave in on their own principles without much information. First lies are spread, then death threats and harassment, finally some sort of letter and/or petition to deplatform and silence those who ideologically do not agree about gender, even if the individual will not be speaking about that topic. Usually, the goal is complete silence unless there is a complete agreement. I cannot understand how any person of principle and integrity would find this acceptable and agree to comply with such a biased request.
I understand that much of the harassment is very scary and not to be taken lightly, but this is what many women who question or disagree with gender face constantly. I sincerely hope that you have looked further into the completely false and outrageous claims that have been made by Hollis Proffitt, and if you have not then I urge you to take a honest look. This type of stuff is not merely bickering when one looks at the harassment women have received due to the spreading of these types of lies.
I hope you will reconsider your decision and support the RadFems Respond event and the women who have organized the event to further discussion between people even if they disagree. Women face oppression every day, especially when they dare to challenge gender, but complying with those who attempt to silence through lies, death threats, and harassment only further normalizes this oppression.
Dear Friends of the Multnomah Meeting House,
My name is Mary Ceallaigh, and I am writing to express my sadness at learning that Multnomah Friends, influenced by false information, have cancelled the event “Radfems Respond,” which was slated to host speaker Lierre Keith, a well-published scholar & humanitarian beloved in the feminist and ecological community, who has been condemned by the Multnomah Meeting as part of the cancellation of the RadFem Respond conference.
I am a graduate of the Quaker-founded Pacific Oaks College with a degree is in Human Development followed by many years in international midwifery & parenting education. In my college years I completed two practicums at the Pacific Oaks Children’s School from 1990-1991. I am also former Assistant Director of the Quaker-founded Pacific-Ackworth Children’s School in Temple City, California. During the years I lived in Pasadena, I attended Orange Grove Meeting for Worship and was a dedicated member of the Animal Kinship Committee, with my dear sister-friend Kathryn Carpenter who continues to serve at Orange Grove.
I have a pretty good understanding of the clearness committee process involved in decisioning, and that this decision reflects even just one member having concerns regarding aforementioned information, and that this does necessarily reflect all members of the committee and Meeting at large. I urge you to re-consider this information’s libellous nature towards the scholarly feminist community and towards the women who routinely are having to ward off harassment and libel perpetuated by certain “trans activists.” Not only do these who oppose feminism seek to abolish women’s-only spaces for biological females, they also maintain an ongoing campaign intent on shutting down feminist-inclusivness within social-justice organizations. Those keen to do this are a group comprised mainly of transsexual men (born male and aspiring to be female) who also actively lobby for normalizing the new industry of pre-emptive gender-reassignment surgery & drugs for underage children, and the large “trans” conferences they promote are being funded by industrial interests such as pharmaceutical companies and plastic surgery conglomerates.
From a human development perspective, I support the trans-critical discourse of the feminist community as important for social-justice confrontation of adult stereotypes around what is “womanly” behavior and “manly” behavior in a time when, more than ever, we need to be enlightened enough to abandon gender stereotypes and join together in defending the ecology of both human and non-human species. For this reason, last year I joined the 100% volunteer-run social justice environmental organization Deep Green Resistance, into which I have dedicated my vocational efforts – because I feel time is short in the fight against the industrialism that is perpetuating ecocide & misogyny.
In closing I would like to appeal to the deep roots of women’s history in Quakerism.
I would like to ask you to consider what Lucretia Mott might say, if informed of that which is trying to silence dignified and noble feminist speakers of the current humanitarian leading edge in fighting for human rights in general, and the rights of girls & women in particular. It was the Quakers in Pennslylvania who believed in biological women’s rights enough to set up the first women’s medical college IN THE WORLD – the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, in Germantown in 1850. And, the American Friends Service Committee has upheld staunch solidarity with women in alliances with Feminist Women’s Health projects and feminist critical discourse on militarism.
What the feminist and social-justice communities are currently experiencing – with the scurrilous, and even violent Trans campaign to silence women’s voices & women’s spaces – is deserving of clarity and support akin to that given to those who conscientiously object militarism. Make no mistake: the campaign to shutdown transcritical discourse is not sourced in intelligent, dignifed debate – it is blatant misogyny in its tactics and philosophy. I stand with feminist women and pro-feminist men in condemning the attempt by some in trans community to shut down women’s discourse, and I ask you to do the same.
Strengthen Quaker solidarity against the war on women, and be a much-needed safe house!
Members of the Multnomah Meetinghouse,
I am writing this letter to voice my disagreement with the recent decision by your board to back out of your contract to host the RadFems Respond Conference.
I am a member of Deep Green Resistance, which in the past few years has been fictitiously accused of being “transphobic”, a “hate group”, as well as divisive to the common goal of building an effective environmental movement. I am writing to voice my deepest regret at your decision and to show support for the brave women whom have suffered the most from these attacks.
Our stance on gender may be different from the “mainstream” view of feminism as it exists today, but differing in politics does not equate to being a “hate group”. I have never seen one instance of any radical feminists espouse hatred, hate-filled language, threats of violence, threats of rape, or any other type of emotional or physical harm to a person who identifies as trans, queer, or otherwise not in agreement with a radical feminist perspective. On the contrary, I have seen countless examples of misogyny from those who self-identify as “queer”. I have seen documented evidence of death threats and rape threats against radical feminists in our group. I have heard the stories of physical intimidation and violence, censorship, and outright discrimination. I have been disgusted with the vitriol and the utter lack of debate about the topic. As a male who benefits immensely from patriarchy, the same system that endorses prostitution, rape culture, and female objectification, I can say that I fundamentally do not agree with gender identity/ queer politics. I believe that it only enforces and obfuscates the social construct known as gender. In doing so, it makes the oppressive nature of gender that much more difficult to fight. And as a male, I can say that gender identity politics do nothing to dismantle the male privilege I receive from our current system. In many regards, it enhances it. Radical feminism, I believe, addresses the root of the issue, in that what we need to do is to dismantle gender itself, not merely “play” with it. But we can only do so with a class based analysis.
What I would like to express here is not so much a critique of queer/gender identity politics, but to highlight the continued oppression its politics as well as your tacit support of them signifies to women across the world. By bowing to the pressure from trans-activists to not allow space for women, an oppressed group, to organize in whatever way they feel comfortable, you are perpetuating their oppression. No one in radical feminism is calling for the extermination, destruction, or harassment of trans-individuals. No one is saying that they can’t change their name or how they dress. But what I cannot support is trans-activists telling a group of oppressed peoples that they must allow space for their “personal” identity politics. It is insulting, oppressive, and ultimately destructive. I hope that you reconsider your decision and please stand with those brave individuals who choose the hard path of working to destroy the system of patriarchy. Thank you and take care.
Dear Friends of the Multnomah Meeting House,
It is with great displeasure I learned of the recent action of your organization to deprive radical feminist women to meet in dialogue with the public. Of course I am speaking of the RadFems Respond event that I understand that you have cancelled, despite having given these women assurances that your organization would host this event, even in the likelihood of controversy which their work often entails (and it is sad work indeed to be forced to endure the threats and lies that accompany any public point of view which questions men’s ability to invade any and all space).
I want to relate a story that I hope will help you to reconsider to your decision. I was recently at a party and talking to a gay friend of mine, (the host of the party) who has been active in the gay community for many years. When a question came up regarding whether he had considered becoming “trans” and to no-one’s surprise, he said he had. This had been a very serious decision he had grappled with in his youth. He was almost ready to engage in these life and body changing events, when he was able to have a discussion with radical feminists he knew. These women raised new question for him to consider, and ultimately, he decided not to explore becoming “trans” any further. It is some 30 years later now, and at this party, he stated that it his encounter with radical feminist that had saved him from the life altering hormones and surgeries that would have disfigured his body. He is very grateful to this day that he was able to engage with the radfem point of view, and continues to be grateful for his unaltered body. He has no regrets about his decision and is very confident that this was without a doubt the best decision for him.
I know this is a simple story, but it is one that illustrates that at the very least the radical feminist point of view should be one that is on the table for discussion. Ideas do impact people’s lives, and often in dramatic ways. Please don’t be intimidated by those who hurl the word transphobic at anyone who opposes their (read men’s) political agenda. That is what they are counting on. To be clear, radical feminist don’t violate the rights of trans people in anyway, nor do they advocate violence against any in the trans community. The threats against women worldwide are multiple, and multiplying. If you choose to cancel this event, as I have heard you have, you are choosing to cancel an event that proposes to seek understanding and dialog between men and women, and are choosing implicitly to side with those who threaten, intimidate, and hope to silence those that disagree with them. I do hope you will make the right choice and reconsider cancelling this event, as the choice that supports women, simply hoping to have dialog, is so very obvious.
Dear Friends of the Multnomah Meeting House,
I have become aware of your choice to cancel the event Radfems Respond. I am a pro-radical feminist man, and I want you to know that this is heart breaking. I dont know very much about the Quakers, yet the stories I have heard from friends about you have always been an inspiration to me, especially compared to most religious organizations and groups. So it is incredibly unfortunate that I have been let down, that this experience has really changed my mind about how I view the Quaker community. How sad it is, that you made a promise, and then, because of outright lies, which you seem to have failed to investigate, you backed out. All I see in this is cowardice, in what I thought was one of the most principled and courageous groups that existed in our community. Many people have written to you, explaining the situation in much more detail. I lend my support to them, and I ask that you re-consider your decision. Decide what is right: open and peceful dialogue with the community(what Radfem Respond proposes)- or lies, intimidation, and cowardice.
In love and light,
I first became aware of the Quaker movement in 2007 through the American Friends Service Committee Eyes Wide Open exhibit. As a member of Military Families Speak Out, Veterans for Peace and CODEPINK Women for Peace, I helped install the exhibit a number of times in Phoenix, in Denver and Washington DC. For the past 6 years, I have installed our state exhibit and walked alongside the boots of Arizona’s KIA in the Phoenix Veterans Day Parade with Chapter 75 Veterans for Peace. We are the only entry in the country’s largest Armistice Day Parade that brings a message of peace instead of glorifying militarism to this Phoenix event that attracts 200,000 people.
I was happy and hopeful when I heard Multnomah Friends Meeting House would be hosting Radfems Respond. As a feminist who shares Radical Feminist philosophies and has made a commitment to nonviolence I understand the need to develop a conversation between these two groups that will lead to understanding and respect.
I hope that your community was not subject to the threats from the same small fraction of the transgender activist community that we have been experiencing every time we attempt to gather. This only makes the division wider and more acceptable every time they manage to frighten a venue into compliance with their demands. This meeting was supposed to address the truth, it was a time for both sides to reach out and work together toward peace and find commonalities. I’m disappointed it will not be happening under your watch. Like the boots, a vision of war, often leads to conversation of peace. If you reconsider, I will once again stand with you and do my part to bring awareness of the need for understanding and peace.
Thank you for always being steadfast in your commitment to end war.