Letters - 15 September 2023

From Gifts from the gods? to Woodbrooke lament

Gifts from the gods?

Sharing the concerns of Anne Wade and Robin Waterson (letters, 31 August), I wrote to Paul Parker seeking clarification of his use of the word ‘gender’, which he described as a ‘sacred gift’ after signing the Charity So Straight pledge on behalf of British Quakers. Paul responded with exemplary promptness, with a definition of gender from the World Health Organization, which he said he had ‘personally found helpful’: ‘Gender encompasses the qualities of women, men, girls and boys that are personally and socially ascribed. It includes those groups that reject these binaries. It includes norms, expectations, behaviours and roles. It interacts with but is different from sex. It varies within and across societies and changes over time. It is hierarchical and produces inequalities. It interacts with other structures of discrimination including race, socioeconomic status and sexual orientation.’

I am not a theologian, but I cannot see how gender can be a ‘sacred gift’ when it reflects the ‘norms, expectations, behaviours and roles’ that are ‘personally and socially ascribed’ – this describes a human construct, not an expression of the Divine.

Sadly I’m old enough to remember when racism and homophobia were openly supported by ‘norms, expectations, behaviours and roles’ and they certainly are not sacred gifts.

Ol Rappaport

Further to the correspondence about trans people, we have to remember that many of the requirements of trans women are directly opposed to women’s rights, such as women-only shelters, sports events and changing rooms. The more we improve things for trans people, often the worse it is for the rest of us. I hope we will be aware of the effects on biological women while caring about our trans friends.

Lydia Vulliamy

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