Members of Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns gathered online for our Midwinter Gathering from Friday, February 17th, through Monday, February 20th, 2023. More than 150 people registered from all over North America and from Honduras, Australia, Sweden, Costa Rica, and England. Some Friends were attending their first FLGBTQC gathering; some had been involved for 40 years or more. Though age is difficult to discern over Zoom, we felt blessed to have attendance by Friends at many parts of the life spectrum and to have the children of some Friends join us at times.
Our theme was “Queer Hearts: Relationships, Non-monogamy and More.” In two keynote panels, Friends put their non-traditional relationships at the center, addressing the themes “Queer Hearts: More than Two ‘Bi’ Two”, and “Queer Hearts: Our Sacred Stories”. Panel members shared deeply from their spiritual journeys and their leadings to live authentically. Similarly, in worship sharing breakout rooms, Friends shared their experiences in relationships that don’t align with dominant cultural norms and examined their own values, needs, and leadings.
“I have been called to live in community.”
Although connecting virtually once again, due to the continued pandemic, the web of light was palpable as it flowed between us, from one heart to another, like mist between the distances.
“We will go wherever Spirit guides us, even if that’s apart.”
This Midwinter, we used storytelling to speak truth to power, to name harms within and against our community, and to deepen the connection to allow the Light to grow stronger. In 1999, FLGBTQC Friends wrote, “We are learning that radical inclusion and radical love bring further light to Quaker testimony and life.” This remains true to this day. Storytelling is the language of human experience, and this weekend we heard stories of Friends’ most tender experiences, pulled from the place where curiosity and compassion are born. Friends were invited to notice where in their bodies messages were landing and encouraged to offer compassion toward the person bringing the message; toward themselves; and to everyone else witnessing. More than once in our community, we harmed one another. We continue to practice naming, addressing, and owning harm that has occurred. We know we will never be perfect on our own. We lean on spirit and community as we grow. We are human. We are learning. We are unlearning. We are listening.
“I am neither the biggest nor the smallest thing in my life.”
Creative terms came to light such as “neurospicy” and “genderspicy” as we expanded our knowledge of identity and sense of self.
As always, we enjoyed a range of talents in the cabaret. Gentle persuasion by our wonderful treasurer helped the group collect $73 toward the purchase of a lovely gown displayed and modeled for us by a Friend.
“I want to feel like a ripple in a trans world.”
Coming together for the first Business Meeting since the restructuring of our group, we learned about past and future activities of the newly created Heart Team, Tech Team, Treasurers Team, and Worship Team. These teams offer Friends a way to hold the community in a way that is flexible and responsive to their needs. Friends were reminded that if they are present, they are community, they are wanted here, and we will hold them in this Glorious Light.
“I knew I could be something, but I couldn’t be everything.”
The Heart Team invited guests to Midwinter Gathering in light of significant current events across the US, including the introduction of 599 anti-LGBTQ bills (278 in 2022, and already 321 in 2023), most of which directly target trans folks. Friends held space at one of the breakout room “lunch tables” and also led an interest group on the following day. The Heart Team encourages everyone to consider their rightful place in relation to this effort.
Those interested were asked to reach out further to the heart team via email to [email protected].
The Midwinter Gathering Committee and the The Heart Team worked hard to create a joyful, affirming environment where people could connect through shared identities and interests in breakout rooms with names like, “Flirty & Fun,” “People of Color Affinity Space,” and “Nonbinary & GNC Affinity Space.” There was also virtual space for Friends to connect more intimately, one-on-one.
Friends came together bearing wounds, joys, and concerns. For some the gathering was painful. For others it was a time of self exploration, unearthing privileges previously unacknowledged, strengthening identities or new comings-out, and bringing light to the harm of privilege.
We were all gathered together; and in doing so we were called to learn how to better love each other. We are glad we could widen the embrace of our community this year to make more space for Friends with non-traditional relationships. We strive to seek justice and care collectively as we move forward. We continue to listen for how Spirit is moving among us.
Our affection for each other is palpable and we are so grateful to have had this gathering. On Zoom or in person we celebrate our relationships with each other, and we look forward to the future.
–– Peg Bernstein, FLGBTQC Clerk