Among Friends: Sharing Our Truths

Talking about sexuality and gender is often a kind of truth telling. Who are we? How do we identify ourselves? How do we want others to treat us? I think it’s safe to say that we all have unique life histories, experiences, passions. Very few of us fit cleanly into any one narrative of social expectation.

Lisa Graustein, a sexuality educator and Friend from New England, gives us a good primer on gender, sexuality, and bodies. I appreciate the attention to detail she gives to sharing her own identity with a care that doesn’t prioritize it over how other people name themselves. The second half of the article profiles over a dozen Friends with a wonderfully wide range of gender self-identities and sexual orientations. It’s refreshing and more than a bit liberatory to see how different we can all be.

It may be obvious in a generic way that gender and sexuality should be concerns of the Quaker community: our mandate to find that of God in everyone sets a high bar on listening and inclusion. Basic friendliness and hospitality means we don’t divide our community into us’s and them’s. A half dozen Bible passages taken out of context don’t override our God-given intelligence and compassion. Love is a basic Quaker testimony.

But there’s more to explore. Kody Gabriel Hersh dives into our Quaker tradition to celebrate the good news of Jesus’s physicality and what it means for body positivity. Hersh then points out some unfortunate blind spots in the application of our historic testimonies.

Longtime Friends Journal readers might well remember Chloe Schwenke’s moving 2009 article, “Transitioning in the Light.” Schwenke is back to talk about how her transition grew into a ministry. There’s a lot of deep spiritual wisdom in the way she’s learned to live with questions that can’t always be answered.


My colleague Trevor Johnson helped put together a shortlist of resources for readers who want to know more about the topics in this article. It’s by necessity incomplete and changing. Keep in mind that no individual source speaks for the experiences of all individuals. When in doubt, read, listen, and respect the language people use to describe themselves.

FLGBTQC is a community of Quakers that come together twice a year in an affirming and safe space. They provide information about their work and some specifically Quaker resources. Website:

Trans Student Educational Resources has an updated glossary of terms, and further resources for information about gender and advocacy. Website:

Gender Spectrum is a collection of topical resources about gender, and an online community. Website:

Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network works with primary and secondary educators to create classrooms that are safe for LGBTQ students. Website:

Teaching Tolerance is a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center that maintains a number of resources for teachers. Website:

Our Bodies Ourselves is a nonprofit that works to increase knowledge of sexual health in many countries around the world. Website:

I am grateful for the Friends who continue to ask questions, seek answers, and follow the Light into parts of our practices and testimonies that are perhaps too limited.

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