Towards a Quaker View of Sex

Meeting Minutes, 5 Oct 1958


The group affirmed their name; members reported on their activities; discussion about how best to get input from Young Friends; memo attached that Wedmore wrote in 1956--The Invert and Society.


Keith Wedmore Papers


The Quaker Group on Homosexuality and Other Problems of Sex

Minutes of Meeting held on October 5th, 1958

1. Apologies for Absence.
Kenneth Barnes
Kenneth Nicholson
Marion Fairn
Alastair Heron.

3. Minutes of last meeting, 10th September, are taken as read.

After discussion we agreed the name for the group given at the head of these Minutes.

4. Reports.
Anna bidder has reported on the meeting which she and Kenneth Nicholson had with the Central Committee of Young Friends:

There is a wide range of outlook among Young Friends. Some had personal experience of homosexuality and would welcome a meeting with this group. Others felt that this matter was outside the concern of Young Friends. The Central Committee is prepared to send representatives to our meeting on the 7th December.

Lotte Rosenberg is asked to write to the Clerk of the Central Committee and, when names of representatives have been received, she will invite them.

A group of London Friends is concerning themselves with part II of the Wolfenden Report. We think it advisable to get into contact with them. Anna Bidder will write to Mary Harper, a member of that group as well as of the central Committee of Young Friends and she will ask her to join us on the 7th December.

5. Discussion of our Approach to Young Friends
We shall state our concern and then ask Young Friends to give their opinion. One of the main problems of the homosexual is his belief that he is the only deviant although in fact the problem of homosexuality will concern each generation. The Young Friend faced with homosexuality believing himself the only person so afflicted feels isolated from the Society of Friends and therefore the whole problem never reaches beyond the individual case.

In meeting Young Friends we aim at exploring the situation confronting them.

6. Discussion of the Questionnaire (a draft questionnaire by Lotte Rosenberg is considered.)
We should omit any question referring to the person's own personal life, but concentrate on general questions. Although we wish to receive information regarding sexual problems arising in Quakerism it is better tactics to commence with such questions that relate to Quaker concerns for the wider world. There are two approaches: (a) sexual problems arising in Quakerism, (b) The Quaker attitude towards problems arising in the wider society. It is with the latter approach that we think it best to begin.

We wonder whether Quakers have a blind spot for problems of sex, for the interest shown is much less than the energy and resources which are given to the solution of other social troubles. We wonder whether Quakers would find it difficult to reveal their own childhood experiences, but they can, without such inhibition, give their opinion regarding the importance of children experiences in general. In our formulation of the questions we shall need to take consideration of the specific blind spots of Quakerism.

"Remember then that are in bonds, as bound with them"; those words, spoken during our Meeting for Worship, could be accepted as our motto.

7. Young Friends Groups
Some detailed consideration was given to the form of the questions to be put to the Young Friends Group and Duncan Fairn was asked to submit the following draft for Anna Bidder to use in writing to the Group:

"I think you know that some of us have been meeting from time to time, largely as a result of the publication of the Wolfenden Report and the experience some of us have had, especially in University towns, in an attempt to make a fresh analysis of the ethics and morals of the whole field of sexual relationships for us as Christians and Quakers. We want to take nothing for granted by to get back to the very beginning, with such questions as what acts and relationships do we consider wrong and why? As we hope that you and some of your colleagues will meet with us at our next meeting on December 7th at the University Women's Club, 2 Audley Square, London, W.1.,we wonder whether you would help us by considering the following questions and let us know what your views are:

(1) Do you consider that Young friends are faced with problems of sex in the same way as other young people?

(2) If so, please state what the problems are.

(3) Have you found (a) your local Meeting (b) individual Friends helpful to those Young Friends who have sexual problems, for example, whether between boy and girl, between those of the same sex and also of couples before and after marriage?

(4) Do you feel that Friends are to hide-bound in their attitude towards sex? If so, in what respects?

(5) Do you find that the attitude of Friends Schools has been especially helpful in these problems?

8. As promised last time the memorandum from Keith Wedmore following the first meeting of the Group, is attached.

9. Agenda for next meeting

The next meeting will take place on Sunday, 7th December, at 10:30 at the University Women's Club, 2 Audley Square, W.1.

Morning Session:
(a) Report of the discussion at the Marriage and Parenthood Committee (Marion Fairn and Anna Bidder).
(b) Preparations of questions which will shall address to headmasters of Friends Schools.

16 Back Street,
St. Cross, WINCHESTER, Hants.

The Invert and Society

"Love is all of one piece--from the love of mother and child to the love of sweethearts, husbands and wives, and friends. It is present, too, in the Labourer's devotion to his work, in the teacher's solicitude for her pupils, in the physicians's dedication to his art. All that heals, cultivates, protects and inspires--all this is a part of Love."
--foreword to Dr. Bainton's "Love or Perish"

"Deus est Caritas, qui menet in Caritate menet in Deo, et Deus in illo. Sic Deus in nohis, et nos maneamus in Illo."
--the Grace of Jesus College, Cambridge

All relationships involve some kind of bridge between personalities, the establishment of a link with the unknown and the different in somebody else. Where there is much traffic across this bridge, it flows familiarly and freely; where the intercourse is small and infrequent, it is more hesitant and uncertain. Sometimes nobody has ever crossed the bridge; and then, perhaps, when somebody does start, the fear of the unknown that is deep within us makes them turn back. "Nobody can cross that bridge," they say, and talk of turbulent waters, and cold foreign shores that nobody would wish to visit.

This is the structure of much of the failure of society, this failure of human relationships, and the pattern is basically the same where ever we look; in race relations, or those between nations, or between society and the delinquents is produces. The super freedom of modern life gives us a swirling turbulent background, its failure is a failure to relate. Many retreat from the struggle into the mental home; others express their uncertainty in aggression: "Here, Joe, there's a stranger; heave half a brick at him".

The problem of the invert is just part of this larger problem of society, and in no wise divisible from it. For the problem of the invert is not a propensity to love his fellow men; for if love is a good thing, one cannot have too much of it; no, the problem is a small chunk of that larger problem, a failure to relate: in this case, with the opposite sex. When that exists, with the noncomitant necessity to find all the satisfactions that relationships can offer among one's own kind, then there is a breach of that communion which God intended to exist among all his creatures.

Most people learn the pattern of love that they will follow all their life, while they are still children, from their parents and friends. A deep and proper closeness with each parent will give them an awareness of each sex, and an ability to relate with it; and a successful dependence, at the learning stage of life, on other males and females--such as brothers and sisters--starts that confidence in dealing with others including that familiarity with getting close to them and receiving love from them, which should last the rest of their years.

Early failures to relate upset this pattern, and continue to do so until they are recognised. The homosexual shys away from the woman's love--suppose it can nothing for him--and often, oddly enough, that he has too much already. For often his mother appears doting and possessive, or in such relationships as he has, it seems to be that he goes no further. But the truth may often be, not that he cannot love women, but that no woman ever loved him; once the total absence of what is apparently having to be rejected can be realised, then a change in attitude can be brought about. A person needs love; if he does not like it, either it is not love, or his ability to receive it is impaired, as, for example, by not having had it before.

In this situation, little is to be done by expelling boys from boarding schools, where usually what is going on is a more sharing of physical experience; nor may such real relationships as are formed here or in later life be profitably attacked; firstly because, ex hypothesis, they are all a man has and, secondly, because, oddly enough, they may be a way to his salvation. A deep and satisfactory relationships with either sex (and disturbed people often have had very few) helps in later relationships with each, for Love is Indivisible, and where it gains strength here, is the better able to wander on elsewhere.

This is the basis of the problem, this the root, the other aspects, merely symptoms, often connected with the other problems of society. Only therapy may help some individuals, in whom long loneliness grow a despair which carried off the bridge, or made its passage seem uncommon, perilous; and only education and patience may help society, with its ignorance and fear, its offer of suspicion not love, and its concentration limited o the bits of the problem it can see. Does a person get lost in a fog through following others at random? The society supposes that the best answer would be to blindfold him altogether. But this is not the case. People have to see and follow better, not worse, and so fine a surer passage, and a more sturdy bridge, into the lands occupied by their neighbours, and into that fellowship which lives in loving and knowing one other person well.

New York City 4 September 1956