Towards a Quaker View of Sex

Meeting Minutes, 6 Sept 1959


Bidder announced 1960-61 sabbatical requiring another chair of group; discussed approach to Friends--not to present moral code or finding, but to enable dialogue and learning; continued discussion of value of homosexuality in society and comparison of male and female homosexuality. Letter appended from two lesbians.


Keith Wedmore Papers


The Quaker Group on Homosexuality and Other Problems of Sex

Meeting held 6th September 1959 at the University Women's Club, 2 Audley Square, London W.1.

Members present:
Kenneth Barnes
Kenneth Nicholson
Lotte Rosenberg
Alfred Torrie
Anna Bidder

Apologies for absence:
Alastair Heron
Mervyn Parry
Richard Fox
Keith Wedmore
Duncan Fairn

1. The minutes were approved.

2. The attached letter from Stephen Thorne was read. It was agreed to send him and Doris Eddington the file of our minutes for meetings held in 1959. The hope was expressed by all that these two Friends would feel able to meet with us in October or, failing that, in December, and that they would be able to share the whole day with us so as to join in our Meeting for Worship. It should be pointed out that minutes represent the course of our thinking, not joint decision, and that any generalities must be misleading.

3. Dates of Meetings
It was felt that the three month gap which had elapsed since our last meeting was too long and should be avoided next year. It was agreed that we should try at our October meeting to fix the dates for next year.

4. Chairman
Anna Bidder announced that she expected to be out of England on a Sabbatical Year from the end of August 1960 to July 1961 so that a change of chairman would be necessary during the coming year.

5. Approach to Society of Friends:
We recalled our minutes of 3.5.59. It was re-emphasized that, when we seek to lay our concern before the Society of Friends, we do not offer a revised moral code, nor "Findings"--we would present ourselves as a research group and lay before the Society some of the questions which have presented themselves to us as challenges. We might even cast these in a form suitable for study groups of concerned Friends up and down the country.

It will probably seem right to put first before Friends our initial concern for the problems of young people and for the male homosexual imprisoned by ostracism and the present legal position. We have many times agreed that these factors make it easy for a young man with homosexual tendencies to become embedded in a homosexual society, and hard for him to once so entangled to extricate himself. It is important to recognise that homosexuality can be a real and bitter problem to men and women of high integrity leading good Christian lives.

We believe that Friends will respond with a liberal sympathy to this problem and that lack of knowledge is the chief problem in this field.

We should then make it clear that considering these problems has led us to wider consideration of problems of sexual morality. We have learnt to seek an approach to all human action that assesses it in the light of the will of God rather than in the light of man-made codes: "Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees..."

We are told that Friends who are parents of adolescents are likely to welcome the opportunity to discuss general problems of the Christian attitude towards sexual morality. We note that the Society has not to our knowledge reconsidered its attitude towards these for many decades, although implications of many other social problems have been often under discussion. We should present the problems as one of human relationships and have the greatest tenderness towards the minority in the Society who have a restricted view on problems of sex.

6. Our afternoon session has been devoted to the questions posed at the end of our last meeting on the value of the homosexual to society, and to a comparison of male and female homosexuality.

7. With regard to the first, we find it impossible to make any answer, since we are made increasingly aware of the immense number of different human situations and problems covered by the term "homosexual".

Many artists--actors, dancers and musicians--are homosexuals, but this may not always be due to the same cause, but to either temperament, upbringing or "fashion" in a particular circle.

Any fine relationship of affection is of benefit to society, whatever the sex and age of the individuals concerned. We subscribe on the whole to the last clause of our minutes of last time. We have received evidence that homosexuality only very rarely is inborn.

A great number of varieties of relationship are lumped under the name homosexuality. We should avoid anything that makes a person into a homosexual. In the creation God planned male and female. In the ideal society we should not wish to have 100% homosexuals or 100% heterosexuals, either would be a weakness and not an asset because they would be limited as personalities and in their personal contribution to society. Whatever a person has within him, whatever tendencies and limitations, something good can come from it by the grace of God, but that does not imply that God had planned it.

8. We have received a long document giving the outlook of a pair of women homosexuals and agreed that parts of this should be typed and circulated for our next meeting.

We discussed the differences between male and female homosexuality. There does not seem to be group homosexuality or promiscuity amongst girls as it is observed in boys. For a woman homosexual the maternal aspect is a vital part of her relationship, She can achieve sexual satisfaction without abandoning her female role, while in the case of male homosexuals one of the partners takes on a role which is contrary to his innate being. The apparent masculinity in a woman may be a protective maternal attitude. Women often some to homosexuality later than men and after failure in heterosexual relationships. Many of these women are quite conscious of their homosexual relationships being only a second best. The male homosexual more often comes to his attitude as a first choice and at a younger age. Often he is influenced in this choice by a fear of taking the initiative with a woman, while a woman is not required to take the initiative.

Summary of our discussion:
We consider that homosexuality is a term that covers many human situations and relationships, and its use, therefore, may affix a label that does not take record of a person's real value. We do not believe the God planned the homosexual attitude as a specific type of human relationship and our aim should be to avoid anything that may make a person into a homosexual. The value of anybody, in our view, does not depend on him being either heterosexual or homosexual. It is important what a person does with the condition in which he finds himself placed. A difference between male and female homosexuality is noted and in many cases a woman can remain true to her female role in a homosexual relationship, while the male homosexual often has to take on a role which is not in accord with his inner being as a man.

9. We see our work now as having two streams:
(a) to set down the result of our thinking up to date.
(b) to continue our exploration.
In the course of both we feel that subjects requiring specialist research may become defined of a kind for which we are not equipped but which others may wish to take up.

Date of next meeting: Sunday, 4th October, 10:30 a.m.