Transgender exceptions making their way into Buddhist monasticism

Source: Tashi Choedup, a transgender Buddhist
monk (SouthFirst)

Monastic Buddhism’s traditional norms regarding gender and sexuality are gradually shifting to include LGBTQ persons and identities, writes Jue Liang in the online magazine, The Conversation (December 8). Liang notes that Buddhism has been strongly based on traditional gender roles, especially in its monastic traditions where men and women are segregated in their roles and even spatially in temples and monasteries. To be accepted in Buddhist communities, candidates have to meet a list of requirements, including unambiguous genitalia, and non-heterosexuals and those challenging the gender binary have been viewed as carrying a negative karma. These strictures still hold true in the Theravada tradition, as reflected in the attempt of the Thai Sanga Council, the governing Buddhist body in Thailand, to ban ordinations of transgender people.

But according to Liang the Mahayana and Vajrayana schools of Buddhism have allowed exceptions to the rules. In the Tibetan Buddhist world, Tashi Choedup, a transgender Buddhist monk, was ordained after his teacher refrained from inquiring about his gender identity as prescribed by the Vinaya. Choedup attended an inclusive monastic institution that did not enforce gender distinctions and the monastic now works to build awareness and inclusion for the transgender Buddhist community. Another case of a transgender monastic in Tibetan Buddhism was Tenzin Mariko, a former monk and a 2015 Miss Tibet contestant who is now an LGBTQ rights activist. Even in the Theravada tradition of Thai Buddhism, the restrictions against kathoey monastics (a term describing gender-nonconforming people) have eased as they have received ordination in their sex as recorded at birth.

(The Conversation,