Changing Genders, Changing Buddhists


Greetings, with the wish that we may all be relieved of the burden of gender identity. I am a trans woman who has also lived both male and female identities. Fascinating that I tried to promote this topic in a discussion somewhere on these pages a couple of weeks ago, which garnered little enthusiasm and even less understanding. In that discussion as I have many times before elsewhere I challenged male Buddhist s to explorer their masculine identities by donning a dress while shopping at Walmart. Unfortunately no one accepted my challenge.

I find this discussion most interesting because it is an an appropriate analogy to my life experience as a burgeoning trans-woman of the 1950’s type…which is to say very confused and very emotionally isolated by the circumstances of my birth. I’ll not belabor the point as I have described it ad infinitum elsewhere on this site, except to say that I was filled with a nihilistic sense of doom and a complete lack of self worth having internalized a full serving of hateful judgment at the mercy of a society ensconced in dualistic thinking regarding gender. .

Then in the late sixties with the popularizing of Eastern spirituality, I began to see some light regarding the implications of the conditioned of personality. Slowly but inexorably I discovered the path to liberation lay in understanding the freedom from afflictive emotion that came with understanding dependent origination.

Now, from my minimalist understanding of some of these Buddhist principle, we are back at the beginning of a discussion wherein I am confused about whether and how much to celebrate personality. and when to regard it as illusory. I have long been of the opinion that while it is important to acknowledge and respect my struggle in this material domain, it is most important to know that my struggle is commensurate with the amount of importance I place on gender which is apparently a human caused condition of living in the material world.

I have lived as a man and a woman and suffered life’s slings and arrows in both forms. I have walked the middle path, and can only hope that in my next incarnation I transcend a need for gender identification, despite the fact that no living example of that has yet appeared to me.

As always, I thank you and and pray for your liberation. With Metta.


I’ve wondered how many societal ills would be relieved or eliminated through the absence of the gender assignment at birth method which folks feel the need to perpetuate regardless of the evidence of confusion, pain and suffering that it can cause. Would sexism, mysogyny, and homophobia cease to exist if children were allowed to develop their identity without any expectations of conforming behaviors based on mere reproductive organs?
As a boy, I was subject to a litany of “tests” throughout adolescence and into young adulthood to prove my so called “manhood.” It was always uncomfortable for me, and I always participated reluctantly, for the sole purpose of retaining the few “friends” that I had managed to acquire, very few of which were meaningful in any way which satisfied my emotional needs. This might explain my continued lack of friendship with other men, and my proclivity towards focusing on my romantic relationships with women.
As for women, I’ve always placed them on a pedestal, as an idealized form of emotional maturity, grace, and fragility, not seeing that these very views were sexist and counter to understanding that women were, like me, complex beings who cannot be defined by narrow minded ideals.
I do not claim to know the suffering of those who question their gender identity, as I have only experienced my own, mostly hetero, but at times fluid, sexuality, which has mostly remained within my small realm of very few intimate acquaintances. I can, however, say that I have great compassion for anyone who has, or will have negative experiences due to discrimination based on people’s fears of the “other,” and the trials they must face in order to find peace in a world which would seem to be against them. My heart goes out to you, and I wish you peace, love and acceptance.



This Sakkapanha Sutta, part of it tells the story of a woman named Gopika, a Sakyan who has faith in the Buddhas, the Dhamma, and the Sangha, and who observed the precepts scrupulously. She rejected the status of a woman and developed the thought of becoming a man. Then, after her death, at the breaking up of the body, she reborn in a heaven state among the Thirty Three Gods, as one of Sakka’s sons, became known as Gopaka the devas’ son…


Dear Timothy, your insight and compassion are well received. Thank you for striving to understand the suffering and confusion caused by the imposition of gender roles.

I have often wondered this myself. I have even expressed thos feelings regarding Buddhism…without much support I shouild say. The whole world, including Buddhism, perpetuates this illusion despite the transparency of Gendered roles, as a control mechanism. My questions regarding the continued application of gender roles have been met with silence of subtle rebuke.

A resounding YES in my humble yet well informed opinion.

And back to you my friend. With Metta


Well, what do you actually mean when you say ‘The whole world, including Buddhism, perpetuates this illusion despite the transparency of Gendered roles, as a control mechanism.’?


I mean that despite the Buddhist concept of dependent origination, which creates a level playing field…or a substrate from which all material arises-which must include men, women and the rest of us-that men and women are still nested in a hierarchy which gives men dominance, and thus control, over women.

Please correct me if I am in error.


As far as I know, the traditional Theravada account is that dependent origination describes the mechanics of rebirth, i.e. how the stream of consciousness keeps going through samsara, life after life.

There are also some interpretations that de-emphasize rebirth and make it about one’s present life.

But in all the accounts I’ve heard, dependent origination is fundamentally about the origin of suffering; It’s the long version of the second noble truth.

I personally don’t see any obvious way in which dependent origination relates to early 21st century social hierarchies. I don’t see how acceptance or rejection of dependent origination implies any particular standpoint on gender or social hierarchies.

Edit: with metta! no harshness intended


She did not reject the status of a man and developed the thought of acquiring it.

Strange teaching story. Incredibly sad, actually.


It strikes me that one of the goals of practice is recognition of the illusory nature of personality. This recognition will not, however, get one fair treatment from a society where not adhering to a norm is cause for abuse. One may, I hope, accomplish the former while advocating for the vulnerable of the latter, including oneself.


Sad ?.., did you say ?.., but that was what the Sutta said, right ?. But this Sutta implies that, the gender changes due to the determination of the mind from the previous life are indeed possible to happen, in fact…, whether people believe it or not, but many issues about internal conflicts within a person ( a conflict between the mental behaviour with the physical conditions, such as transgender people ) might be strongly has a root from their previous lives…


:slight_smile: yes, sad to me, for desiring
the status of a man or a god is not something i think as conducive to liberation; and it is sad that the persona had to become a god AND male to be listened to; and also … what Self persists through rebirrh that way? … i find the story sad. but i understand that not everyone would.

There are people who aspire to rebirth in specific circumstances. It is not an aspiration in this life at this time. :slight_smile: No uploading to a digital existence; no Pure Lands; no coming back as a chameleon or dolphin or jazz musician or anything else, please.

In that story, there are a few who were mendicants who failed to attain in human lives, and they were all failing in heavenly rebirth; some, after hearing the no longer female no longer human, seemed to achieve something. (Not as humans, either; that too is odd, isn’t it?) I think part of that story may be politically useful myth from another source than the Buddha or Dhamma… and not harmless.

:slight_smile: May all have peace, happiness, and liberation in this very life. May diligence in all be supported and encouraged.



In that story, there are a few who were mendicants who failed to attain in human lives, and they were all failing in heavenly rebirth; some, after hearing the no longer female no longer human, seemed to achieve something. (Not as humans, either; that too is odd, isn’t it?) I think part of that story may be politically useful myth from another source than the Buddha or Dhamma… and not harmless.

I think…, being a Buddhist, we don’t have to follow the way of other religious believers who, forgive me…, overly ‘idolizing’ the sacred texts. There might be a factor of error or myth in those texts, which are even regarded as sacred texts. But we can try to find some of the lesson elements which are still relevant to the facts of today. Thank You…


@Kerta According to Venerable Sujato in Some inauthentic passages in the Early Buddhist Texts, the discourse that you quoted, DN 21, is late (I believe this applies to its parallels as well).

That being said, it’s certainly possible for virtuous people to choose what kind of rebirth they want according to MN 41 and SA 1042.

@ERose There’s nothing wrong with choosing where one wants to be reborn, it’s perfectly in line with the Buddha’s teachings that are given to lay people, especially those who aspire for stream-entry or once-return. Since they still have to be reborn, it makes sense for them to choose where they want to be. The Buddha has given many options to practise according to one’s faculty; it’s only natural for those who want to realise awakening yet still enjoy sensual pleasures to choose options that are available to them.

I personally don’t see anything wrong with people of different genders practising the Buddha’s teachings. The early discourses that are extant in a few ancient languages also don’t support the belief that one’s gender is an obstacle for one’s spiritual progress, or one’s gender is a result of some kind of bad deeds. Being a man, a woman, or an LGBT person is just a part of nature.

As long as people are virtuous, endowed with right view, and practise according to the Buddha’s teachings, then being a man, a woman, or an LGBT person makes absolutely no difference. It’s one’s view and conduct that count.


@thenoble, thanks for your notification, I really appreciate it. :slight_smile:

I agree with your that, gender is not an obstacle for one’s spiritual progress, that being a man, a woman, or an LGBT person makes absolutely no difference.

As far as I know, Buddhism doesn’t see the LGBT people negatively, but some other religions are very hostile to this group. I just want to emphasize that, there is an invisible karmic mechanism ( which involves some unfinished problems in one’s past lives ), which might be contributes to the emergence of this ‘physical-psychic’ internal conflict in LGBT issue.


… i think it might be better to avoid getting stuck in the details.

I’d rather get out this cycle. But if i don’t, all i want is the best (or a very good) opportunity to do it as soon as is convenient. - i don’t want to explain what i mean by “convenient”. It will be simple when it’s simple, i think.


Hi @kerta, I’m sure you don’t mean any disrespect, but in this post thread I think it’s very important to listen to and prioritise LGBTQI voices and experiences.

Being lesbian, gay, bi, trans etc is not the results of

It is not a problem in this life either, except that some other people and societies make it so.

LGBTQI people are NORMAL. Maybe not as common as people who identify only as straight, but just as normal.
Straight people don’t get told that they are straight because of unresolved problems in their past lives!

Whilst Buddhism might not be as discriminatory as other religions, often ‘kamma’ is used in the same way to marginalise or ‘other’ LGBTQI people. Kamma has also been used to explain why women are born in a supposedly ‘lower’ status.

The Buddha condemned the caste system, which imposed rigid social roles on people under the guise of kamma. Similarly, the reason trans and gay people experience conflict is not because of something innate, but because of the rigid roles society has placed around gender and sexuality.


@ERose It’s not about getting stuck in details though, it’s about available options. They are right there in the early discourses and their parallels.

@Kerta Deeds (Kamma) are actually a complex thing. Unless someone actually possesses the power to recollect past lives, it’s really not possible to tell what a person did before in their previous lives. Therefore, it’s not possible to say about “unfinished problems in one’s past lives”. Besides, things that happen in our lives aren’t caused by deeds alone. There are other things that can cause something to happen to us as well.

As far as I know, from both the Chinese Agamas and Pali Nikayas, there isn’t any discouse that supports the notion that LGBT people come to be because of “unfinished problems in one’s past lives”.


@Akaliko and @thenoble, I accept your correction. Forgive my mistakes. I just want to say that, ‘Past’ certainly have an effect to the ‘Present time’, but how does it work, the Buddha said it’s ‘Acintya’ ( unthinkable or inconceivable ). Thank you for your correction…


Thanks to all of those who have contributed to my enlightenment. As a Transwoman born in 1951- not the most enlightened period for a Trans woman-I did indeed have some unusual psychic awareness of being born into the "wrong’ form based on what I saw in the mirror. I would stand in front of the mirror and wonder to my inner self "Oh my, how I get in here. This is wrong. This is a huge mistake!"It was much like have a dissociative, out of body experience which persisted throughout much of my childhood.

Now having become a Buddhist, I have come to think of my gendered experience as a lesson in the ways that both genders suffer differently. Is it possible that we choose different incarnations to experience a specific kind of suffering?