Changing Genders, Changing Buddhists


Thank you so much. I will try to do better. Not sure how to group posts, but I will find out. Thanks for the help. Peace!


(With the understanding that this is what @Viveka was referring to by grouping responses) When I make a long response post, admittedly infrequently :laughing:, it has worked like this:

Open with the blue Reply button at the end of the thread.
Go back up to the first post you wish to respond to and clip a bit out for reference. Continue for the remainder of the bits you’d like to address.





Hope this was helpful and not too redundant. :smiley:


Ohhhh…Duh!:wink: Thanks


EDIT: After this and my following replies, I have read more about the experiences of people who prefer to be non-binary, so please ignore my uninformed and stupid opinions.

The “gender wars” recently reached the public discourse and politics of my country, so I was thinking and reading more about this topic during the last months. I totally support weeding out the prejudices towards women and LGBT persons. We definitely should pay more attention to their suffering, both empathetically and politically. And of course, we should teach young males to be mindful of their hormonal impulses and the pressure to be masculine because these factors produce so much suffering in the first place.

But I still see the “non-binary” genders and made-up pronouns as a manifestation of the Western craving towards extreme individualism. I believe that getting everybody using them will not improve the society on its own. At the same time, these issues constantly steal public attention from the really important problems like abuse, harassment, hate crimes, domestic violence or rape.

So for now I can’t help myself but side with the “conservative” view that people shouldn’t demand special treatment even if they are really special. There are the boxes of “he” and “she” in our world, so they can choose the one they like more and then others will easily treat them in the preferred way.

But even if somebody decided to talk about me as “she” starting today, I would raise a brow initially but get used to it in a week. My schoolmates and friends called me nicknames they liked, some of them sounded silly but I didn’t object to it because it wasn’t too important even in teens. As we all know, only sticks and stones can break bones. :slight_smile:


Interesting. I see it in completely the opposite way. When everyone has a profile on a spectrum I would see that as heading away from individualism, whereas insisting that one is either ‘this’ or ‘that’ would be heading towards increased individualism.

In reference to ‘made up’ pronouns, are not all pronouns made up? And wouldn’t having one pronoun rather than two to describe the same thing be away from individualism?

Well, no. Of course on its own it is limited, but as part of a larger discussion and movement it could certainly play a part, and indeed the few social experiments in classrooms that have been carried out so far seem to indicate that it is helpful to build a more compassionate, caring and supportive environment for all of the children.

I guess that it doesn’t have to steal the public attention away from those issues. That’s up to the media. It could steal attention away from items on celebrities or sports coverage or soap operas etc…

Yes and there are boxes of black and white people in our world, but presumably you don’t want to ask, for example the Dalai Lama, to choose between being either black or white?


I’m not sure how the experiments were conducted but there are totally genderless languages that don’t even have a pronoun distinction like English. But if you look at the list, can you say that women or trans people in the countries with genderless language are always better off?

No, there is zero correlation between not having a concept of gender and human well-being. Everybody speaking genderless Persian doesn’t save Irani women and LGBT persons from oppression and discrimination. Icelandic is gendered, Finnish is not but both Iceland and Finland are doing quite well in terms of equality and inclusivity.

Sorry, this is a straw man because we are discussing a different problem. But no, I’m not going to ask him or anybody else “of what skin color do you consider yourself?” I would automatically assume that it’s white or brown or black according to my color perception and then never think about it again.

I live in South America where many people are obsessed with being slightly more white than others and it has been producing bad consequences for centuries. Not caring about the skin color would be a much better option.


This is because grammatical gender is not biological gender. It is noun class.

Some languages divvy noun classes up into 16 so-called “genders” (I believe Swahili is famous for this?), some only 1 (Chinese).

Unfortunately Indo-European languages usually in the present day only have 2-3 noun classes, which strengthens the confusions between noun class and biological (or even sociological) gender.


Sorry for one more reply, I don’t try to flood the thread with my opinions but honestly don’t understand how a stronger accent on personal identity and sexuality goes along with the Dhamma. I promise not to argue further, so please feel free to have the last word for the future readers of this discussion.

This is one more case where I empathize towards the difficulties experienced by a homosexual or bisexual person in a mostly heterosexual world, but at the same time I don’t see a reason why should we make it more difficult for everybody else.

Yes, a gay guy in a room full of men will have a more complicated retreat experience but we can say the say the same about persons having ADHD or IBS – they will be constantly distracted by how their minds or bodies work (please don’t read this comparison as “non-heterosexuals are ill”, this is not what I’m saying). Meanwhile, having a mixed-sex dorm will tremendously increase the probability of sexual tension between heterosexual attendees.

If mixing groups of different sexes together is not an issue, why would the Buddha keep the sanghas separately? He definitely was aware of homosexuality and bisexuality.

So if I get this correctly, the Buddha would suggest picking one of the two available options. I believe that it’s the best solution for all the gender-related issues because this way we just extend the current limits for “male” and “female” and erase some borders between them. This would be significantly easier on every level: public opinion, laws, even not remodeling buildings to include more bathroom options.

Isn’t going “beyond notions of gender” opposite to “non-binary”? For me it sounds like you stop caring if the society perceives you as a male or a female or if your actions look masculine or feminine. People still assume something about you but you can’t be offended by their assumptions because it’s not important for following the path towards liberation.

The Buddha directly challenged the caste system on many occasions but as far as I know, he had never challenged the gender roles and even was instructing housewives how to build better relationships with their husbands. He also didn’t riot against the social norms of his time and always addressed the rulers and members of elites with a lot of respect.

If non-binary gender identities were important for reducing suffering, why would he ignore the concept of genders and not go against it publicly like he did with the concept of the castes?

Exactly, but then why should we create and maintain even more distinctions?

I just noticed that you have “non-binary” in your profile. Please don’t take the following questions as offense or harassment: it’s the first time I’m asking somebody who identifies as non-binary and I’m genuinely interested to understand your reasoning.

In my initial reply, I said that I believe that additional genders promote the individualism even further. How does having a perception of yourself as “non-binary” assist you in becoming less attached to the concept of “me”?

You profile also says that you are “establishing a nun’s community”, so are you identifying as a female for organizational purposes? If yes, why would it be uncomfortable to identify as female all the time?

Thank you for your replies, please let me know if you’d like me to answer to any of them since I promised not to continue arguing.


If it’s a straw man, it must be because I’m trying to win an argument. I truly didn’t realise that this was happening. Many apologies for coming across as argumentative. Thank you for your replies. They are very interesting and there is much in them that I would like to address, but I have a policy of not arguing, so I shall stop now.

I extend peace, love, kindness and gentleness to you and your loved ones. May we all be free from argument. :anjal::bowing_woman:


Unfortunately, Ivan’s views have provided a very good example of why we need to keep educating people about their preconceived biases regarding sex, gender and sexuality and keep pointing out how their views impact minorities.


Dear Bhante @Akaliko

I sincerely believe I can see why you’re saying so and feel much agreement and harmony with your views. Because I think it has to come down to, in any time and place, whether a bunch of people are feeling harmed and actually are being harmed…and then you have to sort of employ a kind of “positive discrimination”…perhaps such a thing is necessary in some contexts; though I think it may be potentially harmful to become too fixed about how and when this ought to work.

Anyway, having said all this, I do also think that Ivan’s questions are genuine and sincere… And while I can see the usefulness in terms of promoting kindness and harmlessness in what both yourself and @Vimala have said, I can also, as Stu has said, see that Ivan’s views are

…and certainly, I can also see the common ground.

@ivan and @stu,

Thank you for this:

And thank you for this:


In this thread I would ask readers and responders to prioritise the voices of gender diverse and queer people. Since these voices are so often marginalised and supressed, it is good to listen in order to understand.


This could be, in this case, an example of “positive discrimination” which may indeed lead to a lessening of harm and an increase in kindness.

But perhaps, one of the sufferings of being part of a minority group (I’m part of one too) is that when we try to converse, speak or interact with the world - the majority - we are always going to rub up against something that doesn’t understand our perspective. I think, for me, anyway, the challenge is to still speak and to advocate for the unheard/silenced voices to be heard and to advocate for positive discrimination; but also to negotiate that point of friction, where my previously little known view is presented to the more widely know ocean of commonly held views, with the same openness I would want to be treated with.

It’s not to say that this thread shouldn’t be as you say. I think it should and I agree with you.

But that point of friction is a crucial thing to negotiate. When and how should we allow ourselves to be briefly buffeted by the stronger winds of a majority view in order to begin a conversation that may eventually lead to greater acceptance for those who have long suffered in silence? And when and how should we stand firmer.

Sorry…I’m may be going a bit meta (one “t”…not necessarily, though not without, the double “t”)… here. I guess, stepping back here, which I can do because, this thread is not about promoting my particular experience or voice (and so perhaps I shouldn’t reply here!!)… But stepping back, I can see how inviting questions, perhaps in another thread, so the integrity of this thread is maintained, might be a way to start off a conversation.

I can only imagine how such conversations might be painful if you have had to deal with discrimination and prejudice. But I can also see how in order for change to be meaningful and genuine, it has to engage with those who might not understand (especially when they may seem to truly want to) because otherwise we will only be preaching to the converted and true change will never (however slowly) flow out into wider society.

Okay…that’s it for me too. :slight_smile:

With much metta and gratitude and I do hope this thread can become a place for

As someone who doesn’t fit in these catergories, I would love to hear your voices and be open to learning from you.


Ok Kay, :grinning:

Sounds like you want me to keep doing the exhausting emotional labour of responding to these types of things * Using terms like ‘gender wars’

  • suggesting that gender diverse issues are ‘stealing’ attention away from other concerns

  • blaming non binary folks for complicating the false binary with their own assured identity, criticising them for ‘demanding’ different pronouns,

  • trivialising the experiences of non binary people and queers whilst valuing the experience of straight people

  • rigidly insisting that people should should choose from the available gender box,

  • ivan, using his own non trans viewpoint as if it should be standard regarding how he would feel to be misgendered, despite overwhelming opposite views from people who are…um actually trans!

  • Saying that queer people should act ‘normal’ if they want to be accepted… (like, act straight?? ) (Don’t straight people do kink? Yup they do! )…

  • Asking very personal questions about someone’s gender identity and expression on a public forum…

  • Then suggesting that gender diverse and queer people are more attached to their identity than cis straight people (who blindly think of themselves as ‘normal’) and therefor further away from the dhamma because of their identity!

Well I suppose I could keep on engaging with this sort of stuff…:unamused:
But I think responses to these kinds of things have already been well covered in this thread, by people who have publically identified as non gender conforming and as queer along with various allies, which is why I requested that people prioritise those voices and not get sidetracked by posts which try to undermine those voices, who I believe have been astonishingly brave in speaking out.

It is not the work minorities to convince other people of the validity of our existence. We do this though. But it is exhausting and can sometimes be quite traumatic.

As I said to one of the posters, who emailed me privately because they were upset by the above comments:
There are people ranked on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 denotes people who are empathetic and understanding, and where 5 is for people who are hostile… Those in between, the 2 to 4s might not yet understand but might be open to listening and become convinced. We dont need to spend our time engaging the 5s as their views are already entrenched, plus they are usualy extremes and wont change their mind. Fortunately, they are also less populous in number than the middle ground people who are much more numerous… so we need to focus on the middle the 2–4s who we have some hope with!

Save your energy!

Anyway. I’m going to turn notifications off for this thread which was once beautiful to me but now feels as if it’s been trashed a bit!


I’m sorry for annoying you but I tried choosing words carefully and still got misinterpreted as I can see from your bullet points, probably because some of my wording resonates with how people actually hostile to LGBT are talking about the subject. For example, I said “gender wars” just because it’s a huge quarrel between conservatives and progressives, I’ve never stated that somebody should become straight, I’ve never said that only straight people are normal, I didn’t “trivialized” your experience and simply shared my opinion how less socially liberal people can accept trans persons more easily, etc.

And of course I didn’t say and have never implied that “queer people are more attached to their identity” and “further away from the dhamma because of their identity”…

I have had no idea that questions about non-binary genders can’t be asked in public because I would talk about my internal processes and feelings even on something like Facebook, with my real name attached. But I’m quite socially clumsy in daily life, so my apologies to @Vimala.

Anyway, I’m not a bored troll and it’s literally the first time in my life talking about genders with anybody. I did it in a Buddhist community for an obvious reason: to get a perspective based in the Dhamma and not “you are cis straight and you can’t understand, so better stay silent and accept it without questioning” like I’ve seen it before online.

Yes, I can’t fully empathize with you and the concepts of non-binary or genderqueer are straight out irrational for my mind. Yes, I hold some opinions on that but not because I feel entitled to tell LGBT community what to do but just because I have a relatively bad habit giving unsolicited advice even in real life (my parents, teachers, and older friends are often annoyed by it too). Maybe my mistake is trying to understand it all logically instead of compassionately? I have no idea for now.

Again, I have no aversion towards LGBT and I wish all your problems were solved and you will live as happy and free as straights like me.

One more time sorry for the bad vibes and being too insensitive towards your suffering. With age I’ve got better with not arguing and not creating negativity in online communities but it’s still not enough to discuss something as sensitive as this topic. I’d like to leave now and get back to my practice to prevent failures like this in future.


How many “queer” people do people think are on this thread so-far?

We aren’t exactly a visible minority. Even less so online.

AFAIK it’s only me and two other gay guys, a transperson, and that’s it. Maybe there are more though.

Do we have any lesbian readers/posters?


What I wanted to ask and didn’t find the time for so far: What categories can you choose from, just two, or also a third one?


I probably know a little bit more than most people on this forum of Ven. @Akaliko’s experiences and I very much understand, also because it resonates with my own experiences. But I also want to acknowledge @Ivan’s sincerity and good-will.

My article was meant to make people think. Think about where our identity comes from, how it was formed, how that fits in today’s society and how we deal with changes. Look inside of ourselves and challenge our ideas of the world. We have all been male and female in past lives but from the time we get born we get indoctrinated by our society and as @Coemgenu pointed out, by language (a good article about it is here: Language linked to gender inequality, research suggests, although there is an obvious typo in one of the figures).

No person can fully understand another person because we are all different and unique and we can never know what goes on inside another. But we have to learn to listen to each other and acknowledge that we cannot always understand. A white cis male will never be able to fully understand those who are black, gay or female. We can only try to accept each other as fellow human beings and try to understand what is going on inside ourselves. We can try to be more inclusive and learn to see each other as fellow human beings.

The world does not change overnight. But the world we live in today is vastly different from that of the time of the Buddha. How do we work with that?

Why do I establish a nun’s monastery? Because there are not enough of them and there are many good nuns and candidates who don’t have a place. This takes time to build up. We have only just started. That is also why Ayya Sujato (a white cis man as far as I know) supports us by being our Spiritual Advisor.

But I also feel that now is the time to start the discussion about how this system is for genderqueer and trans people and start slowly thinking about how we can change things in the future, and how things have changed in our society, to raise awareness and find solutions. And most of all, to look inside ourselves and see how our own views have formed in regards to this.

To answer @Sabbamitta: there are only 2 genders to choose from in Belgium, 3 in Holland. We still have a long way to go but it’s a step.

Yes, there are quite a few more that I know of and I probably don’t know all. Not all want to be open about that and that’s just fine. On this forum everybody can be who they want to be and being anonymous is fine too.


I’m a lesbian. I don’t really know what to say in regards to this topic, though, other than I have zero interest in staying in a mixed sex dorm on retreat — speaking from personal experience, I find that men being distracted by me is a more pressing problem than me being distracted by other women.


It is now widely recognized that smoking harms humans’ health. When anti-smoking campaigns first emerged, they originated in large part in Western countries such as the United States. Because of this, there initially was some resistance in other parts of the world to what came across as a preachy, scolding, Western-dominated discourse that attempted to shame other parts of the world to abandon the habit of smoking tobacco. I recall an instance when I was living in Spain in 1990-1991 when I was offered a cigarette at a lunch following a talk at an academic think tank. When I declined, the person who offered me the cigarette replied dismissively, “Oh, right. You Americans don’t smoke,” as if to say my decision to decline his kind offer of a cigarette represented typical American looking down on the habits and customs of others.

One might wonder, what does this have to do with gender? The connection is this: Most cultures have at some point or another accepted that gender identities are impermanent. As with the realization that cigarette smoking is inherently unhealthy, throughout human history there has been a near-universal understanding that gender identities are fluid and not fixed. How this understanding has been expressed, or suppressed, however, varies over time and across cultures. Presently, some individuals sense that discussions about gender identity are part of a Western-dominated discourse that seeks to impose a Western sensibility regarding gender identities on other cultures.

This is where I draw the connection between well-intentioned efforts to curtail smoking and contemporary efforts to raise awareness about gender fluidity. In both cases there exists a feeling among some people that both movements serve as efforts to impose Western sensibilities on other parts of the world. In the former, resistance was registered to what some people saw as a Western-dominated scheme to impose a health campaign on other parts of the world where local concerns then get sidelined. In the latter, Western vocabularies regarding gender identity threaten to eclipse other discourses which treat gender as a culturally contingent identity without an essential or fixed meaning.

For those of us who want to foster a supportive dialogue on these matters it is probably best to avoid a one-size-fits-all language, including ones that are perceived as attempts to impose a Western-dominated discourse regarding gender identity. As a member of a community of scholars trained in academic jargon originating in the West, I know that some of the terminology I use to discuss gender fluidity comes across as condescending to individuals who have not been trained in those traditions (just as my decline of a cigarette came across as preachy and typical of a patronizing American attitude towards others).

It is most productive to acknowledge that different communities use varied discourses to express what actually has been a fairly common observation throughout human history, that is, that gender identities are culturally-contingent.