Discrimination against Trans people in the Sangha

I too appreciate the value of the Sangha. Unfortunately, I live in a very rural, very Catholic area, and the last time I did a FaceBook poll asking for fellow Buddhists to be known, I got ZILCH, nada, nuttin’! So I gave up for a time.

Last week I tried again, and through an email made contact with a person from “The Rainbow Sangha” in Albuquerque, NM. This contact person asked me if I would be interested in forming a sangha in my county, and I said “Sure”. Then in my next email as an addendum, I mentioned that I am a post op transsexual, and wondered if these potential sangha members would care.

I make this announcement as a reflex, having encountered so much bigotry and its exclusionary practice. I fully expected…and hoped … that this contact person would respond by saying " No problem. Buddha has no position on transsexuals". Or something equally inclusive. But she did not say that. She said, " Well, I will ask them".

And I said, “Don’t bother”. I subsequently tried to have a dialogue with this person, but she seemed a tad miffed that I took the attitude I expressed even when I pointed out that 23% to 40% of all trans people have attempted suicide [myself included]. Do all sanghas have rules for disqualification? Should I just accept that my status as a Trans woman makes me subject to denial of participation in a sangha?

So, my point is that while a sangha is a valuable part of the Triple Gem, it can also be a cause of suffering. The contact person ceased communication, and offered no compassionate response to my reference regarding suicide. Apparently she remained attached to some emotion of which I am unaware.
Your gentle, supportive comments are welcomed. Your terse pointed references to the Dharma will be gratefully accepted and regarded with calm meditative appreciation

This is my sangha. Thanks, with mucho Metta


Maybe you can just say you’re Buddhist, and leave it at that. After all no one thinks of saying ‘I’m black’ before visiting the local temple, or any other category of discrimination as it’s irrelevant. But your personal narrative might influence this.


Hey Mat, thanks for the tip. I have often debated the merits of announcing my rather unique being before hand or waiting to ‘feel’ the reaction. Reactions have a way of creeping up and around and biting me in the ass just when I think I am okay. It’s a little like the debate over whether to tell a person on the first date, or let them find out for themselves: Either approach holds the potential for a negative reaction.

It’s difficult to explain how challenging it is for those of us who are visibly different. And being black is, from my perspective, much more socially acceptable than being trans. And you must admit, based on a cursory perusal of the related comments regarding Buddhist’s interpretation of the status of trans folk, that we still exist in a sort of limbo regarding the suttas.

I am not attached to this identity, but many other people including Buddhists are attached to their judgment.
I will observe my suffering regarding this identity, and try not to be shot with the same arrow twice.


Sounds like a plan! There’s no one who who doesn’t fall into some category of discrimination.


Been meditating on this, and your observation lead me to a realization: If someone in the same position of wanting to join or form a sangha had qualified themselves as black or hispanic…or even lesbian I seriously doubt that the other person’s reaction would have been, “Well, I will ask the others to see if they are okay with black, brown or lesbian people.”

The fact that transgenderism or transsexuals is seen as a qualifier for admittance to any group is symbol…a signifier of blatant discrimination. The proper humanist [Buddhist] response to " I am a Trans woman would/should be “Who cares?” not the implication that the condition of being trans is a possible disqualification. And I was dismayed by the lack of support this issue received on this my favorite Buddhist website.
With Metta for all who still suffer


Well I cant talk for anyone… but when you say I’m a bit different from you, is it ok to come into xyz - the immediate knee jerk response (you can’t always assume you will receive the most compassionate response from a random person who claims to be a Buddhist…) is to get a bit defensive. They might start to think ‘hmm is there something I don’t know about this, that I should know’, and they might just delay you by saying they will ask someone else… does this sound like a possibility. Rather than hoping you will receive an honest answer like ‘trans people aren’t welcome etc’ which of course they aren’t going to give, why ask the question in the first place, unless you have come across serious discrimination in Buddhist circles, in your area.

Could you form an LGBT… Buddhist group, perhaps if this is the kind of concerns you face? I don’t know the answer. It’s best not to jump to conclusions about what people are thinking about Trans people, as we cannot be mind reading. I’m sorry but I just have to say this without needing to be too PC. :slightly_smiling_face:


Hi Rosie

There was a transgender person that would occasionally show up the Monastery I go to. I don’t recall anyone ever having an issue. I tried talking to them myself but they were pretty shy, never got much conversation out of them.

I understand why you felt the way you did. The person on the phone should have been more careful with their reply. With a name like “Rainbow sangha” You would think sexual orientation or gender wouldn’t be an issue. :blush:

There are many meditation centres that have no issues with this at all. You might have to take a trip and make connections, make some freinds.

Best wishes[quote=“Rosie, post:5, topic:12822”]


Hi Rosie, thanks for your question. I’m sorry about your experience with the rainbow group. It seems that the more marginalized and excluded the group, the more people feel somehow justified in putting even more on their heads.

I would be delighted to welcome trans people, or anyone else, to our group. :rainbow: In fact I would take it as a badge of honor that they felt safe and respected. The whole point of spiritual communities is to help each other, give support, and make friendships so we can grow and help each other. Love knows no boundaries, and when boundaries are going up, it’s something other than love at work.

It is a terrible shame when groups that should be providing shelter and refuge end up offering the exact opposite. As a white cis male I grew up not really understanding this. I learned it, as it happens, from a trans woman I knew in the 80s. We worked together on a conference for environmentalists. Her job at the time was working in the Dept. of Social Security. Their job is to help people who are suffering injustice, or so you’d think. But she had experienced a lot of discrimination in her work, and she helped me understand the dynamics and recognize the reality. So I am always grateful to her for opening my eyes.

Anyway, if you do end up in Sydney, know you can find a group of people here who will love you! :heart:


Yes…indeed it does sound like the reality as I perceived it. And my reaction is that I don’t think a ‘reactionary’ response is the appropriate one for a Buddhist sangha of integrity. I did not become a Buddhist to be a test case for discriminatory practices. I came to Buddhism for refuge, and I don’t feel as if refuge was offered. And yes, I have experienced bigotry and discrimination in almost every aspect of my life. And discrimination almost always hides behind a proper sounding motive.

I did not jump. The contact person immediately responded to my declaration as if it was a legitimate qualifier for admittance to their sangha which de-legitimizes their claim to be Buddhists as there were no trans people documented as such in Buddha’s life.

Thank you so much for understanding. I believe that name ‘Rainbow’ is precisely what lured me into thinking that it was an all-inclusive Buddhist group. And ironically…shouldn’t every Buddhist and their ‘group’ be all inclusive? They really failed the test in my humble opinion.

Thanks but I live 50 miles from anywhere, and I have already taken a poll of Buddhists in my county to find there are ZERO Buddhists here. Is that a record? Probably not, but daunting none the less.

Dear Sujato, this is precisely the response for which I have been waiting .

These words lift me up, and offer the loving compassion which I have come to expect from a true Buddha.

Thank you, thank you Thank you. It’s a long way to go for a sangha, but I’m sure it would be worth it!
Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu! :blush::innocent::smiling_face_with_three_hearts::heart_eyes::star_struck::joy::wink::pray::pray::pray:

With Love and gratitude for your compassionate response. METTA!


There you are @Rosie! Maybe this site isn’t all that bad!

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What you talkin’ bout, Mat? :laughing::heart_eyes::star_struck: LOVE this site…the only sangha I got! Love to you too!

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Hi Rosie ,
Suppose you are deformed or handicapped and you would like to join the sangha , yet not allowed .
Would you regard it as discrimination , unfair and prejudice ?

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what do you want as a ‘refuge’?

With metta!

Well, yes of course. Shouldn’t suffering in any form being the only qualifier for inclusion into a sangha?

A place of unconditional love and support in recognition of our mutual suffering…regardless of its nature. I like this definition:
“Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist, has described sangha as a “beloved community.” [ref name=wu]”What Is a Sangha?” Wake Up. https://wkup.org/what-is-a-sangha/.[/ref] Whether the sangha is a family or larger community, it includes people who are engaged in serving and bringing joy to one another, and who inspire each other to contribute. Hanh stresses the contribution of every individual to the community, and of the community to the greater world. [backref name=wu]”

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Rosie, I am glad that you have found refuge here, and of course, Bhante Sujato’s comments express the Metta and compassion that all of us should feel and express. I think sangha can be a lot of things and there are thousands or millions that support you and would be happy to share sangha with you. The task for Buddhists is that we are a very small minority in most of the US. Finding a good sangha can be a challenge. I still remember landing at O’Hare airport after a great trip to Buddhist Thailand (nevermind the Thai cultural respect for trans people :)…I’m a straight farang but my favorite Loi Kroh cafe is run by a Thai trans lady who is so whip smart and whip humorous, and makes each visit a great sunny/funny afternoon ), and feeling quite alone as a Buddhist here in Billy Graham Center country, with the multiple evangelical church parking lots filled with cars.

So, sangha can mean different things these days. Gracias, D&D. I am glad that in seeking refuge here, you have found refuge and welcoming. This was an awesome thread to read today.


No one can deny your participation in a sangha, because the sangha is your connection to Buddhism in the social plane. If it’s not helping you practice Buddhism, it’s not a sangha. A sangha is not just any community of people who talk about Buddhism.

Quite frankly, I’ve often practiced Buddhism alone. Sometimes the only “sangha” I had was deer and birds and stars and clouds. And what’s wrong with that really? The Buddha himself probably had a deer sangha at one point or another. And they don’t discriminate! If you’ve got shade, they’ll sit right there. (Yes, they don’t have the same potential for enlightenment as us… But I still think we can consider them dhamma friends.) I think, in your case, the Buddha would have no problem with this message. Remember where it says in the Dhammapada “Better to roam alone than to have bad company”?

So don’t get all sad and stuff.


Ah…my friend, you made me smile and thus lifted my heart. I live in Mormon Country like a stranger in a strange land.
BTW, I had SRS in Bangkok, and never felt as isolated there as I do here. It is a lovely place. Thanks for the memories.

Okay, I will roam alone [physically], and try not to get all sad and stuff. :smiley: I loved that quote when I read it, but I forgot. Thanks for the reminder. I was only trying to honor the Triple Jewels as a good Buddhist, but it would appear that this is my sangha, and it is good enough for this solitary seeker.

From now on I seek the counsel of squirrels and coyotes. Their medicine is strong as well.
Love the picture. Thank you


Are transsexuals allowed to be monks/nuns into the Sangha?

In general, I don’t think so. Bearing in mind that the following references pertain to Buddhist society, and not the Buddha’s words…

The subject remains controversial, as does my existence. I would also refer you to this deep and insightful comment:

And this one:


Probably you have to delve deeper ,
Say if a monk kill a person according to vinaya he must leave the sangha , would you consider it discrimination also ?

Do you know why Buddha didn’t allow the deformed to join sangha ? Too old , mentally ill are those in the list .
Dhamma is universal but not the sangha .

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