Discrimination against Trans people in the Sangha

Hi Jhindra, the topic I link to below, deals with your question in detail, perhaps continue with this line of enquiry in that topic if you still have more questions. We try to keep topics intact so that people can access answers to questions, without those questions being repeated over and over.There are many wonderful resources and links within topics, that you wouldn’t otherwise get, if the right person with the right info isn’t online when you post your question.

I suppose this is one of the things that differentiates us from normal chat rooms and general forums.


I concur that if you are able to find a Thai Sangha in the United States you are likely to find an unquestioningly welcome environment regardless of your identity. I am fortunate enough to live close to a vibrant Thai Wat in Oregon. My first visit coincided with a major life crisis. I arrived unannounced and was welcomed in by the monks and the laypeople who were there for the midday meal. After talking with one of the monks, I was immediately invited to stay for lunch. Starting on that day I have become part of the community. There are a few other Westerners who come to the Wat, but most of the laypeople are Thai or Lao.

In the year that has passed since then I have witnessed nothing but kindness exhibited towards anyone and everyone who shows up, even just once, no questions asked. It doesn’t matter the person’s gender, race, age, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Recently at a large lunch following a memorial service and preceding an ordination a young man who had never been to the Wat before showed up obviously distraught about something. He looked like he was still wearing the clothes he had worn the previous night clubbing and bar-hopping. He declared that he wanted to give up all his possessions and become a monk. Obviously he was not in his normal state of mind. There was something clearly off about him. No matter; he was invited to stay for lunch. That’s the approach taken towards anyone indicating an interest in the Dhamma at the Wat. By the way, I am not comparing someone undergoing a personal crisis with trans people. I am simply pointing out that no one I have ever seen has been turned away at the Wat I attend.

I am fairly confident that any trans person who wanted to be part of the community at a Thai Wat in the United States would be included, no questions asked.


I agree. Trans (and gay) are quite accepted in Thai culture, from what I’ve seen at our local Wat, and in Thailand.


This is all about vinaya , but when your focus is purely dhamma , you overlook the whole thing .
The point is Buddha has no problem , but , unfortunately the disciples does .
Discipline , discipline , not about gender discrimination .
How the Buddha set up the rules entirely up to His wisdom .
Please don’t get it wrong , I am not against anyone or gender or anything
The sangha or monastic has been in the beginning were divided into two groups
(of male and female) . No third group .
If someone is wiser than the Buddha , by all means .

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(This is just a short, loose meditating on your remarks, you may skip it if it’s groundless or so …)

I didn’t read of 500 transgenders appearing at the buddha asking for a specific order.

Remember that even the order for the women has not been invented by the buddha, but only after 500 women applied, effortless, and then after Ananda had reminded the buddha of the good deed his stepmother (and now the leaderess of the cloud) had did for him, that order came into existence.

So if there were a buddha today - how do you know he would not be approachable by 500 queers as well?

This is Ven Thanissaro’s reading of that story. Many read it in different ways.

This could be a good teaching moment. Does anyone else remember the thread on bhukkhūni ordination wherein Ven Thanissaro told the story this way, as if an unruly herd of nuns harassed the Buddha until he established an order?

I know consensus via studying EBT parallels is that this story simply didn’t happen, but this is a good point to preserve, this disagreement about how to read this story, and indeed also this disagreement about whether this story has any historical basis at all.

{ Not meant to reply to Nessie, sorry]
This discussion seems to have devolved into something like “Are trans people okay”? Or “Should trans folk be allowed to be Buddhist?” Or “How many Trans people does it take to make a sangha?” Answer “NONE, trans people aren’t allowed in a Sangha”—thus illuminating my conundrum in perpetuity.

So at this point, instead of feeling welcome in a sangha-except for the two or three in places too far to be of benefit to me-I am not convinced that Buddha would have accepted me as a Buddhist, which leaves me with sad questions. All of this seems to contradict much of what little I know about the Dharma. Constructed conditional personalities all, except a trans persons construction seems perceived as faulty, or less desirable or something.
So I remain confused about my status in Buddhism just the same as I feel in the presence of Christians. And all I can say is that as of now that Triple Gem does not seem like a refuge at all.


Buddhism is a human institution IMO. The fact that it has human vices, discriminations, hatreds, aversions, to me illustrates this. It was made mostly by people, in my view, not by any one particular person.

My own opinion is that people largely created the Buddha from the shared memory of a great spiritual teacher none of them personally remembered. Hence why so many details of the Buddha’s life are stock episodes. Much like the miracles of Jesus which draws on the cultural milieu of general Near Eastern miracle workers. I think they remember many of the teachings of the Buddha accurately. But I don’t think they remember the Buddha himself accurately. And I think many tthings were hopelessly garbled.

This was how Buddhism became so worldly, in my view, as to be obsessed with genitals, gender, physical beauty, and dwarfism. Because people are obsessed with those things, not the Buddha.

This is a view not many will share here though.

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Thanks for that observation. It does makes sense. But then where does a human find true spiritual guidance?

I just think, if Buddha is the perfect human being who stays in the world to teach his dharma, we have to measure him largely by our own standards and definitions of what that perfection is. For some people, unfortunately, it seems they believe a perfect human being would believe absurd lies about sex and gender minorities. We ourselves, speaking of human beings in general, are flawed, thats why we create flawed religions and flawed gods and oftentimes that is why we create an idealised Buddha who is in some way flawed invariably on account of our own flaws.

My search for perfection lead me to Mahāyāna Buddhism (which for the record is just as problematic and worldly as any other kind of Buddhism), and I am sure that many people would identify that as a flaw of mine that lead me to create a flawed Buddha in the mind.

We all just have to try to do our best and have a minimum standard of upholding other people’s dignity in society while we do so. That is all I can think to say. And I am sure that to many people, all they see when they read this is me making a large public spectacle of my own personal flaws.


That sounds accurate.

That’s a wonderful idea. Now if I can just find one other person to do that.

I love your honesty, and would gently remind you that caring about other people’s opinion is a trap called co-dependence, and not Buddhist theory or relevant in the least.
I stand with you in Peace.

I think it is important to distinguish between joining a monastic sangha and practising as a lay Buddhist. Everyone can practise as a lay Buddhist, independent of gender identity, sickness, non-standard bodily features, etc. If any Buddhist group excludes you on the basis of external characteristics like this, it just shows that they haven’t really understood the teaching.

There are some rules about who can join a monastic sangha. Since the male and female sanghas are separate, ordination candidates need to choose one gender and ordain into that sangha. In your case, as a post-op trans woman, you could ordain with a female sangha if you ever wanted to.


I think the modern use of the word sangha, is confusing.


Thanks for that observation. It does makes sense. But then where does a human find true spiritual guidance?

in yourself, using Dhamma. :slightly_smiling_face:
I have been 25 years in this Path without being integrated in any group. First years because no buddhist people near me, and later maybe such independence was already established. I can go to visit or some retreat to anywhere when I see some thing of special interest to me. Athough these are few ocassions. You should know there is a lot of people in the world in similar situation. No in all the countries the Dhamma is well spreaded. And there is no influence in progress because this situation many times it’s the best situation for progress.
For sure you can find some group or person in some place able to teach you. Although the perception about no all the teachings or all the people is suitable for me, that’s a very common thing for many people. Probably for all the people. Circumstances can be different but the problem similar. Your condition is just kamma. Think in people using another language, with body disabilities, without money to travel, etc… kamma and more kamma.
Do you have some method or practice integrated in yourself?. That’s the real important thing. The Path is for the person to be applied in oneself. This world is a madhouse, an slaughterhouse. If you have found this Path you have an inmense gift. Just you can start to exploit it for your benefit and beings around you, squirrels and coyotes included.:slightly_smiling_face:


Thanks for some deep counsel. I do appreciate the time and effort it took for all of my Buddhist friends to advise me. And yours is wonderful advice. But allow me to respond briefly:

I have had no luck in finding a person or group compatible.

Thanks, I find that a useful perspective I will try to see things as you suggest.

Yes indeed, I have accepted the Buddha’s teaching into my heart , and now I realize that part of my expectation regarding the wisdom of Buddhists people as opposed to the teaching of Buddha himself is my flawed expectation and the wrong view of things.

I have found the Path, am remain humble and grateful, yet admittedly confused about some things. But as you observed, " This world is a madhouse, an slaughterhouse" and confusion and chaos are a norm to which I must adjust. And not expect myself to resolve immediately.

Beyond this casual acceptance though, I must say that taking refuge in a sangha, as recommended in the beginning, is apparently not an option, nor a requirement for me. And ironically, I know as I have stated elsewhere, that it was my experience in non-conditioning-or dual conditioning- as a young trans person that opened the door into understanding the conditional nature of our human existence. It is a yin/yang blessing and a curse. And as you pointed out…

Thanks again for your input. Metta!

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It is a yin/yang blessing and a curse.

nice to see your understanding :slightly_smiling_face:. All exists under conditions and we don’t have any error. Sometimes circumstances are difficult but later one can see it was also a position to get more wisdom about human nature and oneself. Then one get more wisdom on aspects which other people cannot see or understand. Because no intellectual knowledge can equate personal experience. Every person develop his own way to get wisdom despite the teaching its the same, because no 2 lifes are the same. At least I understand in this way.

I realize that part of my expectation regarding the wisdom of Buddhists people as opposed to the teaching of Buddha himself is my flawed expectation and the wrong view of things.

expectations on the “Buddhist world” as a whole also finally are disappointing in a great part. As happens in any other issue with more than 3 humans. One should search here and there to be selective and to find what is worth for oneself. No difference at all.

Regarding the Sangha meaning, the word Sangha has a first meaning about taking refuge in ariyas, bhikkhus and bhikkhunis. From here there is a popular extension to groups or to the buddhist world, etc… However, this is an extension. There are quite texts with clarifications about this issue of the word Sangha.
There is no need of any buddhist group to take refuge. This is a always a personal event which happens in the person. In the “buddhist world” there is people who can go to take refugee without a real acceptance of the teaching. And it can be a social ritual but no real refugee. This should be an inner and sincere acceptance. It happens in the heart at some moment but no in any group or public ceremony.
metta and best wishes :slightly_smiling_face:

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Thanks for the clarification. I did not realize this truth at first. Maybe I was thinking of Alcoholics Anonymous…my first and very successful model of a self-help group. In fact I went to AA for so long that it took years for me to not say, My name is Rosie, and I ama grateful recovering alcoholic", …at a local 'Friends of the Library" meeting. :laughing::grin::smile:
So once again I recognize and acknowledge the wisdom and support of this my ever-present sangha, which I will carry with me wherever I go.
Thanks w/ Mucho Metta to you!


From the bottom of my Buddhist heart I offer my sincere gratitude for you all talking me down from the cliffs of despair.
With your help my vision is a little clearer now.



Well, any conditioned phenomenon is anicca, anatta, dukkha, that’s how it is…

Oh but they are not. Please don’t confuse our modern society and the society of the days and place of Buddha. These people would need too much support and attention from other Sangha members, encumbering them and slowing them down. Or inducing biased negative reaction from the laity which would lead to lesser support. Or something else which we cannot infer right away.

This is exactly what I wanted to say. :slight_smile: Lay community isn’t “sangha” is a strict sense, not in Theravada at least. Eastern Asian and Tibetan branches may have different stances on that, as far as I know.

If one wishes to practice N8P in a group, that person surely needs to find a group that will suit him/her. Also, it is important to mention that apart from being welcoming they should be able to catalyze you spiritual development. Otherwise there’s no reason to be in a group just for the sake of being in the group.


I do not think believe the Buddha believed lies about sex and gender minorities. Do you?