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Erasure of Women and Queer Voices in EBTs

Erasure of Women and Queer Voices in EBTS

Continuing the discussion from Contemporary women's concerns about apparent sexism in the EBTs:

Mansplaining the Path

This thread is filled with men telling women who are voicing their opinions and concerns about the texts to ignore their own readings, or just magic away their feelings as if to say: “You just don’t understand, sweetheart. It’s not that bad. Try being less sensitive. We can’t change the past. Things are different now right. Right?”

The problem of course is that the issues of the past still persist today and that we are actively engaged with this ongoing process in ways that continue systems that disempower and oppress. LOOK! It is happening in this very thread!!

Really, this is a good example of male privilege: never having to think: “these texts are not meant for me.” Texts by men for men, mostly about men, told from the perspective of men; men controlling the narrative and deciding what will be known. Whereas women’s voices and experiences are conspicuously far and few between, and they rarely get to speak for themselves. Is it surprising that women feel alienated from texts where they are not included and when they are it isn’t always very positive? Surely if we want to stop the cycle of excluding women’s voices, we need to stop and listen to how they are seeing these texts, rather than jumping in and explaining away their concerns or gaslighting them into quiet submission for having felt upset about something that was ‘nothing’.

Reparative Readings

Women readers have much to bring to our understanding of the texts. In the story being discussed here, we only hear of the male’s perspective and the outcome for the men in the story. But there is a whole group of women whose activities, feelings, experiences, stories and futures are left untold, carelessly tossed aside with zero interest. It takes a woman reader to remind us of the existence of women the narrator completely forgot about, whoops:

How come indeed!! I never thought of them before, either. What happened to them? Were they secretly happy to be rid of their husbands? Were they rendered destitute? So many stories untold. Unwanted it seems… Thank you for drawing my attention to the shortcomings of my reading.

Today I was thinking about the concepts of Paranoid Reading and Reparative Readings., terms coined in the postmodern era by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. It’s not the best definition here from wiki but it will do:

Sedgwick argues that much academic criticism springs from a hermeneutics of suspicion as coined by Paul Ricœur. She suggests that critics should instead approach texts and look at “their empowering, productive as well as renewing potential to promote semantic innovation, personal healing and social change.”[22] This is Sedgwick’s idea of reparative reading which to her is the opposite of “paranoid reading” which focuses on the problematic elements in a given text. Reparative readings “contrasts with familiar academic protocols like maintaining critical distance, outsmarting (and other forms of one-upmanship), refusing to be surprised (or if you are, then not letting on), believing the hierarchy, becoming boss.”[23]

Reparative reading is a queer theory strategy of reclaiming texts from cis and straight culture that didn’t include queer audiences, and of reimagining them through a queer lens. Feminists have used such strategies to re-insert themselves into a patriarchal paradigm that omitted their stories, and first nations people have used similar strategies to insert themselves and reclaim colonial histories where they are left out.

Straight white men, especially, are privileged by not needing to do this revision. They see the texts as existing for them, without questioning as if it’s their natural inheritance, even though there’s a huge gap of understanding between now and ancient India of 2500 years ago, they still see themselves as owning these texts, as belonging to them and in them. Whereas women might not feel that sense of ownership or belonging, but rather see the ways they are excluded, forgotten, silenced, discriminated against and oppressed. It will take some real work by men to understand why this is the case and how it affects someone’s experience of the texts.

So, when women are discussing how a texts affects them, men should try to listen rather than to falling into the types of patterns identified by Sedgewick that continue oppression, such as: needing to ‘outsmart’ women with facts or ‘academic’ rigour, or needing to speak as an authority and be ‘the one who knows best’.

Rejecting Received Meanings

Reparative readings are good for us all to engage with. In the story above, we might try to think of the situation from the perspective of the sex worker, or from the women who were left behind. This is imaginative but can still be instructive. So much of what we think we know about a text is just received from a previous authority, unquestioned and not critiqued by us. In Sedgwick’s words, we ‘refuse to be surprised’ because we think we know what something is about. But actually it is often unexamined, with all it’s biases and prejudices.

A good example is the figure of Thullananda Theri, who is cast as a stock character in the vinaya and suttas as a very naughty nun who does so many terrible things. She is the very definition of what nun’s should not be like and her character and exploits are used as a sort of moral warning for later nuns and women. But taking these stories in a reparative way, we can peel away the layers of patriarchy and self interest in the way she was depicted, and uncover a different story to see a woman of immense power and bravery, who was a great leader and teacher. I’d really recommend this episode by Ayya @Vimalanyani, where essentially she does a reparative reading of Thullanada Theri. It is so fresh and liberating, exposing so many problems inherent in the way we might usually think of Thullananda and these texts.

Re-claiming Your Right to a Spiritual Path

Such approaches are necessary to give women’s voices an opportunity to engage with problematic texts in ways that allow them to reconcile the difficult aspects of a spiritual tradition with their own understandings of what they know to be it’s essence. This is something that women and queer folks have been doing in other religions, where religious texts seem to be explicitly against them, taking the texts apart, questioning the received authority, inserting different ways of looking, reclaiming, reimagining. They do this because spirituality is complicated and they want/need to find ways that they can exist in those religions without having to be encumbered by readings that fundamentally go against what they know to be true in their hearts. If god is love to them, then god still loves them even if they are gay or a divorcee, they know that, and they will find their own ways to negotiate what they have been told to think with what they feel in their hearts.

It’s the same when people are surprised at the misogyny of the suttas, they feel that it can’t be right that an enlightened being would discriminate and create a hostile environment, because they know that to be enlightened would be to be free of hate and prejudice. Men might not see this problem, because they are unaffected, but women see this contradiction and it cuts deeply at their faith. They also see and experience in their own selves the results of this type of view playing out in contemporary Buddhism. That’s why it matters when women express their discomfort with the suttas and why we need to listen.


"We're Here, We're queer", But Yet We Disappear...

Hmmmm as a queer Buddhist, I’m gonna have to say “Yeah Nah” on this one Bhante @Sujato.

Prejudice and Discrimination Exists in EBT's

Sad but true. Accept it snowflakes!! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Before I get to homophobia, it’s important to recognise that there is certainly a prejudicial presence in the texts showing discrimination and stigma towards people who are not necessarily same-sex attracted but are included today in the rainbow LGBTQIA+ umbrella. Though these identity groups have very different identities and experiences, they often share common experiences of discrimination and oppression with same-sex attracted people, and so I include them here as an act of allyship, and because people often (incorrectly) use homophobia as a blanket term to describe the various prejudices of bi-phobia, transphobia, and interphobia. So, the people I am referring to in the suttas and vinaya who are not shown favourably include people we might refer to today as trans or 3rd gender, and certainly there is also discrimination against people with variations of sex characteristics, who we refer to today as intersex. Both these categories of people are commonly thought to be barred from ordination - although Ven @Vimala has done a recent study on this here which suggests otherwise.

Homophobia Hides but Still Abides

When it comes to homophobia, well I guess it depends on the definition of homophobia. Some people expect that homophobia should be outright violence and hate but this is an extreme form. Homophobia exists on a spectrum from overt to subtle. Whilst there may be no explicitly hate-filled homophobia that we find in other religions in the EBT’s, this is certainly not the same thing as saying these texts aren’t implicitly and subtly homophobic. They are. And the reason for this is not what is there but rather what is absent. Queer people know this kind of homophobia. It’s an insidious and elusive sort of lack of belonging, a rejection; like someone crossing a street to avoid you, or not looking you in the eye because they are ashamed of you, or being left off an invitation to a family gathering. It’s like people ignoring you or parts of you, or pretending that you and those queer parts of you are invisible. It’s a lack of acceptance and it is tangible. That’s the feeling for subtle homophobia.

The truth is there the texts have a real paucity of information about same sex attracted people. This lack of presence does not necessarily mean that there was no homophobia. In fact when a queer person reads these texts what they will see is a peculiar absence. It’s the absence of something that everyone else takes for granted. WE do not see ourselves in the texts in the way that straight men (in particular) do. This is what privilege means: to have texts that speak directly to you and about you by people like you. Queers are simply not there! Women are barely there… This is not just an accidental omission, but rather it is deliberate, and that means a purposeful erasure of these voices from the texts. Erasure itself is a tool of suppression and can have negative consequences for a group, just as explicit condemnation does.

Playing Peekaboo Through History

Omission means that when queers look at these texts, it is as if we simply don’t exist. This is of course an erroneous impression. Though queers have had different names and different cultural expressions throughout history, there has certainly always been queers of all sorts. So we know we were there but why are we not represented? The feeling for queers is that we are not included. We are not wanted and we do not belong. Our voices are silenced. Our many stories remain untold. We have been expunged. Cleared off. Vanished. This is what marginalisation looks like. This silence becomes the status quo. We start to even question if there were any queers at the time of the Buddha… we get little glimpses here and there, an errant queer will popup, playing peekaboo but then they are gone again. Were they imagined?? And then our very absence becomes an authoritative expression of what is allowed to exist, or desirable, or what is considered acceptable, moral or good. Silence and absence is an indicator to queers to know that they are in fact… bad.

Certainly, in ancient texts and even modern ones, queer identities are not allowed to speak for themselves, they are not certainly not praised or celebrated. This absence relegates us to the periphery, encouraging secrecy and shame. This is felt deeply, and internalised.

Don't Ask and Definitely Don't Tell

The way this plays out even today is through a continuation of that silencing in our Buddhist cultures, where queers are told both explicitly and through many subtle signals that their stories and experiences are not welcome in spiritual spaces; for example. when queer issues of oppression or discrimination are brought up (everyday experiences for us) we are told, ‘We don’t really talk about that sort of stuff here’. A research survey by Dr Stephen Kerry found that 60% of respondents felt that queer issues were silenced in their Buddhist communities.

Talking about queer issues is discouraged, yet straight or cis people are allowed to talk about their marriage problems and kids with no one silencing them. Another example of this erasure is when a meditation teacher assumes that everyone on the retreat is straight and only talks about attraction to the opposite sex, or assumes that the men they talk to in their interviews have girlfriends or vice-versa - I’ve seen all this happen. And then there is the segregation of sexes in meditation halls or retreat accommodation where no consideration is given to people who are trans or non-binary or those who have same sex attraction. Again, it’s like we don’t exist!

The feeling is similar to the way the idea of ‘tolerance’ towards LGBTQIA+ people, we will tolerate you… but we are not changing anything for you and you better fit in or else. This is a poor substitute for seeing us clearly for who we are and understanding our needs, and a long way metaphorically speaking from the warm embrace of undiluted metta… Because erasure makes you feel excluded, not included.

The Only Gay in the Village?

For me as a monk, the absence of stories that talk about people like me in the EBT’s makes me feel like I am the only queer monk in the world! But I know that’s not true and that there has been countless queer monks throughout history. Why are our stories missing? Why is there no guidance for us? Why is there silence? It’s a disapproving sort of silence… queers know that all too well.

This lack of representation places queer monastics in weird and slightly comical situations all the time. Because there is an absence of specific rules for queer monks or nuns, we don’t have rules that make sense for us in many situations. Worse, we are effectively forced back into the closet, again, and instead of existing as our natural queer selves, we are compelled to act out an ongoing and untruthful performance of straight sexual orientation. Can you see how that constitutes a kind of homophobia? ‘There can/should be no queer monastics’ is the message I’m definitely getting here…from the silence.

So, for example, I am not allowed to be alone with a woman, or sleep in the same room as a woman, but yet I can be alone with a man and sleep in the same room? Hmmm doesn’t make much sense does it? And you can’t just say to swap the genders till they make sense, what about bi-folk and in any case we can’t just change the rules, can we? Queers truly are here to create chaos. Our superpower is to mess up all those neat boundaries and make you question EVERYTHING! But seriously, erasure is not just an accidental and unfortunate occurrence. It is an ongoing process of prejudice, discrimination, and often violence. It has real and ongoing consequences for us today.

When THEY See US

Where we do exist in the texts it is usually from the perspective of another, not the voice of queer folks. Or where queers do pop up, they unfairly become emblematic of a group rather than seen as an individual. A good example is the story of the pandaka monk in the vinaya, who has become a trope representing unparalleled lust and debauchery, and whose actions condemned a whole group of people to the discrimination of being barred from ordination. Over the years, because of misunderstandings of exactly what a pandaka is, this story was used to condemn queer sex as sexual misconduct and bar same sex attracted people from ordination. The confusion still exists in Buddhist communities around the world today. The thing about this story is that it sticks out, and so the moral failing of one person is easily highlighted and extended to a group and then to other groups. They are made abnormal and monstrous. But aren't we provided with overwhelming evidence of unrestrained lust elsewhere in the texts of straight cis men (and women) and arent we regaled with stories of bestiality, necrophilia, rape and abuse by those men? But for some reason this evidence is not used against a whole group, but rather these people are seen as individuals. Queers are so often not given the dignity as being individuals, another hallmark of oppression.
Erasure matters. Representation matters.
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I’d be curious to hear a solution for this issue. Assuming the point of segregating men and women is to avoid sensual cravings like lust, where would you put people who are attracted to the same sex? Or should Buddhists just stop segregating people in their meditation halls?

I feel like the main reason for a male-only sanga is to help the monks avoid thoughts about sexual relationships. I assume this segregation has to do with temptation. Unfortunately, this becomes complicated if some monks are attracted to members of the same sex. If the monks are supposed to be celibate, it shouldn’t matter who they are attracted towards, but it is probably better for their studies/practice to not have that temptation surrounding them 24/7.

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I’m not sure this is the original reason. In many parts of Asia and India today you see women sitting behind men, not the equally divided room we experience in western retreat centres. It’s about hierarchy and who gets to sit closest to the ‘throne’.

It’s not that complicated really. The gay/bi/pan monks have been managing it for years… It means that we are responsible for controlling our own lust and we dont need to outsource the responsibility for this to the people we might get attracted to in order to “protect” our self. For example, the idea that men cant control themselves because of ‘urges’ and so therefore women have to dress modestly around them is a similar way men unfairly outsource responsibility for their own actions and defilements.

You see! We are here to mess with the system and colour outside the lines.

Sure, why not? Many already have and the world didn’t explode or anything… Think of it like the way office environments have changed over the years. Now folks wouldnt think of patting a woman’s bottom or surprise-massaging her neck, I think we can probably to manage to learn to control ourselves sitting in meditation with our eyes closed? If not then, then when?

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At my undergraduate university, we once hosted a gender conference, and the conference converted all the bathrooms in our student center to coed / gender-agnostic for the day.

I’ll never forget the feeling of breaking the taboo and walking into the (normally off limits) female bathroom: the thrill, the anxiety. The questions immediately leaping to mind… “what if?”…

And then a real, human female walked in and we shared a nervous, but understanding, laugh. We shrugged, did our business and left.

A simple disruption, but I learned so much from it.

I learned that taboos have real power. They’re physically difficult to cross. But, I also learned that they’re weak. They have power only because we repeat them.

After the conference, the bathrooms went back to “normal.” And of course you couldn’t try this experiment in Grand Central Station. But that day, in that one place, I got a glimpse of a future in which men could be trusted. I still believe that’s a world worth working towards.

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I’m curious what you would expect the EBT’s to say about LGBT+… do you want a hero monk who saves the day, but turns out to be gay at the end of the book?

I always assumed most of the monks in the EBT’s are Asexual, like a eunuch, rather than straight or gay. Couldn’t you just assume most of them are gay if you want to?

Monks are supposed to abstain from sexual thoughts, so their sexual preferences really shouldn’t matter.

I feel like silence is much better than something like this quote from the bible, “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” (I haven’t seen anything remotely anti-LGBT like this in the EBT’s, but I certainly haven’t read them all)

Do you have any evidence that LGBT+ voices have been “erased” from the texts, or purposefully suppressed?

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You use word “preference” implying that there is a choice but that is incorrect. The word ‘orientation’ is more useful to describe how innate sexualities are. Just because you are celibate does not mean your sexual orientation ceases to exist. This is a surprisingly common and stubborn misapprehension. You can be celibate and you are still gay. Or celibate but still straight. Right? If being celibate = absence of sexual orientation, then why do we have all these rules about abstaining from sexual activity for monks and nuns? Why do we have rules about men and women not sharing a room or being in private etc? The answer is because your sexual orientation does not just vanish when you ordain.

Eunuch’s still have sexual orientation and were known to participate in sexual activity. Again like celibacy, absence of sexual organs does not mean absence of sexual interest or expression.
If the monks were all asexual as in your version of the EBTs then why were there all the rules made by the Buddha about sexual activity? And what about all those scandalous stories in the Vinaya? In any case, eunuch’s are not asexual and asexuals are not eunuchs. These distinctions matter. Afterall the OP is taking about erasure.

No. Not really. I mean it’s a pretty out there suggestion, don’t you think? Or is it? I mean, why not I guess. Yeah! Great idea! Thanks!

So this reminds me of the doctrine of terra nullius that was used to disenfranchise Australia’s first nations people by creating a legal fiction that they didn’t exist and therefore couldn’t own the land. Very convenient and quite convincing it seems despite all the evidence to the contrary…

How do you prove you were erased? All the evidence is gone if you do it really properly. The question is: why aren’t there queer voices and stories in our sacred texts?

You could ask why tv shows and movies didn’t have gay characters for years and why a gay kiss or sex scene wasn’t in films even though there were heaps of straight characters and sex scenes. Same kind of thing I guess. It’s hard to point to the erasure of the queers and provide actual evidence but by it’s absence you know it’s there.

Certainly later Pali texts take a much stronger anti LGBTQ stance and are quite explicitly anti queer. Then later there’s the way colonialism transformed cultures that had been queer for ever and erased queer and trans folks through laws and religious moralising. That’s how it happens and I imagine similar forces may have been at play in earlier times and that’s why their voices are deafeningly silent.

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My thought is that this excellent discussion above is another facet to the idea that Rainbodhi and similar organizations do so much to give voice and identity and recognition to our humanity; a humanity that includes people of all genders and orientations. There must be just so much pain involved in being marginalized, or omitted, sort of a shadow side of living in a time and society where not being in the majority or in control must really be painful, at times.

It seems to me that part of the hope with the Dhamma is that if we do embrace the teaching of rebirth, then we must accept that we are all inheritors of past and diverse lives. I have spent this life as a straight man, but it’s hard to “other” others when one can meditate on the idea that in past lives I, or some aspect of my current DNA and consciousness, occupied a gay, gender diverse, or female life. It is only reasonable and logical under the big umbrella of rounds of rebirth that we have all been at some time or another, the “other.” Having been the other, how can we then see our peers as others, rather than as equal and noble facets of a very diverse humanity?

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of course sexual orientation can change over time! but even though it can change on its own, it can’t be changed. that’s why using the word “preference” is not ideal. it leaves some wiggle room for misinterpretation, even if unintentionally. if the misconception that sexual orientation is a choice wasn’t so prevalent, maybe we wouldn’t even notice when people use the word “preference”. but since it is, this word will naturally stick out for people.

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This is called bi-erasure, I believe.

I can’t believe that it’s 2021 and people are still arguing that sexual orientation is a choice.

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It may actually not be that difficult to see that people’s voices were erased. It’s really obvious that the suttas are recorded from the perspective of straight men.
For example, the very definition of sexual misconduct, which is not a minor matter but one of the fundamental precepts, only includes their perspective:

“He engages in sexual misconduct; he has sexual relations with women who are protected by their mother, father, mother and father, brother, sister, or relatives; who are protected by their Dhamma; who have a husband; whose violation entails a penalty; or even with one already engaged.

What does that mean for women? Or for gay men? Does it mean that we can’t commit sexual misconduct?
It’s really not straightforward how to “translate” this for non-male, non-straight people. Sometimes it is suggested that anything that “causes harm” is sexual misconduct. But we note that for example polygamy wasn’t considered misconduct by the Buddha, even though he spoke about the harm this causes for the women concerned.
So women and queer people are left wondering how to practice something as fundamental as the third precept.

Clearly, back in the Buddha’s day, there must have been an understanding what the third precept meant for women and other groups. But this wasn’t preserved in our texts. It’s therefore obvious that women’s and queer people’s voices weren’t considered worth transmitting.

There are many more instances… For example, whenever the Buddha talks about sexual attraction, he almost always presents it as the attraction of a man to a woman. In very rare cases, the attraction of a woman to a man. There is no sutta that talks about non-straight sexual orientations.
We know that this was discussed among the sangha, since we find references in the vinaya. Why is it not represented in the suttas?

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Personally as a homosexual I’ve never really felt excluded by what I’ve read in the suttas. I tend to just substitute the advice on women and sex for men and lustful thoughts towards them. I’m sure some homosexuals do feel excluded, and I’m sure for them it can be upsetting, but that isn’t true for all of us. Homosexuality wasn’t really recognised for what it is back then, and the norm was for men to be in charge. So, with all that in mind I’m not surprised that most of the suttas are aimed at straight men. Of course today things are different, but in terms of sexuality heterosexuality will always be the predominant prism through which society views sex and relationships, because that’s the dominant way in which sexuality is expressed. So, personally for me it doesn’t bother me when heterosexuality is assumed in any context.

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Our newish student-union building has agnostic bathrooms, which is not so surprising, but what is mildly subversive is that they don’t have the usual men/women symbols…

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Yes very good point, that is indeed a fundamental piece of doctrine and a good example of the erasure of women and queer people from the teachings. I remember puzzling over this myself a long time ago and wondering how I was meant to apply it.

Similarly with the Vinaya rules there is an absence of clarity for same-sex attracted people and a real lack of practical guidance. I remember one of my vinaya teachers telling the several gay/bi guys in the room to practice by simply swapping the gender in our rules. Though I appreciated the attempt at at least recognising there were queers present, it really isn’t the right way to go, because firstly it simply isn’t practical in an all male monastery to pretend all the men are women and not be alone, or travel together etc. And secondly it doesn’t work because we aren’t allowed to interact with women as if they were not covered by the rules, which would simply leave me in a weird wasteland of loneliness or in a hilarious twist, surrounded by other gays! And the poor invisible bi folks would be utterly stranded!

It’s so strange that though the Buddha was aware of same sex attraction he never made such rules to clarify. And it would be unthinkable for a group to suddenly invent their own Vinaya rules as my teacher suggested above. Given the massive corpus of obsessive detail some of the rules go into, it really is surprising that there is zero mention and therefore zero textual guidance for non-straight monastics.

Thank you for also pointing out the erasure of women from the 3rd precept. This is a good example of a text really not speaking to a huge segment of the community. It really does seem like a curiously odd omission.

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Just a side note re women and the 3rd precept: there is actually a whole sub-genre in languages like Sinhalese and Khmer on the behaviour of Buddhist women, which is often on the school curriculum in those countries & in many cases quite well known to women in Theravada countries themselves.

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Australian stations (at least NSW) are increasingly installing omni-use toilets. Possibly not for the reasons you did, more likely to make security easier: but very straight forward: lockable rooms rather than stalls that open directly on a pubic and very visible area. Sometimes there’s small hand basin inside each, sometimes they are share in the public area, so – shock horror – I got to wash my hands standing beside a strange man last week.

More seriously: The letters LGBTQIA+ = L+G+B+T+Q+I+A++ just kept growing. Some of the letters stand for ways of being that didn’t become a “thing” until the mid 20th Century. As with the positions of women and slaves, it’s not sociologically possible to makes simple comparisons between modern cultures and the culture of the Buddha’s time. It’s good to observe a nuanced discussion take place in this thread. @Akaliko thank you for starting the thread.

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Thank you Bhante @Akaliko for opening up this line of discussion. I felt increasingly uncomfortable looking at the Contemporary women’s concerns about apparent sexism in the EBTs thread because it seemed as if the voices that mattered the most were being squashed by the dry, detached, and quasi-rational voices of men. The lack of empathy was palpable and sad.

It’s all darkly coincidental: a monk-friend of mine recently asked me if I felt seen & understood by the ancient texts. My heartfelt answer was no.

As a queer man and as a Black man, I’ve had to approach the texts creatively and carefully, and not ask more from them than they can give. It requires a lot of lonely mental and emotional labor, often in environments that range from indifferent to hostile.

To not have to do this work, to see oneself quite plainly and easily in the texts, is a privileged position. I wish more people would recognize this. Not because they should feel guilty, but because they’ll start to understand the difficulties of those of us whom the texts don’t directly speak to (or worse, speak to antagonistically).

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Thank you for sharing both this insight from your personal perspective and this good advice.

A good summary of this topic!

For some reason I’m reminded of the way white people imagine Jesus as a white person and how this erases brown middle eastern folks from religious history and art, culture etc and continues to allow for cognitive dissonance that others these people as a lesser order.

Similarly, men might not see the ways they have totally usurped our religion. It’s an astonishing thing that the main Buddhist voices and experts are all men, however, on the ground, in my experience, it is women who are the lifeblood of Buddhism but their immense contribution tends to not be valued.

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Maybe the Buddha didn’t want to place responsibility on women in a society where men had all the power?

He could have wanted to avoid legitimizing victim blaming. Like, he could have been like “women, stop temping men, cover up and stay at home, only go outside with a male relative”, but instead he was like, “(straight) guys, don’t be creepy” :slight_smile:

Maybe same sex attraction wasn’t seen as something controversial so it didn’t warrant special rules?

Like, the EBTs have an arahant nun saying gender isn’t even real. Maybe the Buddha was being a bit more lenient towards people who were disadvantaged in society? The bodhisattva, before he gave up sensuality, could have been bi. Why not?

I mean, it makes sense that monasticism would have been a refuge for queer people in a patriarchal society. The Buddha doesn’t once go “queer people bad, only buff straight men can be spiritual”.

Instead, we have discourses like AN 7.51, which could easily be read as a queer text. IMO, there are many EBTs that are queer as hell and I find that extremely cool :slight_smile:

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There have always been Lesbians, Gays, Bi folks, Trans folk (of one sort or another, such as 2 spirit, 3rd gender, molly boys etc), Queer folks (although I do appreciate the reclaiming of this term as an empowered identity in the mid C20th. Q also the stands for Questioning, which has always been there too ),and there has always been Intersex people and Asexual people. What didnt exist in the same way was the language we used to describe these groups. In many countries today the only words to describe us are pejorative insults, so I am certainly all in favour of more letters if it means people feel empowered and that they belong. Whilst the cultural expression of these identities also changes over time the core features that describe these groups do not change and have always existed.

One of the strategies used to disempower queer people and dispossess our histories is to say that they are a pinko/socialist/modern liberal invention, a product of political correctness gone mad, identity politics taking over. Or that there are too many letters and we just cant cope, that they will steal the whole alphabet like they stole the rainbow… But what we are seeing is people using language to describe themselves and reveal themselves. They have always existed but were often forced to remain unseen. Humans are much more interesting than we were taught in history books.

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Hmmm. It’s been my experience that this text is frequently used to deny queer and trans identities and used to reinforce hetronormative, binary ideas about gender and sexuality.

It’s also worth mentioning that women and trans folks are frequently told to transcend their gender and queer folks to transcend sexual orientation. But though we see it in this sutta, this is rarely suggested to men or straight people in practice!

We are told gender doesn’t matter but then women are barred from ordination and are unable to be alone with monks. So it does matter, then does it? We queers are told sexual orientation is not important but then we see the ways heteronormativity is entrenched in our rules and culture.

People like to say that the term ‘guys’ is gender neutral, like ’ hey guys’ and that it includes everyone. But when you ask a straight man how many ‘guys’ he’s slept with, it turns out it’s not neutral at all. I think it is similar with the issues I’ve raised about gender and sexual orientation.

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