Our perception of gender

It is not much use to quote any figures about how many people did not complete it because many people would not have seen this Gender Identification field. It was only introduced last year and the site has been going since 2015. Moreover, many people don’t participate in the forum. We recently deleted hundreds of old accounts that had never been used.


male or female wolf :smile:


When I filled in the form I was also surprised that it was there… I thought it was maybe to help identify percentage of users, ie ratio of gender split in users… ie a possible measure of inclusiveness, accessibility or relevance of material etc.


Can’t male monastics be called Ayya too? I thought that I heard something like that surrounding the ordination ceremony? Or is it females that can be called bhante? I can’t seem to find anything on it now.

Doesn’t Ayya mean brother in Sinhalese?

And I think the (female) nannies in colonial India were called Ayya too?

Quite confusing.


Indeed, “Ayye” can also used for monks and when I was in Sri Lanka, elderly Bhikkhunis were referred to as “Bhante” and even as “Bhikkhu” because they were said to have transcended gender.


Yes, so it seems. Mat-ayya means Mat, the older brother, not strictly denoting a family connection, but any man older than oneself but not old enough to be an ‘uncle’. This is not the same as Mett-eyya, of course! :slight_smile:

With metta


In the original texts, bhikkhus are referred to as āyasmā and bhikkhunis as ayyā. These are from the root āyu (life, long life), and so we translate them as ‘venerable’. The terms are not entirely consistent in the early texts. Sometimes bhikkhus are referred to as ayya, and sometimes the bhikkhus refer to lay people as āyasmā.


Ah. The most common gender of all. :wink:


Our gender identities are rooted a lot in our body and physical appearance and how people react to that along with their agenda. It’s interesting how we (some more some less) automatically transfer it into the online world where we actually could have the freedom not to be determined by our physicality but through language and style only.

In certain topics like bhikkhuni ordination women will have more personal experience with sytemic discrimination, but I don’t think that many other dhamma related topics would be ‘revealing’ like that.
Do you guys think that our discussions on the forum would be very different if we didn’t have pictures and boys- and girls-names but just some random letters as ‘names’?


Hi Aminah,

I think the main thought behind introducing the gender identification field was to provide a space for people to input their gender pronouns. There is a tendency, I have noticed, to mis-gender people in online spaces – and via introducing this field I had hoped to do something to prevent that. I can understand how it might appear to be ‘boxing people in,’ but that absolutely was not the intention.

Gender identity is an tricky and complicated thing, and I wanted to be able to give people the option to state how they would like to be addressed. Let’s say, for instance, that someone would like to be addressed as ‘they’ or ‘ze’ or by their name, or simply using no pronoun at all. There was previously no place to put this information, and I can imagine it would be pretty awkward to start a thread saying, ‘hey you’re mis-gendering me can you please stahhhhppp.’

I don’t know how it is in the UK, but in the US gender identification is a very sensitive issue, one that is tied up with the lack of recognition for transgender and gender non-conforming peoples. There have been a lot of efforts, specifically at IMS, BCBS, and Spirit Rock, to not only recognize the vast array of gender identities, but to provide spaces where they can practice in comfort and safety. I was working towards making this forum one of those places.

For some more awesome info on this, the “Developing Trans* Competence: A Guide for Meditation and Retreat Centers” by is continually one of my favorite things.


Thanks for this explanation, Brenna, and also for the resources you’ve forwarded.

I very easily can see where you’re coming from and more than anything salute your efforts to make an inclusive environment in which people don’t feel inappropriately conceived of and avoid any resulting awkwardness or pain.

From my point of view, the category doesn’t only ‘box people in’, but also imposes a focus on gender (/forces new sign-ups view life through the lens of gender identity) where otherwise there wouldn’t be, and this, too, can have its difficulties. Nevertheless, exactly as you point to, there are contextual circumstances surrounding all initiatives and if at this point in social history this is a measure that can help to balance things out for the greater good that’s wonderful and a compromise absolutely worth making - I’d only want to have it recognised as a compromise.

Your reply raises two questions for me:

1) in all other cases I’ve heard of the introduction of broader gender ID categories (eg. some banks in the UK recently did) there have already been pre-existing (narrow) gender categories and those categories were rightly opened out as a corrective; is the same thing necessarily applicable where there were no categories in the first place?

2) (and please know that this is not to challenge, but really just to openly reflect so as to help us see that we’re doing as best as we can) in view of the purpose (of avoiding using the wrong pronouns), by casual assessment would you say the introduction of the gender category has had the intended result?

Lastly, the one point we’re most definitely 100% in agreement on is the recognition that “[g]ender identity is an tricky and complicated thing”! :slight_smile:


How spirit mediums blur gender lines in Southeast Asia


There is sometimes in terms intended to be inclusive an effect of vanishing the differing povs, and life experiences. One can wonder then if one is welcome at all.

It has seemed in this life’s exoerience that openness and equanimity is more easily sustained when language and topics are transparent, not repressed or taboo.

interesting beneficial thread, gentle beings.

Interesting, thanks for sharing … it’s all about how the same person is perceived.