Responding to and discussing gender issues

Continuing the discussion from Buddhism, Women, & Gender (A Bibliography):

Friend @Rosie,

The issue of transgenderism is a new and complex one for many people (I think for most people), and unfortunately mature and calm attempts to explain and discuss it are very often marred by the tendency to take either defensive or aggressive emotional positions with regards to it. Therefore I ask for your forbearance should I (or possibly others) say something here that is coming from ignorance rather than knowledge.

I have started this new thread to avoid off topic talk on the other thread.

There could be multiple reasons for that, ranging from the unfortunate pure prejudicial, to that based on some contemplation. For example there’s the belief that identifying oneself as man or woman comes naturally while it takes some kind of ‘extra unnatural’ effort/desire to become trans; leading subsequently to the conclusion that the tanha which mobilises trans persons is greater or even ‘worse’ than normal!

I don’t subscribe to this view, but only because I don’t regard sexual/gender impulses to be particularly unique or more significant than other impulses. Though sensuality and aversion are being considered in Buddhist psychology to be more profound and intense than other impulses, this doesn’t mean that because one’s sensual/gender impulses are more visibly active this makes those impulses inherently greater or worse. That is, I don’t see any reason to believe that a trans person cannot be more capable of sensual restraint, and even renunciation, than a man or woman, or that their restraint in sensuality cannot be even greater than that in aversion or any other impulse.

In this sense to me the intensity or nature of tanha is not necessarily effected to the worse by the changes one makes to realise comfort or pleasure, nor is there anything so particularly exceptional or unique in changing ones gender or sexual orientation than there would be in changing an old pair of shoes that one does no longer like with new ones! In both cases one is driven by tanha: aversion regarding the unliked, and craving for the liked. Simple! What trans persons do is founded on exactly the same psychological principle defining what everyone does, on a daily basis, all the time.

The trouble though is that trans people will differ among themselves as to the ‘uniqueness’ of their gender identity, and many would find dissatisfaction with what I just said now about how much of ordinary people they are! We must not forget two important facts here: the Dhamma is an utterly renunciatory doctrine and practice and, trans persons are not all Dhamma practitioners! That is to say, while Dhamma tolerates no identity beliefs, many trans persons will and do identify themselves ultimately as trans, and they will even go so far in substantiating their identity as to state that it is better or superior than being man or woman. You yourself have done that when you declared that your trans being or experience (bhava) makes you more suited to the “middle way”! (& please forgive me if I have misunderstood you on this point).

This means that while Dhamma does not discriminate (in my understanding of it for that matter), many trans persons have themselves attributed qualities and signs of uniqueness and significance to their experience, thus turning it from a common, very common impersonal process of tanha (in line with Dhamma), into a stable and unique identity (contrary to Dhamma). And though it is reasonably arguable that many men and women do the exact same thing, the counter argument would be that: yes, of course they do, but not in a Dharmic context, and doing so would be contrary to Dhamma just as well.

And while it is understandable and expected that trans persons will substantiate their experience and identity in a mundane context, just as men and women do, those amongst them, like you, who are interested in Dhamma, will have to recognise their identity as a conventional, empty thing, along with ‘all’ the habits and preferences that are associated with this identity; just as men and women interested in Dhamma do.

There’s nothing in Dhamma that could possibly support or reinforce anyone’s identity, simply because no identity actually exists, aside from in a phantom-like form within the mental world of the individual. Though identity is unreal, our love and attachment to it is very real, and it is precisely this that Dhamma is strictly about: real experiences rather than abstract things. And the reason you might find resistance in a Dhamma forum is not always because people wrongly don’t like your identity and discriminate against it, but perhaps sometimes because they feel that you have brought your identity with you -whatever it is- and that you may have been particularly preoccupied with it! You’ll find that a very similar situation applies to man vs. woman debates.

While we’re all naturally affected by our deeply rooted sense of self, we make an effort, at least in a Dhamma context, to resist for a while our interest and preoccupation with both the physical and mental attributes of such self.

Enfin, sorry if I have repeated myself or spoke of things you’re already well aware of. And please do not be dissuaded from pursuing discussions here over gender issues from whatever angle you like, and I hope you will manage to ignore any silly or discourteous remarks you come across from those lacking curiosity or civility.

Most appreciatively.


Bhante, thanks for opening this up for discussion.

This is an area that interests me as gender one of the main places we make our home. I’m really interested from a Dhamma perspective in trying to understand gender perspectives for the exact reason that most people cling to their gender identity so fiercely. This came up in a retreat I just sat where the teacher gently pushed people to investigate their attachment to gender in the Q&A and elicited strong responses.

From a broader practice perspective it seems that the things/feelings we try to repress hold us back so much and that when we shine a light on them they can be fully understood and let go of. When we accept the present moment of our reality as it is liberation can take place.

So to speculate in relation to trans experiences, someone who has spent their younger years repressing their gender identity (or any significant part of their identity) first needs to understand and accept that identity before they let go of the construct. Whether in this life or the next.

@rosie I don’t purport to understand trans perspectives from personal experience, but I hope this adds to the conversation in some way. I look forward to furthering my understanding.


For me, this is at the heart of such matters.

It’s so easy to denounce another person’s lived reality or to think we know what it is. That if these people are saying these things or supportive of these things, they must be like this…and so on…

But to just accept someone’s personal experience, as if we are not able to read their mind and know what’s best for them, as if we are open, somehow able to suspend our own perceptions and thoughts while we just listen and accept - well, if we can do this, imagine how little harm we will do each other and how much we will support each others’ personal journey to understanding.

We won’t need to argue. Just accept that it is like this or like that for someone else - we may not always understand, but we can always mirror back our acknowledgement of them, our acceptance and our love.

When the Buddha talks about loving-kindness or the importance of being present/mindful, to me this is the kind of thing he means.


You might be interested in AN 7.48 then; excerpt:

"And how is there lack of bondage? A woman does not attend inwardly to her feminine faculties… feminine charms. She is not excited by that, not delighted by that… does not attend outwardly to masculine faculties… masculine charms. She is not excited by that, not delighted by that… does not want to be bonded to what is outside her, does not want whatever pleasure & happiness that arise based on that bond. Not delighting, not caught up in her femininity, a woman does not go into bondage with reference to men. This is how a woman transcends her femininity.

"A man does not attend inwardly to his masculine faculties… masculine charms. He is not excited by that, not delighted by that… does not attend outwardly to feminine faculties… feminine charms. He is not excited by that, not delighted by that… does not want to be bonded to what is outside him, does not want whatever pleasure & happiness that arise based on that bond. Not delighting, not caught up in his masculinity, a man does not go into bondage with reference to women. This is how a man transcends his masculinity.


Thank you for that. I am still young [66 years] and ignorant, which is no doubt why I am here.


Good day to you my friend. And first I will apologize for the vociferousness of my response. If I exhibited an excessively passionate response, it is not because I am invested in Trans-ness as an identity that needs defending for I am in agreement with you that identity is illusory regardless of its particular configuration.

Correct, and this perception-that transsexuality is a choice or some psychological deviation from “the norm” caused my vehement reaction because this lack of understanding with its attendant judgment has resulted in the death of so many people who struggle to fit in. Transsexuality, at least in my case,has nothing to do with desire or aversion or comfort or pleasure, but rather is a biological imperative which compelled me to take certain measures in order not to suffer in my own hell. I did not choose it. Perhaps others choose it for their own reasons.

You hit the nail on the head with this observation. When I was young I thought that I was the only person in the world who felt so different. Now the whole gender identity issue has become politicized and polarized to an absurd degree causing much dissension and separation within the community. I personally would rather forget about gender identity and all the other isms that separate us as humans. But the comment to which was responding contained so untruths or unsubstantiated opinion that I could not let it stand as a valid perspective. Again I apologize if my ego responded inappropriately.

And apologies if I gave the impression that as a trans person my perspective was somehow superior to others. I only meant to indicate that by the circumstances of my birth and subsequent experience that I am more capable of the suffering of both genders. This does not make be better or different, but allows me greater insight into the suffering of all humans. Some may take issue with this statement, as I recall they have…yet the value of my experience lies in its inclusive nature.

Though it may not be obvious in the words of my passionate rebuke, this is precisely what I know and need to hear on a daily basis. The illusory trap of identity is a burden I will continue to leave in the karmic dust of my desire to transcend my personality regardless of its particular position in the gendered continuum.

The answer is yes. I apologize if I exhibited an excess of passion in my response to your comments. But much of what you say sounds deprecatory without reference. My only desire is to push back against the exposition of unjustified or unproven theories which seem to indict or attribute cause to this condition, which has not yet been determined. I truly wish only for the happiness of all sentient beings. With Metta, Friend.

Of course, and I hope that my passionate response did not cause too big a ripple. In fact there are no ripples for yesterday does not really exist. I have so much to learn… I need to hear more and be less reactionary.

In closing this comment and with the desire to adhere to the concept of right thinking I apologize for my passionate outbursts, and want only happiness for us all. To that end I send loving kindness to those I have offended and those I might in the future. Thank you for the time it took to respond to this topic. May it rest in peace. [smile]


Sorry, it was a post about the issue in general and had nothing to do with you and the other topic. I have not even read it lately and don’t know what discussion happened over there.

The conceit problems brought up in this topic, problems that sexuality might cause, are not unique to transgenderism. They spring from the popular american idea of “celebrating your identity”. Funniest example of that is asexualism.

One would expect that asexual people would have nothing to do with sexual identity politics. One would expect they would just mind their own business and have nothing to do with such things. But would there be any fun in just minding your own business ? Can you just stay on the side and not joint the tribal identity fun that is going on ?

Sure you might have nothing to do with sexuality but why not make the “having nothing to do with sexuality” part of your identity and then go out on the streets with your tribe to show that your tribe is as cool as everybody else and it’s just as opressed and outraged as everybody else. Why not form a tribe and show how cool and proud your tribe is ?

Buddhism is walking against the current. Because of this, there will be popular ideas that society holds that will be different from buddhism. If society would be already enlightened there would be no point for buddhism.

What is good to take out of transgenderism and use in buddism is the rebelion of it. No doubt being in such a small and unconventional minority requires some power of rebelion and courage to not care about society. Buddhism is the biggest rebelion of them all, you can’t rebel any more than that. It’s the abandonment of it all. In a way, it’s someting as rebelious as it gets. It’s the real walking against the current.


Sometimes a like isn’t enough.
Thanks for pointing out this sutta.


I don’t really have anything to add, but I just want to offer a big Sadhu(!) to Bhante @anon61506839 for starting this thread and for the sensitivity and compassion with which you did so. And also many thanks to @Rosie for your ever wonderful presence and perspective. Anumodana! :pray:


“Anumodana is a difficult word to translate into English. Literally, it means “rejoicing together,” but it can also mean approval and encouragement. The tradition of Buddhist monks’ giving anumodana to donors of food and other requisites goes back to the time of the Buddha. After a meal or when presented with a gift, he would often “instruct, urge, rouse, and encourage” the donor(s) with a talk on Dhamma. Many of the anumodana stanzas used today come straight from these talks. Reading them in translation, it is obvious that the stanzas are not mere blessings. They express approval for the donor’s wisdom in being generous, explain the rewards of generosity, and give encouragement to continue being generous.”

Thanks for the new big word. And for your presence here. Namaste


I’m not sure where I heard this translation, but I like to define it as, “rejoicing in the generosity of others.” :pray:


Not at all.

Some voices need to be heard more often and more clearly, simply because they haven’t been, or aren’t, heard in the past/present and because in listening to them, even when they speak passionately, we learn to accomodate difference and this - if we allow it - has the potential to teach us to be tolerant and accepting of the differences that exist between all of us; and this can teach us to be more accepting of ourselves. I believe those who in the past would have not just been suppressed but persecuted have, (potentially and possibly - not definitely), a particularly unpleasant weight of conditioning that we all need to acknowledge and then assist in whatever compassionate way we can in order for there to be movement past this. We can mirror back that it’s okay, that there’s acceptance. I feel this is what a community can do for an individual; then that individual’s ability to let go and to grow in Dhamma is enhanced.

Frankly, some of us need to get over ourselves a bit and not be so precious about accomodating currently and previously marginalised groups. Yeah, we all may have suffered from different kinds of discrimination at different times. But so what, that doesn’t mean we don’t assist those who’ve experienced mahadukkha as opposed to culadukkah a bit more… Just because there are various forms of discrimination out there, doesn’t mean we don’t do what we can to lessen a bit of it! If we approach this with kindness instead of with our massive egos, we might even view it as an act of dana…generosity and letting go instead of “what about me? isn’t fair…”! We really need to stop ourselves and ask, if it’s our turn to sing this song, or if it’s our turn to give more - through our acceptance, our words of kindness and acknowledgement, or energy in just listening.

We all have suffering in our lives. I’ve experienced a few different forms of discrimination. I have suffered and still do. So what? When another human being begins to tell me about how they have suffered; I don’t turn it in to a competition and tell them how I’ve suffered. I just listen. I’m there for them. Perhaps, later I might have someone listen to me - if I need it. But right then, in that moment, with them, is not the time for me to tell them that their expressions of suffering are similiar or different to mine; or that their expressions of suffering are causing me to feel more suffering or their expressions of suffering are causing me to feel guilty (perhaps I “belong” to a group that once or still does do some of the inflicting of suffering…then it’s my job not to project my suffering, borne of personal identification with said group, on to this person I’m listening to!)

So personally Rosie, I’m really glad to have your voice here.

If only others were as humble, as self-effacing, as forgiving and as explicitly kind. Thank you.


I should qualify this statement. Listening is something done with the whole body - with the mental/emotional attitude we project, with the way we sit in relation to the other person’s body. With the expressions on our face and in our eyes.

It’s hard to do it online, even via things like Skype. You kind of have to feel that person and their emotions. I find a phone call is better than skype for such things. But that’s just my personal preference.

On this forum, the worst of the best we can do is to refrain from commenting, from putting our stuff, or perceptions and sense of what’s correct and right on to another. A little better might be to press “like”. But it’s lovely to read words of kindness and encouragement and acceptance - that’s the best of the best even though it’s not really “listening” as such…it still mirrors back acknowledgement.

I don’t always get it right. I’ve challenged when I should have listened - both online and in real life. But I think this is something worth considering, certainly in terms of the title of this OP and I know it’s an area I am hoping to grow and learn more about myself.


“Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.” _Marcus Aurelius


I was just thinking…sometimes…lol…I’ve made the opposite mistake too. I’ve listened when I should have challenged! I find it tricky at the best of times, but online on such a forum! Phew! It’s not easy at all. Again, in relating back to the title of this OP, I’ve to say, thank goodness we’ve got our Guidelines, to well, guide us! :slight_smile: And I’m so glad this was a document that we as a community approved of…it’s ours and we should use it! I know one of the other Mods said that she did an experiment for a while and everytime she posted something, she went to the Guidelines and checked to see if her posting was okay!! Now that’s commitment to Practice!

Thank the Buddha our Guidelines are based in his Dhamma: in Right Speech, Metta, Gentleness. Yeah, sure we’ll make mistakes and often not even realise that we’ve made them. But as long as we acknowledge this, when we do realise it, at least to ourselves, if it’s too humbling/painful for our ego to do it to another, then we’ll eventually, hopefully, learn and grow in Dhamma.



Naaa! :slight_smile: I’m a believer in the importance of error and of the freedom to be wrong, and utterly wrong!


Dear Kay, I am renewed by your understanding and compassion. This identity with which I have grappled and and continue to wrestle with has been the most illuminating and challenging issue of my current incarnation. In many stages, upon varied platforms and though a progression of mental states I have arrived at the first level of understanding. The first thing I learned was that there are two and only two identities available to humans and that we all must make tremendous effort to cram ourselves into our assigned boxes. The second thing I realized was that failure to comply could result in the administration of a wide variety of punishment including murder or worse…excommunication. The next thing I discovered was that there was no box for me.

This was a blessing and a curse-for this realization propelled me into the void where I knew that I had existed before I was assigned an identity. All of this happened by the age of sixteen or eighteen years of age. But this knowledge provided me with no relief until I embraced Buddha, and began to understand the implications of my awareness.

I am very young in Buddhism and with so much to learn, I am like a child starved for soulfood [do we believe in a soul? lol]. My naivete is a plus in the sense that I have no sense of propriety or political correctness-only the intention to grow as a human in compassion and understanding. But the same quality also allows me to plow right through an interaction without requisite knowledge or sensitivity. My passionate defense of trans-ness-in response to widespread ignorance is a burden I work to release by understanding the concept of dependent origination which describes a level field in which we all suffer from the same delusion.

In conclusion, I will express my appreciation for your gentle manner and kind words which speak to my heart and soften it so that it may absorb more of others suffering rather than allowing it to be hardened by ideology. And BTW…IMHO you di listen, and heard me quite well, and may the compassion you extended to me returns to you many times over

Thank you for hearing me. I wish you much joy in life! Namaste


Lol, fair enough :grin:

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You’re so very welcome. And I wish you the same Rosie :hibiscus:

What a beautiful place to be in. :slight_smile: May your journey be a happy one.

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