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