Transgender Ordination

Note: This is tagged under watercooler because I’d like to hear from the perspective of the early Buddhist teachings as well as from modern circumstances.

Is there a basis for the ordination of a transgender person into the Sangha of Bhikkhus or Bhikkunis? This question is asked with the understanding that said transgender person has undergone gender confirmation surgery, and appears/acts in accordance with the gender they transitioned to. Also, this person is not a eunuch, nor are they steeped in all the implications of what being a eunuch entails. Removal of genitalia does not alone, a eunuch make. (Unless it does? There are those who may debate this point.) This is a person who claims to be definitively the opposite gender to which they were assigned at birth.


Hi, if you aren’t familiar with Michael Dillon/Lobzang Jivaka, you might wish to look into him.


Hi @faye, welcome :slight_smile:

I think there is a basis in the vinaya for the ordination of trans people:

At one time female characteristics appeared on a monk. They told the Buddha.

“Monks, I allow that discipleship, that ordination, those years as a monk, to be transferred to the nuns. The monks’ offenses that are in common with the nuns are to be cleared with the nuns. For the monks’ offenses that are not in common with the nuns, there’s no offense.”

At one time male characteristics appeared on a nun. They told the Buddha.

“Monks, I allow that discipleship, that ordination, those years as a nun, to be transferred to the monks. The nuns’ offenses that are in common with the monks are to be cleared with the monks. For the nuns’ offenses that are not in common with the monks, there’s no offense. ”

I don’t see why it matters whether one transitions before or after ordaining. Transitioning from one gender to another is literally having the characteristics of the other gender appear; from clothes, to hairstyle, to behavior, to hormones, to surgery, etc.

So to my mind, I can’t think of any more explicit endorsement of trans monastics in any religious text other than in the Theravada vinaya :cowboy_hat_face:

IMO, we don’t really know what pandaka (the word sometimes translated as eunuch) really refers to. IIRC, around 500 years later when Buddaghosa comments on what pandaka means, it’s clear we have totally lost the cultural context to understand who pandakas were.

Certainly though, people today tend to project their own modern prejudices into these ancient categories. It’s almost like they go “hmm, who do we discriminate against today? ahh, trans people, surely they must be banned for ordination”.

Before this, it was gay men who were suspected pandakas and may have been denied ordination on that ground.

Moreover, to insist that trans women are eunuchs is incredibly hurtful, derogatory and transphobic. Such an extremely harmful view cannot be Dhamma or Vinaya to my mind.

Edit: See also:

  1. Before ordaining, should get both parents permission. After ordaining, even if parents don’t like don’t give permission, doesn’t matter anymore, not like the monk has to disrobe depending on the whims of the parents.
  2. Lost limbs, blind, other disabilities, before ordination, then cannot ordain due to the disability. If after ordination, then lost limb, got blind, etc it’s not like disrobe and don’t care. Nope, the monastic sangha would take care of our own. The difference is that we don’t want people to join in the sangha to be taken cared of.

There’s several other things that shouldn’t be ordained but if ordained can still remain and several which shouldn’t be ordained, and if ordained should be kicked out, disrobed.

Can read from 47 onwards.

But there are also things that don’t matter whether you do them before or after ordination?

What is the basis in the Vinaya that transitioning genders is fine if you do it after ordination but not if you do it before?

If someone transitions fully before ordaining, that is easier to support for the Sangha, because there is less medical expenses for the Sangha and/or supporters.

As described in the OP, if genital removal is considered as eunuch, then there’s an issue of cannot ordain eunuch.

1 Like

Trans women aren’t eunuchs though, because they’re not men (they’re women), so no problem :slight_smile:

Edit: Trans women aren’t trying to ordain as monks, they’d be ordaining as nuns just FYI


This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.

1 Like

I sincerely hope you find the empathy, compassion and opportunity to understand what it’s like for trans people one day. I think you would change your mind :green_heart:


This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.

1 Like

Eunuchs were forcibly castrated to serve a social function. Not the same thing.


Well, I’m informing you that the views you’re expressing here are harmful and hurtful to trans people. Please take this into consideration when posting, you don’t need to express these views to trans people posting on this forum.


This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.

1 Like

FYI, saying that trans women are eunuchs is a transphobic talking point used to harass and humiliate trans women in the ongoing “culture wars”.

Edit: I would like the @moderators to chime in on whether it is acceptable to say that trans women are eunuchs because of free speech or whatever.

Edit2: Not saying that your intentions are bad @NgXinZhao, but you are causing harm with your speech. Do with this information what you wish :pray:



Fortunately, in Canada, this type of thing would be put to the federal Supreme Court in response to Bill C-16 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression. Freedom of religion is very closely protected here, but it is not an absolute right and there are plenty of cases in which the SC has struck down religious activities as not protected under the Charter for various reasons, while still maintaining protections over certain activities carried out under the name of religion that are socially repugnant or even against the law.

Additionally, there are other laws in place here now to protect gender fluid children against things like conversion therapy. Gender identity and expression is now highly protected in Canada. At least under the law.


This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.

I hope that any discussion here is about how trans people can be given equal rights and access to opportunities, not whether they deserve equal rights and access to opportunities. The equality of LGBT people should not really be up for debate.

1 Like

Except you can just let whether someone is a man or a woman depend on their gender identity. You can interpret gender this way (this is the way that does not harm trans people nor cis people nor Buddhism).

Does the Vinaya say that people who are born with a penis are men and people who are born with a vagina are women? Does it define gender?

It’s weird to see Buddhist monastics treat gender as a stable, essential category fixed at birth by nature.

All sankharas are impermanent, but not gender, that’s fixed, stable, eternal, lasting?

If gender is so fixed in the Vinaya, why can monks and nuns change order if they obtain the characteristics of the other gender?

At least admit it’s possible that the Vinaya might allow a more sophisticated theory of gender than man=penis, woman=vagina?

Edit: Like, you are reading the Vinaya with your own theory of gender in mind. The people who composed the Vinaya probably had very different ideas about what the terms ‘man’ and ‘woman’ meant, because they lived in a completely different culture.

This is evident even from Buddaghosa’s analysis of pandaka; it doesn’t make any sense (to us). People who are aroused by the phases of the moon? What?


The issue is not on this. Also we cannot be gender blind, as only men can be admitted to the bhikkhu sangha and women to the bhikkhuni sangha.

People with both sex are explicitly ruled out to cannot ordain.

The issue is on castration.

The Buddhist monastic code as written by ven. Thanissaro clearly said eunuch is included in the pandaka to not be ordained. And would that eunuch mean any castration? Because I am not sure if people are super aware of the subtle differences between the two words.

I had been told too, I vaguely recall, even before I ordained that the way to deal with sexual desire is not to castrate oneself, it could even disqualify one for ordination.

But it doesn’t say in the Vinaya what men and women are. If you say that ‘gender = the genitals you are born with’, you’re reading a specific idea of gender into the Vinaya.

Only given the theory of gender that birth-genitals = gender.

The alternative theory of gender is gender identity. There is no issue for one who accepts that gender identity is the determinant of someone’s gender.

You must admit that the composers of the Vinaya might have had different ideas about gender than the ones floating around in our culture now. It is not certain that they would agree that gender=genitals, right?