Transgender Ordination

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?


Maybe it should be translated as werewolf?

“Freud himself produced the first analytic biographies of men and, in the “Wolf Man” case history, showed how adult personality was a system under tension, with countercurrents repressed but not obliterated (Freud [1917] 1955).”

Temporarily closed for moderator discussion.

Hi Erik,
To answer your question, while there’s a useful place for free speech (and plenty of places on the web that are free-for-alls in that regard), the Guidelines and the FAQ are very clear about the priority of Right Speech with respect to Free Speech here:

I was the first mod on the scene last night and closed the thread and flagged a number of posts expressing that viewpoint. We believe all arguments were made in good faith and not maliciously. However, we want this forum to be a safe and supporting place for trans people and all others, and really don’t want discussion to head towards any potentially transphobic talking points.



The genitals (body) are the main issue here, not gender, regarding ordination.

Hi @faye

Welcome to the forum. :crazy_face:

You are welcome here and you belong here. I am very sorry that your first experience on the forum has demonstrated why trans members of our community might not feel welcome or safe to talk about these sensitive and important topics.

The aspiration to ordain is truly wonderful and I just want to take a moment to celebrate this noble intention with the wish that you can overcome any barriers and that your aspirations for monastic life are fulfilled.

I want to let you know that there is a trans ordination working party that I helped set up (but is led by trans folks), which has been looking at these issues and has had input from senior monastics and Vinaya experts.

Contact me via private message so that I can put you in touch.

To all the trans folks on our forum who have been hurt or offended by comments and opinions here, you have my sympathies and my apologies. :smiling_face_with_three_hearts::smiling_face_with_three_hearts::smiling_face_with_three_hearts:


I think that one way of viewing this question may be to ask:- who gets to decide if you are a man or a woman?

In the ordination ceremony I believe that it is a question to the person being ordained. So if they are a woman then the truthful answer is that they are a woman, and if they are a man then the truthful answer is that they are a man. I don’t think that the person (midwife, nurse, doctor, etc…) who made a mistake and got the gender wrong at the birth of the person being ordained gets a say at ordination time, and as I understand it, no evidence is required for the answer given.

Yes indeed. In this case, I would suggest that it is simply ‘corrective surgery’.

For those who are interested in the current scientific perspective on the thorny issue of sex differentiation, here’s a very short introduction from The Lancet on The misuses of “biological sex”.


As far as I know, there’s nothing in the vinaya about a woman having genital surgery that prevents her from ordaining?

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What is “a woman having genital surgery”?

A woman who has had some kind of surgery on her genitals?

What is "some kind of surgery on her genitals?

I find this thread very disturbing and just wanted to leave a message of support for the trans community.

This debate reminds me very much of how women’s ordination used to be / is still being discussed. While a lot of hate speech and uninformed opinions proliferated all over the world, supportive monastics just went ahead and did the ordinations. And now we have thousands of fully ordained Theravada women worldwide, and the female sangha continues to grow and thrive.

It’s the same with trans ordinations. Trans people, as well as non-binary and intersex people, have already been ordained and will continue to be ordained. So if you’re a trans person looking for ordination, please don’t look to internet fora for guidance. Find a knowledgeable monastic and talk to them privately.
And don’t be discouraged by threads like this one. There’s a lot of support in the sangha.
:rainbow: :transgender_flag:


For example, vaginoplasty. A woman might have a vaginoplasty (surgically constructing a vagina) because she had a vaginectomy due to cancer, because she was born with vaginal atresia, or because she’s trans.

Well, it sounds to me that what needs to happen is the sangha needs to stop looking in people’s pants and remove sexual discrimination altogether.


All of those points were my thoughts too. Thank you for posting.


Surgery to correct an obstetric fistula …

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Meggers, do you know if a religious community would be punished by the law for refusing to accept a trans person, on the basis that they believe the Vinaya says its not allowed (based on a very Grey interpretation of the texts?) is that against the law?