Transsexualism: The Middle path, or Educational Karma?

Greetings! I am new here to these discussions. I am a post operative Transsexual. I know the pain, the pleasure and the wisdom inherent in both of the standard ‘assigned’ gender roles. I have known I was this way from a very early age, yet this concept seems relatively new in global society except for references in mythology. I have oft wondered even before I finally accepted Buddhist doctrine as my search for truth how this relates to my own karma. I have asked many people and received many different answers. Some of these answers designated my rebirth as punishment, which seems like a comment on the lives of women. Some have suggested that being Trans is an improvement in my karma. I confess ignorance as I have no recollection of my previous births. Yet this life of mine has provided me with an insight into the phenomenology of gender roles as they have existed throughout history. I will say no more and await your thoughts on this rare incarnation. May you all be liberated from the causes of suffering. Namaste

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Hi Rosie!

A couple of times it has crossed my mind that perhaps a person who feels he/she is born as the wrong gender or even someone who’s gay has maybe had a strong wish to get reborn as a different gender but at some deeper level still holds on to or identifies as the previous gender.

Perhaps someone has a hard life as a woman and thinks a life as a man would be easier or vice versa. Or it could be that a man sees a need to develop some feminine qualities and therefore gets reborn as a woman or vice versa. Or maybe there just happens to be a life as a different gender available and they take it.

Anyway, these are just some random theories and I think we can’t really know for sure. I wouldn’t put too much stock into the punishment theory though. The only one who could really do such punishing would be you yourself. Karma isn’t some kind of vengeful god.

It would be nice if you could develop the 4th jhana, remember your previous life and report back to us :stuck_out_tongue: In the meantime I’d be interested to hear your own thoughts on the matter.

With metta.

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Hi Rosie
I found the following from Theree Gatha - The verses of enlightened nuns. May be it will throw some lights in your way and hopefully help you to come to terms with your situation.

"Isidasi had built up many good paramis long ago during the times of former Buddhas. But some seven lifetimes back, when she was a young man, she had committed adultery. After passing away from that existence Isidasi had to suffer the results of this immoral action:

Therefrom deceasing, long I ripened in Avici hell
And then found rebirth in the body of an ape.
Scarce seven days I lived before the great
Dog-ape, the monkey's chief, castrated me.
Such was the fruit of my lasciviousness.
Therefrom deceasing in the woods of Sindh,
Born the offspring of a one-eyed goat
And lame, twelve years a gelding, gnawn by worms.
Unfit, I carried children on my back.
Such was the fruit of my lasciviousness.

The next time she was born a calf and was again castrated, and as a bullock pulled a plow and a cart. Then, as the worst of that evil kamma’s results had already ripened, Isidasi returned to the human realm. But it was still an uncertain kind of birth as she was the hermaphroditic child of a slave. That life too did not last long. Next, she was the daughter of a man oppressed by debts. One of her father’s creditors took her in lieu of payment. She became the wife of that merchant’s son, but she “brought discord and enmity within that house.”

In her final lifetime, no matter how hard she tried, no home she was sent to as a bride would keep her more than a brief while. Several times her virtuous father had her married to appropriate suitors. She tried to be the perfect wife, but each time she was thrown out. This inability to remain with a husband created an opportunity for her to break through the cycle of results. After her third marriage disintegrated, she decided to enter the Sangha. All her mental defilements were eliminated by meditation, insight into the Four Noble Truths matured, and Isidasi became an arahant.

She also developed the ability to see her past lives and thus saw how this whole causal chain of unwholesome deeds committed long ago brought their results in her successive existences:

Fruit of my kamma was it thus that they
In this last life have slighted me even though
I waited on them as their humble slave. 

The last line of her poem puts the past, rebirth and all its sufferings, completely behind with a “lion’s roar”: “Enough! Of all that now have I made an end.”

In Isidasi’s tale we have several instructive illustrations of the inexorable workings of the law of kamma. The suffering she had to undergo because of sexual misconduct lasted through seven difficult lives. But the seeds of wisdom had also been sown and when the force of the bad kamma was used up, the powerful paramis she had created earlier bore their fruit. Hence Isidasi was able to become a bhikkhuni, purify her mind perfectly, and so eliminate all possible causes of future suffering. The beginning, the middle, and the ending of every life are always due to causes and conditions."

With Metta

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Hi Rosie,
as i remember ’ gender’ is not mentioned in the 37 factors of enlightenment .What it matters is not ur gender. Feeling remorseful of the past is not the middle path. What it really matters is living in the present moment. This is Buddha’s advice.you have reached the path of liberation and now it’s your turn to keep walking. And let tranquility and insight be the pair of messengers of deliverance. :mudra:

With a heart full of loving kindness :anjal:

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Hi @Rosie,
Welcome and thanks for this fascinating topic!
I don’t think that we, or anyone else can really say anything about how your past karma led to your current rebirth.
For me, in a female rebirth, of course plenty of people have tried to tell me what that rebirth means and what the karma that led to it was. But most of those answers were pretty lackluster, as you have noted.
I struggled with this for a long time and felt really down about it. I went over and over it in my mind “What was it that made me different to the other gender? What really matters about it?” And for myself, for what I wanted to do, I finally realized it didn’t matter.
Because karma isn’t just about what happened in the past, it’s about what we create and build for the future too.

Although there have been times I badly wished I were different, I’ve come to realize that I can use who/what I am in a way that can benefit others (hopefully!) and that I still have a rebirth that provides me with the opportunity to reach nibbana, and that is a great gift.
The precise reasons for your rare incarnation is uncertain, but I think your rebirth provides some amazing opportunities for the future, which is what is truly interesting and exciting.

:thumbsup: Ooo that’s interesting, would be great to hear more!

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Hi Rosie,

Welcome to our forum, and thanks for your contribution.

As for the question of karma, I’ll simply say, as I always do, that not everything is karma. The point of the teaching of karma is simply that our moral choices have effects. It doesn’t imply that all things were caused by karma, just that some things are. So in issues regarding gender, as with all things, it’s quite possible that sometimes it’s karma and sometimes it isn’t. If we don’t have the ability to recollect our own past lives and investigate that karma, we can never really know.

What we do know is that we can choose to create good karma here and now by acting with kindness and compassion and wisdom. Yay us!

I wrote an essay some time ago on related issues, perhaps you might enjoy it.

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Before continuing a reply as requested by a couple of posters, I would like to express my gratitude to all of you who have listened with an open heart and mind. I have been meditating on my reply on and off throughout the day. My hope is that as I describe my experience that I do not exalt my position or place my experience of suffering above anyone else’s suffering. For it is only through this unique brand of emotional affliction that I am here with you all.

As I reviewed some of the key moments in my life as a Trans woman some things have become clear to me. First let me say that my life experience surrounds the pivotal point of my physical transition from male to female-if such a thing exists for I no longer believe in this artifice of polar genders. My experience clearly points to gender identity as a spectrum. I am not dismissing the existence of gender, yet I do see gender now as an obvious societal construct, conditioned from childhood and enforced through intimidation and violence. So far this year 23 Trans people…mostly young and black…have been murdered for non conformance to these prescribed gender roles.

The circumstances of my early youth lead me to believe that I somehow ‘knew’ that I had been born into a strange and confusing rebirth before I was aware of the concept of rebirth. The experience of this awareness has remained with me lo these many years. I remember coming to this awareness as I stood in front of my bathroom mirror. Looking at my reflection I was not only startled but also dismayed. The question rushed to the forefront:
"What the heck? Oh No! How did you get in there? That’s not you…me. How did I get in here?’

This was before I was aware of Buddhism, rebirth or any intellectual concept of personality. I felt literally misplaced in a cosmic/karmic mixup. I stared at that mirror so long my eyes crossed! But no answer was forthcoming. So I kept this big secret to myself. Then I was around 18 years old, I read my first description of this condition in the book " Everything you wanted to know about Sex" By Dr. David Reuben. Upon finishing the chapter on ‘transvestites’ which described the path that a Trans person was supposed to take, I dropped the book into my lap. I was immediately shaken as my mind received a picture/message that told me this was going to be a very difficult path. I experienced a profound sense of doom and futility as I gazed into my future. As it turned out I was right.

So for the next two decades I did everything I could to avoid my fate by drinking, drugging, getting married, acting macho and generally creating a half-life of negative karma. Then one night in April of 1980 I was sitting in a bar-nearly penniless-nursing a draft beer when love walked in the door. And I knew, again by means of intuition or foreknowledge, that this person would change my life for the better. This karmic ally has loved me selflessly for thirty-six years as a male bodied and female bodied person.

Looking back now from the age of 65, KARMA like a shadow has followed close behind. From 1995 to the year of my transition in 2001, I remained isolated in deep introspection in an effort to understand and assimilate my past with the desire to move forward with integrity. During this time I made several astounding realizations based on my experience as a Trans or Two Spirits person. Early in my life I realized that gender, and thus society were arbitrary constructs which imprisoned my gender expression.
Boys: Snails and rails and puppy dog tales.
Girls:sugar and spice and everything nice.
REMEMBER?
But none of the conditions worked for me. I could not be sugar and spice. I wasn’t fond of snail and rails. The gendered expectations of the world having failed to categorize me almost killed me.

As for the effect of karma in this life I was a miserable soul until my body was made to conform with my inner being. I am happier now that ever before just to be the person that I felt ‘destined’ to become . As I write this i am very grateful for this opportunity. I have written quite a lot about this, and for anyone interested I will include some links. Thanks and namaste!

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Really enjoyed your writing. We are in agreement about so many things. Thanks for being an ally! Here is another article of mine if you feel like reading it.

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Cara, thanks for your interest in my questions and comments about gender. I replied below with a link to a quasi historical piece I wrote on my blog called ‘Two Spirits.’ Also, here is a review of the movie ‘The Danish Girl’ which provides a little exposition on how gender roles differed over the last fifty years…kinda? LOL . Namaste

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Welcome Rosie.

My impression from reading the Pali suttas is that all things are or are composed of ‘elements’ (‘dhatu’ MN 115) & ‘faculties’ (‘indriya’), which include the elements & faculties of ‘femininity’ & ‘masculinity’. In many places, such as in the Dhātu Saṃyutta or MN 12, it is said the various dispositions & inclinations of (individual) beings are determined by the ‘elements’ (‘dhatu’).

I think (just my personal theory) that the sexual attraction of beings can only occur due to some mutual elements (rather than explicitly opposite elements). For example, a human being is generally not sexually attracted to a stone or feels pain when seeing a stone cut, which is due to a lack of mutual elements between a stone & a human being. What I am speculating here is each person possibly has a mixture of both masculine & feminine elements of various proportions.

For me, a human birth is similar. It is more than just physical form & more than just male or female. It is primarily a state of mind or a composition of mental elements & mental faculties that generate compassion & care for others.

Kind regards :deciduous_tree:

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Very Illuminating. And full of wisdom. Thanks