Nilasarasvati wrote:1. How do we see reincarnation as an aspect of/cause for the experiences of trans kids?
Personally, I think you should follow your birth gender as it will save you a lot of problems and suffering in life. Intersexual people are different because it is physical and clearly requires special consideration, whereas transgendered children can be disciplined into following their birth gender.
It might not be fair, but life isn't fair.
2. Gender binaries are strongly engrained into Buddhist scripture, practice, and most Buddhist cultures; how can trans individuals fit into the rigidity of such a system?
If you have a penis, you are part of the male assembly and can become a bhikṣu.
If you have a vagina, you are part of the female assembly and can become a bhikṣuṇī.
If you have no gender-specific genitals or have both, then you are a special case and cannot formally ordain as per Vinaya regulations (though like anything this could be bypassed or ignored).
How are we as practitioners to include and affirm their identity and merit when so much of traditional Buddhism operates on a strong gender binary?
Buddhism isn't about making you feel nice and accepted. Buddhism isn't about being happy. It is about identifying the causes of suffering and eliminating them. That's why getting involved in gender politics is a waste of time.
If you feel compelled to be a transvestite or live as the opposite gender, you should contemplate the immediacy of death. There's no need to put yourself through avoidable suffering. Life is rough and it isn't fair. You're going to die and the lower realms are always a possibility. Why spend your life anxious about your identity as a male or female? It is all impermanent. This life you're male, next life you might be female. You might even be an asexual deva.
Also I want to again argue, Indrajala, that legal inclusiveness or protection of those who belong to oppressed classes is not "special privilege."
My personal opinion is that people care too much about state sanction for what they do. If a community doesn't want boys being Prom Queens, it is not the business of the state to intervene. The state should look after the commons, defence, basic infrastructure, etc., and not be a nanny to the citizens.
If you want to live an alternative lifestyle, what does it matter if the state recognizes this or not? Best that the state has no business in such matters anyway. Leave it to communities to decide for themselves.
It's these kind of semantics that actually matter a great deal in discussions like this; it's also these kind of semantics that suggest to me that your observations really do have an agenda.
I don't have an agenda in this respect. I generally hope for social stability and community well-being, which I feel is best achieved through conservative values and traditional family models. On the other hand, I won't censor or condemn someone who doesn't fit in with that model (I personally don't -- I'm a Buddhist monk from Canada in India), but on the other hand I won't demand that stable social arrangements be disrupted to meet the needs of a few people. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Unfortunately social stability is often paid for with unfair arrangements. I dislike hierarchies, but I recognize that when followed they generally lead to stability and community harmony.
Basically, there's the ideal and then there's what actually works in real life. Having binary genders is maybe unfair to transgendered people, but then it works pretty well in real life and avoids a lot of problems that come with alternative genders.
...but the subtle and pervasive bigotry, heterosexism, and racism that is the operating system of our entire society.
Well, I'm a Canadian monk living in India. Which society are you talking about?
In any case, you can throw antagonistic liberal pejorative terms at me, but that might as well be an ad hominem attack. You might think there is a lot of "subtle and pervasive bigotry, heterosexism, and racism" and that I'm somehow propagating this, but you'll have to logically demonstrate this, otherwise you're basically unfairly branding me as some kind of monster responsible in part for today's social ills because I disagree with you.