Ask a Transgender Buddhist

Discuss your personal experience with the Dharma here. How has it enriched your life? What challenges does it present?

Ask a Transgender Buddhist

Postby Sara H » Sat Jun 23, 2012 11:58 pm

Hi,
I am posting this thread as possible way to answer any questions you might have about what it is like to be a Transgender Buddhist.

The purpose of this thread is to help answer any questions people might have about what it's like to train as a transgender Buddhist, the implications thereof, and to better my understanding of just what questions people have on this subject.

I am attempting to write an article/possibly book on the subject and it occurred to me that it might be simply helpful to ask people what questions they have, rather than simply tell a story from my own experience.

No part of your questions will be used in any way, copied or quoted without your express permission.

This is simply to help answer people's questions and further their understanding of the subject of Transgender Buddhism, a well as to give me a better idea of the kind of questions people have so that i might better address them in an article.

I have a couple of favors to ask, mainly, that you limit your post to a single question, whenever possible, and then if you have an additional question, to make a new post or several individual posts with that or those additional question or questions.

This is simply for the sake of clarification and ease of use and finding information for both myself and other people who may be reading. Thank you.

Also, I would like to say that all subjects and questions relating to this are on the table. No matter how personal, or otherwise taboo, please feel free to ask. My purpose in this is to help shed some light on this subject, and I would like to be an open book on this subject so that others may fully understand as best I can possibly answer them. It is natural to be curious as part of being a human being, and I am hoping to help spread some knowledge on this subject. As such, all subjects are on the table, and available to ask, from genitals to sex change operations, to past lives to personal questions about my own experience and with such things and medical questions from my own experience... i will attempt to answer any and all questions to the best of my ability and experience.
It is my hope that by answering these questions it will further better understanding on the subject.

If I don't know the answer to a question, I will simply say "I don't know" and try to answer and provide as best information I can on the subject.

Also, a bit about me, I am a Soto Zen Buddhist of several years training within the structure of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives. I am not a monk or Lay Minister or official representative of that Order, and questions regarding official policies and such representative of that Order I would ask and strongly encourage you to contact and ask the Order directly, However I will answer any questions the best I can and with what knowledge I will find out. Please do not make anything I say as representative of any official policy of the Order, as i do not have the authority to say that.

Continuing with my 'about me', I have been identifying as a Transgender person since 2007, have undergone hormone replacement, and have been living full time as a Genderqueer/transgender person. I utilize the pronoun "she" and such and generally identify and use women's facilities.
I took the precepts in 2006, have lived in a monastery as a lay-resident, and have experienced a satori/kensho experience, and so can speak from that perspective of ongoing training after realization.
I have been formally practicing sitting meditation and taken refuge in the Dharma for approximately 10 years.

I am not a monk, or a priest, or a lay minister, or anyone authorized or transmitted to teach the Dharma, so please don't misconstrue that I am, I am ongoing training Layperson who is going deeper into my training.

I formerly served on the board of directors of a LGBT organization in Colorado, as a transgender person, and can answer about experiences as an activist person and related legal/political activities. I am not a lawyer nor am I qualified to give legal advice.

I am also not a therapist/priest/counselor/doctor or anyone qualified to give spiritual or psychiatric or medical counseling.

With that said, I apologize for the long preamble, and feel free to ask away!
I will endeavor to answer all questions honestly and to the best of my ability.
Please be patient as it may take me time to answer all questions immediately.

Thank you very much,
In Gasshō,
Sara H
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: Ask a Transgender Buddhist

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Jun 24, 2012 2:08 am

Hi Sara,

Here are some articles from my Buddhist encyclopedia you might like:

http://www.dhammawiki.com/index.php?title=Homosexuality
http://www.dhammawiki.com/index.php?tit ... d_Buddhism
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Re: Ask a Transgender Buddhist

Postby Sherlock » Sun Jun 24, 2012 6:17 am

How often do people even raise the issue of you being a "transgender Buddhist"?

Honestly on my part I don't know why gender and sexuality should even matter as to Buddhadharma as long as it is consensual and not in the context of advantage-taking (in which case Buddhadharma is not being practised).
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Re: Ask a Transgender Buddhist

Postby Sara H » Mon Jul 02, 2012 1:06 am

David N. Snyder wrote:Hi Sara,

Here are some articles from my Buddhist encyclopedia you might like:

http://www.dhammawiki.com/index.php?title=Homosexuality
http://www.dhammawiki.com/index.php?tit ... d_Buddhism


*smiles*
Thank you for the links.
In Gassho,
Sara H
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: Ask a Transgender Buddhist

Postby Sara H » Mon Jul 02, 2012 1:08 am

Sherlock wrote:How often do people even raise the issue of you being a "transgender Buddhist"?

Honestly on my part I don't know why gender and sexuality should even matter as to Buddhadharma as long as it is consensual and not in the context of advantage-taking (in which case Buddhadharma is not being practised).

The subject doesn't come up very often, however when it does, it usually needs to be addressed.

Thank you for your question,
In Gassho,
Sara H
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: Ask a Transgender Buddhist

Postby Astus » Mon Jul 02, 2012 11:11 am

How do you balance the teaching on identification causing suffering and the gender identity that seems a core value for you?
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Ask a Transgender Buddhist

Postby Sara H » Sun Jul 15, 2012 11:46 pm

Astus wrote:How do you balance the teaching on identification causing suffering and the gender identity that seems a core value for you?



Well, there's sortof three parts to your question.

In the first part, you said, "the teaching on identification causing suffering".

Can you be a bit more specific on what you are referring to?
The way you phrased that, I'm not really sure what you are specifically referring to.
Are you talking about Anatta or the concept of no "sepperate-self".
Or the second Noble Truth being that clinging/craving/insisting/the "I must have" being the cause of suffering. ? Or something else?

If you can clarify that, it will help me answer your question.

Regarding the second part, you mentioned "the gender identity that seems to be a core value to you".

I don't actually view gender identity as a "value", in the sense of some sortof moral/ethical/philisophical/ religious precept. I view it as an "aspect" of me, in the same way that my hair color or eye color is.

So then the third part, regarding how do I balance those two things, my answer will depend upon clarification to the first part, and whether the concept of "balance" applies to the second part.

I await your reply,

In Gassho,
Sara H
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: Ask a Transgender Buddhist

Postby Fu Ri Shin » Wed Jul 18, 2012 8:51 am

Astus wrote:How do you balance the teaching on identification causing suffering and the gender identity that seems a core value for you?

For whom is gender identity not a core value? Those of us who are not transgender don't get to pretend it doesn't matter deeply to us simply because we have not been the subject of cultural oppression and have not had to put our own identity-insecurities out in the public eye.
"Once delusion is extinguished, your wisdom naturally arises and you don’t differentiate suffering and joy. Actually, this joy and this suffering, they are the same."

— Chinese hermit, Amongst White Clouds
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Re: Ask a Transgender Buddhist

Postby wisdom » Wed Jul 18, 2012 9:53 am

Fu Ri Shin wrote:
Astus wrote:How do you balance the teaching on identification causing suffering and the gender identity that seems a core value for you?

For whom is gender identity not a core value? Those of us who are not transgender don't get to pretend it doesn't matter deeply to us simply because we have not been the subject of cultural oppression and have not had to put our own identity-insecurities out in the public eye.


Its not a core value to me. I have masculine and feminine energies. I don't worry about how they manifest. Many people have thought I am gay, I don't feel offense. When strangers think I am gay, I don't bother to correct them. When gay men hit on me, sometimes I just give them an enigmatic smile and leave it at that because I find it amusing. I don't feel attraction to men, but there is also no reason for me to reify a belief that I am a male who likes women to myself or others. Who cares? If someone cares, they can ask.

On the other hand those who have gender identity have the problems that come along with that. Those who strongly attach to gender identity have problems of equal strength. This is true of all forms of identity, which is what I believe Astus was getting at.
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Re: Ask a Transgender Buddhist

Postby Fu Ri Shin » Thu Jul 19, 2012 12:16 am

wisdom wrote:Its not a core value to me. I have masculine and feminine energies. I don't worry about how they manifest. Many people have thought I am gay, I don't feel offense. When strangers think I am gay, I don't bother to correct them. When gay men hit on me, sometimes I just give them an enigmatic smile and leave it at that because I find it amusing. I don't feel attraction to men, but there is also no reason for me to reify a belief that I am a male who likes women to myself or others. Who cares? If someone cares, they can ask.

You're making my point. First of all, you're talking about sexuality expression, which is not the same as gender expression even though it is obviously related. Second of all, you are less inclined to have an issue with your gender and sexuality expression because our culture is less inclined to take issue with your gender and sexuality expression. Being a straight male (however feminine or metro), or even a gay male, at this point in our history is worlds easier than being a woman of any type, especially a biological male that has a discrepancy between their sex and gender.

wisdom wrote:On the other hand those who have gender identity have the problems that come along with that. Those who strongly attach to gender identity have problems of equal strength. This is true of all forms of identity, which is what I believe Astus was getting at.

Straight male Buddhists don't get to stand in the corner and talk about the suffering-by-identification issues that transgender Buddhists have. They former don't have any clue what they're talking about because their own gender and sexuality expression has never been a point of issue.
"Once delusion is extinguished, your wisdom naturally arises and you don’t differentiate suffering and joy. Actually, this joy and this suffering, they are the same."

— Chinese hermit, Amongst White Clouds
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Postby Will » Fri Jul 20, 2012 12:33 am

Do you have anything to contribute along the lines of the expressed purpose of this sub-forum? To wit:

Discuss your personal experience with the Dharma here. How has it enriched your life? What challenges does it present?
One should refrain from biased judgments and doubting in fathoming the Buddha and the Dharma of the Buddhas. Even though a dharma may be extremely difficult to believe, one should nonetheless maintain faith in it. Nagarjuna
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Re: Ask a Transgender Buddhist

Postby seeker242 » Fri Jul 20, 2012 1:05 pm

Fu Ri Shin wrote:
Astus wrote:How do you balance the teaching on identification causing suffering and the gender identity that seems a core value for you?

For whom is gender identity not a core value?


One who tries to perceive the below?

Diamond Sutra
Chapter 5.

"Subhuti, what do you think? Can the Buddha be recognized by means of his bodily form?"

"No, Most Honored One, the Buddha cannot be recognized by means of his bodily form. Why? Because when the Buddha speaks of bodily form, it is not a real form, but only an illusion."

The Buddha then spoke to Subhuti: "All that has a form is illusive and unreal. When you see that all forms are illusive and unreal, then you will begin to perceive your true Buddha nature."
One should not kill any living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should one incite any other to kill. Do never injure any being, whether strong or weak, in this entire universe!
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Re:

Postby Sara H » Fri Jul 20, 2012 11:58 pm

Will wrote:Do you have anything to contribute along the lines of the expressed purpose of this sub-forum? To wit:

Discuss your personal experience with the Dharma here. How has it enriched your life? What challenges does it present?



Yes, sharing of my personal experience with the Dharma as a transgender Buddhist is the purpose of this thread.

If you have any questions about my experience with that, feel free to ask them, and I will answer them as best as I can, from my own experience.

-Thank you. : )

In Gasshō,

Sara H
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: Re:

Postby Will » Sat Jul 21, 2012 3:22 am

Sara H wrote:
Will wrote:Do you have anything to contribute along the lines of the expressed purpose of this sub-forum? To wit:

Discuss your personal experience with the Dharma here. How has it enriched your life? What challenges does it present?



Yes, sharing of my personal experience with the Dharma as a transgender Buddhist is the purpose of this thread.

If you have any questions about my experience with that, feel free to ask them, and I will answer them as best as I can, from my own experience.

-Thank you. : )

In Gasshō,

Sara H


How has the Dharma enriched your life as a person, not as a 'transgender Buddhist'?
What challenges does the Dharma present?
What is the Dharma?
One should refrain from biased judgments and doubting in fathoming the Buddha and the Dharma of the Buddhas. Even though a dharma may be extremely difficult to believe, one should nonetheless maintain faith in it. Nagarjuna
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Re: Ask a Transgender Buddhist

Postby Simon E. » Sat Jul 21, 2012 11:48 am

Sara H wrote:
David N. Snyder wrote:Hi Sara,

Here are some articles from my Buddhist encyclopedia you might like:

http://www.dhammawiki.com/index.php?title=Homosexuality
http://www.dhammawiki.com/index.php?tit ... d_Buddhism


*smiles*
Thank you for the links.
In Gassho,
Sara H

Thank you for sharing Sara. Much appreciated.

:namaste:
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Re: Ask a Transgender Buddhist

Postby Simon » Sat Jul 21, 2012 2:56 pm

Also appreciated by me.

BTW, Simon E: I didn't know a "Simon" already existed on the board. I just chose the 1st name that came into my head as a newcomer. Will change my board name. Sorry.
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Re: Ask a Transgender Buddhist

Postby Simon » Sat Jul 21, 2012 3:08 pm

Back to topic. OP: do you mind explaining what difference your adoption of different gender has made to your life and interactions with other people?

Do you feel better/worse or just different?

Have life's obstacles begun to feel easier or more challenging?

Do you have regrets about your new identity?

If yes, are you able to talk about these?

Finally, what difference - if any - has this life change brought to your practice as a Buddhist?
:namaste:
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Re: Ask a Transgender Buddhist

Postby Fu Ri Shin » Mon Jul 23, 2012 2:13 am

seeker242 wrote:
Fu Ri Shin wrote:
Astus wrote:How do you balance the teaching on identification causing suffering and the gender identity that seems a core value for you?

For whom is gender identity not a core value?


One who tries to perceive the below?

Diamond Sutra
Chapter 5.

"Subhuti, what do you think? Can the Buddha be recognized by means of his bodily form?"

"No, Most Honored One, the Buddha cannot be recognized by means of his bodily form. Why? Because when the Buddha speaks of bodily form, it is not a real form, but only an illusion."

The Buddha then spoke to Subhuti: "All that has a form is illusive and unreal. When you see that all forms are illusive and unreal, then you will begin to perceive your true Buddha nature."

One needs to understand the context in which I posed that question. A transgender individual was asked about the topic of their core value of gender identity being balanced with identification-caused suffering. The implication of this question, intended or not, is that the transgender population is more hung up over gender identity than the non-transgender population. This is absurd and, especially given that most who have been the subject of my scrutiny have been straight males, conducive to the continuing oppression of the transgender population, as well as the broader queer population.

Sure, we can pull out scripture calling for the abandonment of appearances in this particular context (which, since there is a general solution being prescribed for a specific situation, is a sort of reverse ad hoc fallacy). We can say that transgender individuals need to consider their identification attachments whilst we remain free from bigotry regarding our own identity expression. We can also say that the impoverished need to consider their attachment to money whilst we are free from poverty. This kind of reasoning that conforms to the status quo only enables its oppressive traits to persist and very explicitly makes us the oppressors.
"Once delusion is extinguished, your wisdom naturally arises and you don’t differentiate suffering and joy. Actually, this joy and this suffering, they are the same."

— Chinese hermit, Amongst White Clouds
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Re: Re:

Postby Sara H » Mon Jul 23, 2012 8:11 am

Will wrote:How has the Dharma enriched your life as a person, not as a 'transgender Buddhist'?
What challenges does the Dharma present?
What is the Dharma?


Well, to address your first question, they are not separate.
It goes with the doctrine of Anatta that there is no "sepperate-self". "My life as a person" and as a "transgender Buddhist",
are not separate from each other.

As far as how the dharma has enriched my life is a rather broad question.

The Dharma has changed my life, and profoundly altered it for the better.

For a more specific answer, it would help to have a more defined question, if you can.


Regarding your second question, regarding "challenges does the Dharma present" ..
I don't really know how to answer that.

It strikes me as a very broad question.
Also a bit unclear, such as what you mean specifically by "challenges".

Can you be a bit more specific?

Regarding the third question,
The precise wording of that answer depends upon the sect/tradition and indivudual,
But generally speaking, the Dharma is the teaching of the Buddha's and Ancestors, as well as of present day Teachers of Buddhism.

I think for a deeper answer than that you should talk to a qualified Buddhist Monk or teacher, I am not so qualified to be teaching the Dharma.

I am happy to answer questions about my own training from my own experience, but as far as general Dharma questions are concerned, I would probably refer you to a qualified Buddhist priest or Qualified Dharma Teacher or Monk.

In Gasshō,

Sara H
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: Ask a Transgender Buddhist

Postby Sara H » Mon Jul 23, 2012 8:34 am

Simon wrote:Back to topic. OP: do you mind explaining what difference your adoption of different gender has made to your life and interactions with other people?

No, I don't mind.

Do you feel better/worse or just different?

I feel more honest. and more able to deal with fear.

Have life's obstacles begun to feel easier or more challenging?

Both. It's a hell of a lot more challenging. and in some ways easier.
It's like choosing between one challenge and another.

Do you have regrets about your new identity?

Yes, and no, dealing with people's discrimination has been hard.
People are very discriminatory to Transgender people.
I have a very nice resume for instance, and when people call me on the phone and are very excited to interview me, and then that excitement turns into a cold shower when they see me, and then look me up and down and then go through the motions of the interview because they have to, and then don't call me back or decide to hire me, that's hard.
This economy is rough, to be discriminated against so many times because of who I am, that is hard, very hard.
People are very judgmental.
The job thing is pretty much the hardest part of it.
I don't mind the pool or the locker room or whatever, but not being hired, simply because I'm Transgender? In an economy as bad as this? That is very hard.
We've had to cut things out of our budget that most people in the west wouldn't believe.
Try living without garbage service, now that requires creativity to deal with...
Right livelihood is a part of being a Buddhist.
It's made training both deeper, and have greater faith.
Especially in this economy, this is some of the roughest training I've ever done.
This is most certainly the hardest thing I've ever done in my life (training as a Buddhist), also the best thing.

If yes, are you able to talk about these?

Yes! See above. : )

Finally, what difference - if any - has this life change brought to your practice as a Buddhist?
:namaste:

It's made it a lot deeper. Made my faith a lot more rock solid, and helped me sit through doubt.
Also, it has shown me and amazed me, at just what I am able to sit though and deal with.
By that I mean the sheer intensity of some things, and sustained intensity.
It has made me a better person.
As hard as it is, I am grateful for the training.

I know when it gets easier later I will have been grateful for the lessons learned during the hard times.

I sit, and ask the Eternal for help.
And sit still and let it ride over me.
It does pass, whatever it is that comes up.
But god is it helpful to take refuge in the Three Treasures.

Thank you for your questions. : )

In Gasshō,
Sara H
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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