Monday, September 28, 2020

Understanding Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity with Kindness

September 29, 2014 by  
Filed under General

Understanding Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity with Kindness

A Forum on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & Queer Issues

Reported by Mettānandī



“There’s nothing in the early Buddhist scriptures suggesting that homosexuality is sexual misconduct”, said Āyasmā Kumāra Bhikkhu from Sāsanārakkha Buddhist Sanctuary (SBS) in a forum on “Understanding Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity with Kindness” held on July 6th in Samādhi Vihāra, Shah Alam.


About 130 people attended the forum organised by KL Buddhist Mental Health Association (BMHA), Buddhist Missionary Society Malaysia (BMSM) and Young Buddhist Association of Malaysia (YBAM).

The forum on “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ)” issues featured 5 panellists, namely Āyasmā Kumāra Bhikkhu from SBS; Dr Keng Shian Ling, clinical psychologist and assistant professor in National University of Singapore (NUS); Ms Jellene Eva, human rights activist working with Justice for Sisters; Mr Pang Khee Teik, co-founder of Seksualiti Merdeka; and Ms Angela M. Kuga Thas, co-founder of Knowledge and Rights with Young People Through Safer Spaces (KRYSS). The forum moderator was Dr Phang Cheng Kar, president of BMHA who is a consultant psychiatrist in Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM).

Dr Keng began by explaining several terms such as “gender identity”, “biological sex”, “sexual orientation” and “gender expression”. She pointed out that based on research done by scientists, sexual orientation appears to be based primarily on biological factors such asgenetics and hormones. Contrary to common public perception, being LGBTQ is unrelated to the individual's lifestyle. As of 1974, homosexuality is no longer classified as a form of mental illness. She also pointed out that reparative or conversion therapy to change the sexual orientation of LGBTQ individuals is based on the idea that homosexuality is an illness, sin, or aberrant behaviour. The potential risks of reparative therapy are great: these include depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behaviour. Therefore many mental health professional organisations, including the American Psychiatric Association, oppose the use of such therapy.


Dr Keng said that LGBTQ individuals deserve kindness and understanding, not judgement and discrimination. Experiences of prejudice and discrimination may fuel stress and research suggests that there is a strong relationship between discrimination

 and stress-related mental health problems such as anxiety, depression in LGBTQ individuals. LGBTQ individuals who experienced rejection, discrimination, victimisation or violence have higher risks of suicidal tendencies. Prejudice towards the lifestyle of many Malaysian transgendered individuals (known as “Mak Nyahs”), has forced them into the sex industry.

Citing the early Buddhist scriptures, Āyasmā Kumāra showed that homosexuality existed around the time and place of the Buddha, yet the scriptures don’t include homosexual acts in the definition of sexual misconduct.

“Abandoning sensual misconduct, he abstains from sensual misconduct. He does not get sexually involved with those who are protected by their mothers, 

their fathers, their brothers, their sisters, their relatives (clan), or their Dhamma; those with husbands, those who entail punishments, or even those crowned with flowers by another man.”


Āyasmā Kumāra also shared his personal experiences of meeting his own phobia towards LGBTQ individuals and how he overcame it.

“Meditating over this issue, I noticed that the pain around it is due to view-clinging to what is supposedly ’normal’. Imagine if you were born into a society 

where people commonly accepted a variety of genders and sexual orientations. Raised in such a society, how would you be? Wouldn’t your perception of ’normal’ be different?”

“Speaking for myself, yes, it certainly would. So, any negative reaction I have over this issue is conditioned. It’s not good or bad. It’s simply conditioned.”

“So, how can we overcome LGBTQ phobia? Just recognise this conditioning.”

Āyasmā Kumāra, who has a few meditation students he knows are homosexual, also spoke on how LGBTQ individuals can overcome their phobia of LGBTQ phobia.

“It’s easy to say, ‘They don’t accept me for who I am.’ And you know the pain around that stressful idea. How about turning it around to ask, ‘Do I accept them for who they are: people who are caught in a social conditioning?’”

Speaking openly and candidly of their gender identity and sexual orientation, and their opening up to friends and family were 3 representatives from the LGBTQ community— Ms Jellene Eva, Mr Pang Khee Teik and Ms Angela M. Kuga Thas.

Ms Jellene Eva spoke on her growing up as a transgender and how boxing into the dichotomy of genders made her feel uncomfortable, especially when it wasn’t the gender she identified with.lgbt5

Advising parents to love their children unconditionally, Ms Jellene shared with the participants how grateful she is for parents who do not make her doubt herself. “Being in denial and not trying to understand what the child goes through is not healthy for both parties. Disowning and physically abusing the child is not the correct way to communicate love.”

As a transactivist working with Justice for Sisters, Jellene urged members of the audience to be an ally: to speak out when violence is being inflicted upon LGBTQ individuals; to help homeless or depressed LGBTQ individuals because they are, after all, human. “Despite our differences, basic human rights to health and well being is unalienable from all of us”.

Angela, who grew up with supportive and trusting parents, said, “I'm glad my parents didn't make me doubt myself, didn't make me doubt me for who I am, didn't make me feel less of a human being, less of a person, less of their child. I think such trust, much more than kindness between parents and their children, is important. That trust makes kindness that much more real. It is more than being superficially civil”lgbt7

“Parents should learn to trust that they've done well in the way they've raised their children, to feel assured that their children know what is right and what is wrong. They need to be confident that their children will grow up to be the kind of people they can be proud of. Children need to know too, even if indirectly, that their parents will never abandon them, never disown them.”

As a trainer-facilitator who is focused on guiding young Malaysians to become principled leaders based on the five core values of human rights—dignity, diversity, respect, equality and choice. Angela urged parents and people in general to confront the discomfort they or their peers may have with the 


LGBTQ individuals. “Take a step back before judging, and question what exactly makes you/them uneasy”.

Pang, who identifies himself as a gay, spoke on the angst of ’having crushes on boys’ as a teen studying in Singapore; on his joining a Christian ministry to overcome his ’sexual brokenness’ and finally, the liberating acceptance of his sexuality. The journey to realising that there is nothing wrong with him was the most difficult part. “Other people are the ones who think there is something wrong with you, therefore it is not your problem; it is theirs. That’s the reason I came out – because I realised the problem is not with me but with those who think there is a problem. Why should their problem with homosexuals affect me?”

Highlighting the challenges faced by LGBTQ children and their parents arising from discriminatory policies, Pang urged members of the audience to establish an alliance to support family and friends of LGBTQ individuals within the Buddhist community.


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