Wednesday, April 16, 2014

India recognizes a "third gender" (pandaka)

Ashley Wells, Irma Quintero, Dhr. Seven, Wisdom Quarterly
People from the Puritan US to Putin's Russia may dislike gays, but the question is, Do they have rights? Do we not all as sentient beings, at least as human beings, have equal rights?
"Homophobia can kill you," says Discovery ( So be pro-gay or neutral.
Hijras mourn in India (wiki)
The Supreme Court of India recognized a legal third gender for hijra and transgender individuals (Buddhist pandakas).

What are or were pandakas in the Buddha's day? "People of non-normative sexual natures, perhaps originally denoting a deficiency in male sexual capacity," according to Peter A. Jackson ("Non-normative Sex/Gender Categories in the Theravada Buddhist Scriptures," Australian Humanities Review, April 1996).
Buddhism, Sex, and Gender
The best account, and one of the very few, we have ever come across concerning Buddhism and homosexuality, which is the frame for discussions of pandakas, is an academic collection of essays edited by Jose Ignacio Cabezon: Buddhism, Sexuality and Gender. Of particular interest is the contribution of Prof. Donald S. Lopez.

Buddhaghosa, apparently, put together a clinical description of pandakas -- often offensively and misleadingly translated as "eunuchs" when they are in fact non-normative individuals. Ancient sketches of transgender and cross-dressing individuals had many disparate presumptions about their character, habits, and proclivities as well as the karmic source of their condition. It cannot be asked, "What was the traditional view of homosexuality in Buddhism, Jainism, and Brahmanism?" without reference to pandakas because they were not distinguished from "perverts" and third-gender-rebels.
Ancient India with Afghanistan (Gandhara, Kamboja) and Pakistan at upper left, Burma and Thailand at lower right, Nepal and Tibet at the center top, and famous Buddhist sites on the plains of the Ganges river (wiki).
Sex in the Pali Canon
Gender of devas is fluid in Indian iconography
The Pali canon -- a ancient collection of sutras and other sacred Buddhist texts including the disciplinary code (Vinaya) and commentaries -- contains numerous references to homoerotic behavior and to individuals who today would [today] be variously identified as hermaphrodites, transvestites, transsexuals, and homosexuals.

However, none of the sex/gender categories named in the canon precisely matches any of these contemporary notions. But it combines instead elements of these diverse physiological, gender, and sexual conditions in distinctive formulations. 

Dharmic renunciates say no to pandakas.
Most Buddhist canonical accounts of non-normative gender and sexuality are found in the Vinaya, the monastic code of conduct, and they are listed among the many explicitly described forms of sexual activity proscribed and forbidden for monks and nuns (bhikkhus and bhikkhunis).

In analyzing Theravada Buddhist accounts of sex and gender, it is vital to keep in mind that the tradition began as a Monastic Sangha, an order of celibate male and female renunciates, and that the Vinaya is a monastic not a layperson's code of conduct. 

Scriptural accounts of non-normative sex and gender also need to be understood in the context of the tradition's general disdain of sexuality and its distrust of sensual indulgences.

Buddhist Thailand's third gender is the kathoey
Nevertheless, according to Jackson, what makes accounts of sex and gender in these ancient Indian texts especially fascinating is their contemporary relevance in Thailand, which together with Sri Lanka, Burma, Laos, and Cambodia forms part of the Asian cultural sphere in which Theravada Buddhism remains a vital cultural institution. More

Growing up in India, I never met openly gay...
Deepak Singh never met an openly gay person when he was growing up in India. That, of course, has changed in the years since, with people of many different sexual orientations coming into his life. But the news out of India's Supreme Court decision makes his heart grieve. [That was last year.]

Supreme Courts rights traditional wrong (NPR)
Singh should be happy today (4-16-14) because India's Supreme Court has just legally declared a third gender (hijra) that gives rights to its LGBTQ community (lesbian, gay, bi, trans, and questioning). The third gender is neither males who want to be females nor females eager to become males. Nor are they regarded as sufficiently "male" by each other or the larger community. There really is a third gender, and it is now enshrined in least in India. In India, Supreme Court hands down landmark ruling recognizing transgender citizens.
Hancock just returned from seeing the wonders of India

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