Buddhism and Sexual Orientation - Theravada Buddhism

Theravada Buddhism

In Thailand, traditional accounts propose that "homosexuality arises as a karmic consequence of violating Buddhist proscriptions against heterosexual misconduct. These karmic accounts describe homosexuality as a congenital condition which cannot be altered, at least in a homosexual person's current lifetime, and have been linked with calls for compassion and understanding from the non-homosexual populace." Some more recent Thai Buddhist accounts (from the late 1980s) have "described homosexuality as a wilful violation of "natural" (hetero)sexual conduct resulting from lack of ethical control over sexual impulses." Peter Jackson, an Australian scholar of sexual politics and Buddhism in Thailand, writes that these positions represent "two broad schools of thought on homosexuality are current among contemporary Thai Buddhist writers, one accepting, the other unaccepting. The key factor differentiating the divergent stances is the author's conceptualisation of the origin of homosexuality; those who, taking a liberal stance, maintain that it is a condition which is outside the conscious control of homosexual men and women and has its origins in past misdeeds, whereas those who maintain that homosexuality is a wilful violation of ethical and natural principles takes an antagonistic position."

Peter Jackson argues that AIDS in the 1980s brought about a shift of perception in Thailand regarding kathoeys, "placing homosexuality rather than gender at the focus of the concept", which was associated with "a shift in Buddhist attitudes from relative tolerance of homosexuality to condemnation."

In 1989, the supreme governing body of the Thai sangha affirmed that "gays" (here translated from Thai kathoey) are prohibited from being ordained. Their declaration has apparently gone unheeded in some quarters, as Phra Pisarn Thammapatee (AKA Phra Payom Kalayano), one of the most eminent monks in the country, demanded in 2003 that 1,000 gay monks be ousted from the sangha, and that better screening processes are put in place to keep out any gay postulants.

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