A compelling collection of the many voices and experiences of trans, genderqueer, and nonbinary Buddhists
Transcending brings together more than thirty contributors from both the Mahayana and Theravada traditions to present a vision for a truly inclusive trans Buddhist sangha in the twenty-first century. Shining a light on a new generation of Buddhist role models, this book gives voice to those who have long been marginalized within the Buddhist world and society at large. While trans, genderqueer, and nonbinary practitioners have experienced empowerment and healing through their commitment to the Buddha, dharma, and sangha, they also share their experiences of isolation, transphobia, and aggression. In this diverse collection we hear the firsthand accounts, thoughts, and reflections of trans Buddhists from a variety of different lineages in an open invitation for all Buddhists to bring the issue of gender identity into the sangha, into the discourse, and onto the cushion. Only by doing so can we develop insight into our circumstances and grasp our true, essential nature.
About the Author
Kevin Manders is a queer trans Buddhist living in Vancouver, British Columbia, on the unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. He has been on the dharma path for the last twelve years in the Theravāda tradition. He is an addictions and mental health worker who is passionate about the dharma, social-justice issues, anti-racist work, feminism, queer and trans issues, disability issues, intersectionality, veganism, cycling, and music. He calls the Queer and Trans sangha, BC Insight Meditation Society, and Birken Forest Monastery home.
Elizabeth Marston is a trans writer, hacker, anarcho-communist, and Buddhist. She holds a master’s degree in philosophy (with study concentrated on ethics and political philosophy).
“Hella yes! A must-read if only because this book is the first of its kind. If that isn’t enough, it is one of the most important Buddhist books from those who recognize and honor the experience of awakening through the body as a matter for true liberation.” —Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, author of The Way of Tenderness: Awakening through Race, Sexuality, and Gender
“Who could we be, and what could we do, if we were never separated from the reality of the true nature of ourselves which includes the inherent integrity, goodness, and wholeness within each of our unique and invaluable lives? All of these writings are answers to that question, from communities of intrinsically beautiful, worthy, and profound teachers and practitioners.” —Larry Yang, Buddhist teacher and author of Awakening Together: The Spiritual Practice of Inclusivity and Community
“There is a luminous, vibrant, flowing, empty world beyond the dualism that fragments reality. Contributors to this book bring a Buddhist lens to the spectrum of sexual and gender orientations with brilliance, creativity and great personal courage. Their collective wisdom expands the relevance of dharma in contemporary culture by calling forth the intrinsic openness of our awakening hearts.” —Tara Brach, author of Radical Acceptance, True Refuge, and The RAIN of Compassion
“As a cis male, I devoured this book—the best dharma book I have read in a long time. It was both a joy and a responsibility to listen to voices often not heard. I have so been in need, been so thirsty for these points of view, so wanting to understand more trans experiences. Here, generously and honestly, trans folks share their story, their wisdom, their dharma—the dharma.This gem is full of liberating insights on dukkha (unsatisfactoriness), anicca (impermanence), and anattā (not-self). I believe it will make me a better man, a better human, a better friend on the path. I am aware that I now hold responsibility. Thank you for your wisdom, which was painfully missing. May invisibility end here.” —Pascal Auclair was trained by Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein to teach Insight Meditation. He has joyfully and heartfully led silent retreats all over North America and Europe since 2006.
“What a joy to read this book! It records the journey of each of its contributors as they bring more wisdom and truthfulness to being the most authentic versions of themselves in the world. Living as a trans or gender nonconforming person embodies courage, in this culture that affirms binaries and does not see the emptiness of the labels that are put on each of us at birth. This book is an inspiration to those who are seeking a more authentic way of living the dharma, a deeper commitment to nonharming, and a dharma community that nurtures the aspirations of all practitioners.” —Rachel Lewis, PhD, has been teaching the dharma through BCIMS in Vancouver, British Columbia, since 2011, including at a prison and in the Downtown East Side. She is one of the contributors to the anthology Still, in the City.
“This courageous and necessary anthology is an important part of the Buddhist canon, that must no longer be in the closet. The authors remind us of how the dharma is a nondual teaching, and social constructs like gender are a concept and not a life sentence. ‘The Buddha was queer, we are all queer’ is also a bold reminder of how the seminal teachings ‘challenge the status quo,’ that everything changes and the path is about abandoning all labels. Like the thirteenth-century Buddhist teacher Dōgen says: ‘To study the Buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to let go of the self.’ Only after the authentic study of the self can we surrender to our true essence. Enforcing binary gender onto any society has been one of the world’s worst atrocities. It should be considered a human rights violation. And I apologize for any harm I have caused, and believe that this important anthology will teach us how to live the first precept of non-harm with compassion, wisdom, and integrity.” —Vimalasara (Valerie) Mason-John is an award-winning author, chair of the Vancouver Buddhist Centre, and president of the Buddhist Recovery Network. She is a senior Order member in the Triratna Vancouver Buddhist Centre.
“Such an important, timely book—inspiring, moving, and informative. Those who are trans, gender fluid, or genderqueer, as well as people of color, those living with disabilities, and people who are otherwise marginalized, will find their experiences validated here through the courage, vulnerability, honesty, and shared wisdom of these stories. Those who are cisgender, white, privileged in certain ways, will gain awareness and much deeper understanding of the lived experiences of our trans sangha members, and recognize the suffering caused by biases of racial, social, and gender stereotyping. Buddhadharma teaches us to see ourselves and others free from assumptions, fixed identities, and social conditioning—as fluid, changing beings. Where we can hold ways of being a self that are beautiful rather than a cause of suffering—using identity in a way that brings connection, community, harmony, and well-being. I hope that reading this book will help Buddhist sanghas of all traditions provide the safety and acceptance where all can explore the fluidity of changing identity. Where we can allow the possibility of changing views with tenderness and wisdom, rather than judgment.” —Adrianne Ross, MD, has been teaching the dharma in the Theravāda tradition for more than twenty years in the United States and Canada. She cofounded the BC Insight Meditation Society and contributed to The Hidden Lamp: Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women.
“This is a book of great importance. In these times of cultural and societal shifts in consciousness all our voices need to be heard, our identities accepted with dignity, and our stories respected. This groundbreaking book introduces us to our family of dharma practitioners giving voice to the essential teachings of living dharma. The authors invite us to shine a light for their journey on the path of the Buddha as they pave the way forward for the inclusivity of the trans community into the global sangha. Until all voices are heard and seen, we will not be living in an equitable world.” —Koshin Paley Ellison, Sensei, cofounder of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care and author of Wholehearted: Slow Down, Help Out, Wake Up
“I believe that we will never see a true inclusive Buddhadharma until all voices of our diverse and beautiful community are expressed. The liberatory quality of dharma is most profoundly expressed as the union of wisdom and compassion pulsing through our relative selves which includes our bodies and identities. For too long we have struggled with a white supremacist patriarchal heteronormative interpretation of dharma that denies the importance of identity including gender and sexuality. The voices of Transcending embrace the beauty of the relative self and identity as a ground from, which we began our work of liberation. This anthology is more than a book about transgender Buddhist practitioners sharing their lives; it is a text that will save the lives of countless transgender and queer practitioners who need to know that there is a place for them in this rich tradition. Moreover, this anthology is a groundbreaking testimony to the truth that the future of Buddhism will be queer, beautiful, fierce, fabulous, and offer the space for all of us to show up and be present.” —Lama Rod Owens, coauthor of Radical Dharma