Can i be queer and

a buddhist?

written by Munisha


My name is Munisha, the name I was given at my ordination as a member of the Triratna Buddhist Order in 2003. It’s an ancient Indian name meaning “She who has the power or mastery of a sage; one moved by inward impulse; inspired; ecstatic; an enthusiast”. At my best it’s who I most deeply am; it’s also something to grow into.

I’m British, I live in Stockholm with my Swedish Buddhist wife, who is also ordained, and we help to run the Stockholm Buddhist Centre, part of the worldwide Triratna Buddhist Community.

I was brought up Christian and was very inspired by the beauty of spiritual life but gradually felt less and less sure about the teachings of Christianity. Then there were all the arguments in the churches about the ethics of being lesbian or gay. I wanted to find an ethical code I could respect as a lesbian. I encountered Triratna when I was 29 and was so happy to hear about Buddhism’s clear path of training in meditation and ethics, leading to wisdom – and to meet so many other LGBT Buddhists.

The Buddha said nothing about same-sex relations. In the sense that we understand them now, they were probably inconceivable in his time, 2600 years ago. But he did teach the Five Precepts: that cultivating ever-deepening kindness, generosity, contentment, truthfulness and awareness will transform your life. These are guidelines anyone can learn to live by, regardless of gender or sexual orientation or any other distinction.

Refreshingly, in Triratna sexual orientation seems largely irrelevant to the spiritual life. LGBT and non-binary people are Triratna, alongside everyone else, though as in most organisations the process of adapting existing forms to be truly inclusive of non-binary people is taking time. Queer people can be found at every level of teaching and administrative responsibility, with the same failings and gifts as anyone else; the same limitless potential for the perfect wisdom and compassion of Enlightenment.