Acceptance and respect at a Buddhist retreat
Shakyapada talks about her experience of being accepted as a trans woman at a Buddhist training retreat and the need to be respectful of different viewpoints.
TRANSCRIPTSo I started going off on training, training retreats in South Wales and it’s a women’s retreat centre, so Triratna is streamed generally into men’s wing and a women’s wing and I mean the two genders do mix but a lot of the activities are single sex so the training, the retreat centre was single sex and I spent, I would spend a fortnight there, at least once a year, sometimes twice and I did tell them, right from the beginning I’ve been very open about who I am and where I’ve come from so I did tell them right at the beginning and just so that they had the opportunity to say no. It would be really uncomfortable. Because, you know, I think we need to respect other people’s discomforts or views, not necessarily agree with them but to just have some respect for other people’s feelings, so I’ve always felt that it was really important to talk about it and try and educate other people if they need it and to do it from a point of view of friendliness rather than being aggressive or over-assertive.
Anyway, they were very happy about it so when I started going on the retreats I did feel a bit nervous, I was... I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t be accepted and the first day was always a bit of a trial because I didn’t know anybody and I didn’t know whether people would react, the people who were there, how they saw me; whether they saw me as... You know, they didn’t know I was transsexual or whether they actually saw that I was and didn’t like it, or saw that I was and were OK about it, because nobody, of course, ever says.
So, anyway, once I got over the first day, particularly on the first few retreats I just seemed to settle in and I got on really well with the other women and had really good retreats and in those we have study groups as well as meditation and rituals so I did all of it and got on very well indeed, had chats with some of the Order members there and some of the other participants and just generally was quite open about who I was and where I’d come from and that just sort of went on.