Religious Rejection Is Tough Obstacle For Gays
By Michael Lanza
And Homosexuality Religious Rejection Is Tough
Obstacle For Gays By Michael Lanza For many people,
the issue of gay rights is an issue of faith -
and in most cases, sexuality and religion are
issue of sexual preference is not addressed
in Buddist texts. Most sects accept homosexuals.
Despite gains in much of the secular world, homosexuals
face an uphill battle in places where religion
plays a prominent role in public policy.
Of the world's four major religions, both mainstream
Christianity and Islam, the two largest, vehemently
oppose homosexuality - while Buddhism and Hinduism
are mostly indifferent.
In the Judeo-Christian and Islamic religious traditions,
homosexual relations are considered sins - and
same-sex relationships are therefore condemned
by the faiths at large.
While many eastern religions do not address homosexuality
directly, practitioners of the religions are also
influenced by lingering social stigmas.
In India, the world's Hindu center, homosexual
acts are illegal - legislation largely driven
by prevailing cultural taboos.
"If they're there they suffer silently," Ram Mohan,
a religious educator with the Hindu Temple Society
of North America in Flushing, said.
Although Hinduism doesn't address the issue in
terms of morality, like the Judeo-Christian and
Islamic sects, centuries of Islamic rule and western
colonialism have influenced modern-Indian culture,
Despite the cultural stigmas associated with homosexuality,
gender ambiguity has a surprisingly large role
in the Hindu faith and Indian culture.
Shiva, one of Hinduism's primary deities, is often
depicted with both male and female attributes,
Mohan said. Sexual ambiguity also appears in some
scriptures, with stories of male warriors being
reincarnated as women and facing rivals from their
In Indian society, transsexuals, known as Hijra,
have ancient roots in India's royal courts and
have formed their own social groups and communities.
Hijra are traditionally involved in Indian ceremonial
birth rights and have divine powers in Indian
folklore, Mohan said, although their social clout
has been eroded over the centuries.
is indifferent, but homosexuality is taboo
in Indian culture.
Buddhism and many of the cultures where it is
practiced generally take a more open approach
on the issue of homosexuality.
"In Buddhism, sexuality is put on the side," Tong
Chai, a religious instructor with the Wat Buddha
Thai Thavorn Vanaram, a Thai Buddhist temple in
Elmhurst, said. "We don't care if you're homosexual,
we look at what you're doing - your actions."
Although many Buddhists do not view sexuality
as a moral issue, homosexuals can be excluded
from becoming Buddhist monks and nuns, Chai said,
and all monks and nuns must take a vow of celibacy.
In some Buddhist dominated cultures, homosexuals
have gained widespread acceptance both socially
In Thailand, an androgynous group of transsexuals,
known as katoeys, have occupied prominent positions
in Thai society, especially in entertainment.
"There's no discrimination at all compared to
America, it's totally different," Chai, who lived
in Thailand for 30 years, said.
While it's still unclear where the gay rights
movement in the United States will go next, legal
victories on the issue of gay marriage in California
and Massachusetts have given activists cause for
But each victory comes at a cost, as religious
activists and social conservatives grow louder
in their resistance - making calls for constitutional
amendments. It seems that as long as people form
opinions based on strict religious interpretations
and cultural norms, homosexuals will continue
to struggle for real acceptance.