January 23, 2013
Interrelationship with the Transgender Sangha

For many years people who identify as transgender have been coming to practice at San Francisco Zen Center. During that time, the sangha has done its best to create a sense of welcome for them and to make appropriate accommodations on a case-by-case basis.

As members of the transgender community have been growing in number, the Diversity Committee at SFZC decided to build on its previous work toward welcoming all beings, and address the needs of the transgender community in a more consistent way.

enso2_350pxThe Committee, which is responsible for overseeing ongoing diversity and multiculturalism efforts at SFZC, began a process of discussing new policies and practices of welcome for the transgender community in early 2012. We have been discussing how to provide an interpersonal and cultural foundation for organizational and individual change. Ultimately, we grappled with the question of what kinds of programs and physical offerings would support everyone in the community, transgender and cisgender alike.

The Committee’s activities in exploration of this topic have included:

• Collecting feedback and input from transgender current and former practitioners.

• Meeting with a transgender Zen Teacher to prioritize suggestions and reflect on possible impacts.

• Engaging with processing sessions, led by a transgender consultant, to help committee members identify and practice with their value judgments, assumptions and emotional responses to the topic.

• Screening of the award winning film “Genderbusters.”

At this point, we continue to explore the topic and refine the suggestions we offer for policy change throughout San Francisco Zen Center, at all three practice centers and at all levels of the community. We hope that this article is one way to express our intention and our effort toward continuing this important work, and to open up to a dialogue with the greater sangha about transgender equality.

We welcome comments and questions about this process, and the person to whom inquiries should be directed is Daigan Gaither at daigan@queerdharma.net. Although there is much work to be done, we are continuing on our journey toward welcoming all beings. We vow to continue!