Community Exclusion

Community creation and exclusion

Recently I was reading about Max Stirner. While I find the philosophy interesting and agreeable on some points, what I found most interesting is his idea of praxis being one of non oppositional community building. His concept of unions of egoists banding together for self interest can effective result in communes and is potentially pacifistic in nature.

The creation of communities which are essentially independent of the capitalist state is a hallmark of Anarchist Pacifist praxis, as in doing so the state and capitalism loses willing participants and the ability to steal their labor. When those communities are numerous and self sufficient enough the state must either die or respond violently. Personally, I have individual motivations for desiring to create a community. In being both trans and religious I find exclusion in a few intersections. Religiosity is often reviled in trans circles due to the historical and ongoing oppression and exclusion by religious institutions. While transness is often reviled in religious circles, ostensibly with each using its own particular theology as justification for the exclusion and oppression.

Due to these fronts of exclusion religious trans people often seek to create and maintain spaces which are specifically queer and religious. This motivation among others leads me to daydream about creating a trans religious community. There was a particular short fiction piece I read that crystallizes, partially, this desire. In it is really what I’ve been looking for, understanding and inclusion in monasticism that is currently denied to me and other trans people. The short film Bhikkuni highlights this in the context of my tradition, Thai Buddhism. At the end of it the main character comes essentially to the same decision I have: if you won’t let me do it with you, I’ll do it on my own. This exclusion and steadfast persistence in desiring ordination has been a major motivator in my wearing of robes.

When I have discussed this exclusion with others some will actually urge me to create a community where it is possible. This would require willing participants and a great deal of money, neither of which I have. I think in no small part because of the exclusion faced by trans people the number of us who remain with a desire to ordain are few and far between. Ordination itself isn’t incredibly popular outside of Buddhist majority countries to begin with. Still, an anthology of trans Buddhist essays was released recently, the first of its kind. It gives me some kind of hope that there are at least more trans Buddhists around, some desiring ordination. Maybe enough to form a coherent residential community.

If not, one can always go it alone. The Buddha left home alone. Yet in going at this alone something very real is lost, the third gem is community, admirable friends, the sangha. Without it the behavior change required in the practice is that much harder. It’s easier to adapt to and follow a schedule if everyone around you is doing it. Likewise it’s easier to be unskillful if everyone around you is doing it.

“If wanderers who are members of other sects should ask you, ‘What, friend, are the prerequisites for the development of the wings to self-awakening?’ you should answer, ‘There is the case where a monk has admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues. This is the first prerequisite for the development of the wings to self-awakening.'”

AN 9.1

As he was sitting there, Ven. Ananda said to the Blessed One, “This is half of the holy life, lord: admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie.”

“Don’t say that, Ananda. Don’t say that. Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life. When a monk has admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues, he can be expected to develop & pursue the noble eightfold path.

SN 45.2