August 17, 2012
Happy Belated Independence Day to India! The birthplace of Buddhism celebrated its 66th anniversary of independence on Wednesday.
In another celebration, the San Francisco Zen Center, one of the largest sanghas in the United States, turned 50 on Monday, granting us the once in a lifetime opportunity to see a Shakyamuni Buddha bobblehead traversing the streets of San Francisco:
As the count of Tibetan self-immolators reached 46 this week, Tibet's first Olympic representative, Choeyang Kyi, won a bronze medal in the women's 20-kilometer race walk. Not bad for Tibet's first-ever Olympian! Of course, she won the bronze medal for China, not Tibet, an awkward situation both for her and for her supporters—both Tibetans and Chinese, who cheered her on side-by-side while waving different flags and shouting in different languages.
You might remember a Buddha Buzz last month that pleaded with the Taiwanese media to take photos of the first gay Buddhist wedding in Taiwan. Somebody listened! Here are newlyweds You Ya-ting and Huang Mei-yu at their wedding last Saturday:
Best wishes to these two brave, trailblazing women.
Speaking of brave trailblazers, there was an extremely interesting article published in the New York Times magazine last week that I didn't get around to reading until yesterday. "What's So Bad About a Boy Who Wants to Wear a Dress?" is about gender-variant children—children whose gender identity is fluid, so they identify as both a male and a female, and show traits of both. The article isn't Buddhist per se, but its exploration of gender identity is not only socially relevant and fascinating, but also illustrates just how much we rely on our constructions of self and just how poorly we can react when those constructions are destabilized. I have an excerpt for you below, but please follow the link and read the entire article.
“People rely on gender to help understand the world, to make order out of chaos,” says Jean Malpas, who heads the Gender and Family Project at the Ackerman Institute in Manhattan. “It’s been a way of measuring someone’s well-being: ‘Are you adjusted? Do you fit? Or are you unhinged?’ The social categories of man/woman, boy/girl are fundamental, and when an individual challenges that by blurring the lines, it’s very disorienting at first. It’s as if they’re questioning the laws of gravity.”
So it is for Moriko and her husband, who struggled for years to understand their son’s attraction to girls’ clothes even though it made him a social pariah....Moriko’s son will soon enter eighth grade in his Long Island public middle school. Most of his friends are girls, and he dresses just like them: skinny jeans, black eyeliner, light lipstick and off-the-shoulder shirts from the girls’ department. (Moriko makes him wear a tank top underneath.) When his teachers asked which pronoun they should use when referring to him, he said masculine. But he doesn’t want to be called a boy, or a girl.
“This is a kid who is smack in the middle,” Moriko said. “His feet are getting bigger, his voice is starting to deepen. He doesn’t want to start [hormone] blockers. We don’t really know what’s next.” She sighed and then started to cry. “His therapist said to me, ‘I know you’ve been living without a gender box for a very long time, and I know it’s frustrating and confusing, but right now, he just doesn’t want to be in a box.’ I’m not trying to label him, but it’s hard not to wonder what he is, if he’s not a boy and he’s not a girl. Sometimes I worry that not being in a box isn’t healthy, either, even if the box is ‘gay’ or ‘genderqueer.’ I just want to be able to wrap my head around some concept. I know I have to be patient, but sometimes I feel like an emotional hostage, because as his parent, it’s my job to help him be whatever he wants to be, and I can’t do that if he doesn’t know where he’s headed.”
Image 1: Megan Farmer, San Francisco Chronicle.
Image 2: Reuters.