By Amara dasa
Posted December 3, 2002
One of the most frequently asked questions I receive about GALVA is: “What is the necessity for a Gay and Lesbian Vaishnava Association? If devotees are transcendental to bodily designations, then why should any particular group of Vaishnavas have a special need or desire to associate among themselves?”
The answer to this question is twofold. First of all, many devotional communities are not completely off of the bodily platform and therefore unfortunately discriminate against or sometimes even mistreat or exclude fellow Vaishnavas just because they happen to be women, black, gay or whatever. For this reason, as long as third-gender devotees (gay males, lesbians, transgenders, the intersexed, etc.) are stigmatized and marginalized within ISKCON or any other Gaudiya-vaishnava society, there will be a special need for them to organize in order to specifically address such artificially created problems of discrimination.
A person questioning the purpose of GALVA may not even be aware of the serious problems and prejudice that gay and lesbian devotees personally face within our movement each day. In some cases they are outright denied entry and participation in Krsna consciousness, and in others they are so socially stifled or ridiculed that it is damaging to their emotional and spiritual well being. All such discrimination and mistreatment is completely against the teachings and spirit of Lord Caitanya’s mission, requiring immediate attention.
Secondly, even if our movement was totally open and accepting, it is still simply human nature that people of similar types like to associate together. Srila Prabhupada has stated that ‘birds of a feather, flock together,’ and he also specifically mentions that people of the third sex were allowed in Vedic culture to keep their own societies. There is nothing wrong with this—it is completely natural.
Women devotees will naturally like to associate among themselves, and so will male devotees. A person living in a foreign country will naturally take pleasure in meeting someone from his own homeland, and the same is true for devotees of the third gender, even more so if they are being isolated and ostracized. The important principle for all these different groups of people and devotees to remember is that Krsna should always be the center, and that everyone should love and respect one another despite their natural differences.
There is a very nice example of how the devotee women within Lord Krsna’s pastimes especially enjoyed each others company during the solar eclipse at Kuruksetra, when the residents of both Vrindavana and Dvaraka met after a long time: “While the men were meeting in that way, the women also met one another in the same manner. They embraced one another in great friendship, smiling very mildly, and looked at one another with much affection. When they were embracing one another in their arms, the saffron and kunkuma spread on their breasts was exchanged from one person to another, and they all felt heavenly ecstasy. Due to such heart-to-heart embracing, torrents of tears glided down their cheeks. The juniors were offering obeisances to the elders, and the elders were offering their blessings to the juniors. They thus welcomed one another and asked after one another’s welfare. Ultimately, however, all their talk was only of Krsna. All the neighbors and relatives were connected with Lord Krsna’s pastimes in this world, and as such Krsna was the center of all their activities. Whatever activities they performed—social, political, religious or conventional—were transcendental.” (“Krsna Book,” by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Vol. 2, Chap. 82, p. 262)
In conclusion, it is quite natural and often even helpful for different groups of devotees to associate together, even in instances when they are pure and off of the bodily platform, as demonstrated in the example above. As long as Krsna remains in the center, such association will certainly not adversely affect the overall unity.
Last but not least, it is important to judge GALVA by its results. During the brief two years of our Association’s existence, I have literally received hundreds of letters and E-mails from devotees all around the world, thanking GALVA wholeheartedly for the resources and help it provides. Many devotees have stated that GALVA helped them to resume their Krsna consciousness, or enlivened them to continue on with it, and expressed gratitude for the much-needed encouragement, information and support. Others were thankful that GALVA helped them to better understand, love and accept their gay devotee relatives, friends and peers. For all of these reasons and more, GALVA has become just one more effective tool in spreading Krsna consciousness to all people. For me personally, GALVA has been a thoroughly rewarding service to both Srila Prabhupada and Lord Caitanya.
The seven purposes for which GALVA-108 has been organized are:
1) To inform and educate all people about the Vedic concept of a natural third sex or gender known as “tritiya-prakriti.”
2) To inspire and encourage people of this third gender (i.e. gay males, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders, the intersexed, etc.) to study, follow and embrace the Gaudiya-vaishnava teachings of Lord Caitanya as enunciated by the six Goswamis.
3) To promote the spirit and practice of all-inclusiveness within each and every Gaudiya-vaishnava mission, so that all people are genuinely welcome to visit, participate in, and join Lord Caitanya’s movement regardless of sex, gender, race, class, position, etc.
4) To open up dialog and improve relations between third-gender Vaishnavas and their heterosexual peers, and to identify and correct any instances of discrimination or unfair treatment towards the former within any Gaudiya-vaishnava mission.
5) To encourage and provide communication, contact, support, association, friendship, fellowship, etc. among third-gender Vaishnavas.
6) To spread and to share Lord Caitanya’s sankirtana movement with everyone, and especially in regard to other third-gender communities, through the public chanting of “Hare Krishna,” distributing literature, books and prasadam (sanctified foodstuffs), establishing centers, temples, etc.
7) To offer practical guidance and help concerning celibacy, householder life and it’s third-gender equivalent, physical and mental health, and other issues relevant to the gay, lesbian and third-gender devotee community.