Posted February 8, 2009
I appreciate all of the positive discourse currently going on within ISKCON regarding the inclusion and fair treatment of gay and other "gender-different" people in our society. While we may not always agree on everything, open and respectful dialogue is always important for progress on any controversial topic.
Giridhari das is correct to state in his recent article that modern science strongly supports the idea that gays are born homosexual, but why wait for modern science? Vedic medical texts (the Ayur Shastra) have already affirmed this many thousands of years ago. The Sushruta Samhita (3.2.38-45), for instance, discusses homosexual behavior within a chapter concerning embryological development and various types of births. In a similar chapter found in the Caraka Samhita (4.2.17-21), "men who are not aroused by women" are said to be born as such due to previous life impressions. Srila Prabhupada himself honored the Ayur Shastra, and ISKCON devotees employ its knowledge quite often, so why not accept its conclusion that homosexuality is inborn? (Not to mention the fact that nearly all gay people cite this as their own personal experience.)
According to recent studies, people viewing homosexuality as inborn are far more likely to have positive interactions with gay and lesbian persons than those considering it a mere "choice" or "adopted vice." The latter types tend to view gender-variant people with frustration, unacceptance and hostility. Since Vedic science considers gender differences to be inborn, we consequently see the topic treated quite rationally in Sanskrit legal, medical and social texts. Additionally, we do not find the harmful gender phobias and hatred among saintly Vedic personalities that plague so many religious leaders today. For instance, Maharaja Virata readily accepted the unusual cross-dressing Brihannala into his kingdom, and Jagannatha Misra similarly had no qualms about inviting "third-gender" dancers into his courtyard. Can we say the same thing about ISKCON temples today? I'm not so sure. Some, yes; but most, definitely not.
In order to properly accommodate homosexuals, transgendered and intersexed people in our movement we should first, at the very least, know that their gender differences are inborn as a fact of nature. This in itself will help eliminate many of the unnecessary fears, arguments and pseudo-excuses as to why such people should not be welcomed or treated humanely within Lord Caitanya's movement.