Chakra Discussions

They have something of value to offer

by Tapati dasi

Posted May 14, 2005

I very much appreciate His Holiness Hrdayananda Maharaja's comments about gay monogamy. I would like to comment from my own experience.

I had the good fortune to be initiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1977. I practiced Krsna consciousness for over 15 years. I married in the movement, had two children, and finally left my abusive husband. With no help from their father, I went to college so I could support my children. It was there I realized in stages that I was not solely heterosexual. I developed a crush on a woman and thought I must be lesbian, then gradually, over a period of years, realized I was bisexual. I want to make it clear that I was not sexually active at this time. In fact I was celibate for several years. Nevertheless, I felt honor bound to be honest about my identity and true to myself (or the self I have taken on for this lifetime).

After some agonizing over what this all meant to my spiritual life, which I was (and am) very serious about, I finally decided that I had to come out to my devotee community (outside of ISKCON). Although they reacted better than I had imagined they would, one dear godsister of mine stopped writing to me when I came out to her. It saddens me to this day. Others (with a few exceptions) froze me out in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. I came to the conclusion that I would never be truly welcomed in the Vaishnava tradition and that, if I desired a true spiritual community, I must look elsewhere.

I am presently married to a man, but I am no less bisexual simply because I am in a monogamous relationship with a member of the opposite sex. Nor will I hide my identity as bisexual. A bisexual devotee recently confided in me that devotees seemed to think that bisexuals were "twice as lusty" as gays and lesbians. I am not sure I understand this logic. All bisexuality means is that one could potentially fall in love with either a woman or a man. It has nothing to do with the level of sex drive.

This discussion comes too late for me, but for my gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) godsisters and brothers, nephews and nieces, I wanted to advocate for their right to practice the tradition that they have come to love and yet not have to live a life of loneliness or secrecy.

I would imagine that most devotees who are GLBT are conservative in the level of interest they have in sex. I suspect they all would like simply to find a person to love and then settle down. It seems that when you come out as having a non-traditional sexual preference, people think you are obsessed with sex. I suspect that, out of their desire for a loving relationship, many GLBT devotees tried to be celibate or tried to have regular straight marriages. Don't we preach that we are unsatisfied merging into the brahmajyoti precisely because we desire relationship, and that we then fall down from that position in order to attain it?

It might be better to speak of affectional preference, rather than sexual preference. Ultimately, it's about whom we are likely to fall in love with, rather than whom we might lust over. Your heterosexual relationships -- are they just about sex? Or do you have affection, love, trust in, and high regard for your beloved? It is absolutely no different for GLBT devotees. Now imagine feeling as you do for your beloved and not being able to be with her or him. That's what we are talking about: a life of loneliness, without a loving relationship.

The eventual goal for heterosexual devotees is celibacy, is it not? Then it would be no different for GLBT devotees. As we age, the body naturally helps us all to achieve this standard. Ultimately, accepting GLBT devotees demonstrates an article of faith -- that chanting the holy names will purify anyone and everyone in time. I think you need to ask yourselves, how does the Gaudiya Vaishnava movement want to be viewed? As bestowing God's mercy on everyone, or as reserving it for a select few? I have heard that, even in India, there is often more tolerance than is shown in temples here in the United States.

By driving others like me away, I believe you will only hurt yourselves. If GLBT devotees are not accepted, rest assured that they will be forced to create their own tradition. I believe they have something of value to offer and that you will be poorer for their loss. I want to offer my respects to the GLBT Vaishnavas who are bravely coming forward and are determined to offer their service despite so many obstacles.