Welcoming the Rainbow: A Guide toLGBTQIA+ Inclusion for Buddhists

This resource is produced by Rainbodhi for use in Buddhist temples, monasteries, retreat centres and meditation groups. Welcoming the Rainbow introduces basic LGBTQIA+ terminology and explains practical steps Buddhist organisations can take to help make our spaces more safe and welcoming for our rainbow family.

Written by Rainbodhi founder, Bhante Akāliko and filled with gorgeous illustrations by Venerable Yodha, the booklet was made possible through generous donations from people all over the world.

View, download and share the digital version of the booklet below: 

 LGBTQIA+ Buddhist Groups Around the World

  • Rainbodhi LGBTQIA+ Buddhist Community: a non-sectarian Buddhist rainbow friendship group, offering meditation, teachings and social events in a safe, supportive environment.
    Rainbodhi website
    Rainbodhi Facebook Page
    Rainbodhi Share and Care Group
  • Rainbow Sangha Network: Affiliated with the European Buddhist Union, helps connect Queer/LGBT+ Buddhists, friends and allies (in Europe and beyond) and want to share news & information about Buddhism.
    European Buddhist Union Website
    Rainbow Sangha Facebook Page
    Rainbow Sangha Facebook Group
  • Brazil Rainbow Sangha: a non sectarian group promoting LGBTQIA+ representation in Buddhism through talks, activities and advocacy, connecting with the broader LGBTQIA community and other religious traditions.  
    Rainbow Sangha Brazil website

    Rainbow Sangha Brazil facebook
    Rainbow Sangha Brazil youtube

  • Buddhismus unter dem Regenbogen, Germany,  a group of Buddhist practitioners from different traditions in Germany, practising in an online Sangha and organizing regional meetings. Website
  • East Bay Meditation Centre, California USA: Founded to provide a welcoming environment for people of color, members of the LGBTQI community, people with disabilities, and other underrepresented communities, the East Bay Meditation Center welcomes everyone seeking to end suffering and cultivate happiness. Website
  • Hartford Street Zen Centre, Issan-ji Temple, A Sōtō Zen temple for the LGBTQ+ community, friends and allies in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood. Website
  • International Trans Buddhist Sangha: A network for transgender Buddhists, transgenders who are interest in Buddhism, transgender friendly Buddhist and people who are interest in transgender and Buddhism.
    ITBS website
    ITBS Facebook Page
    ITBS Facebook Group
  • Paris Plum Village LGBTIQ Sangha, Paris, France: a mindfulness group for LGBTIQ+ people interested in the Plum Village tradition founded by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. Website
  • Rainbow Sangha Ireland (Plum Village Tradition) contact rainbowsanghaireland@gmail.com
  • Rainbow Sangha UK (Plum Village Tradition) contact Vicki: vpfrost@hotmail.co.uk
  • Chrysanthemum Sangha USA (Plum Village Tradition) contact:  chrysanthemumsangha@gmail.com
  • Gay Buddhist Fellowship, London, UK:  a non-sectarian Sangha where gay men can meditate together and where existential and spiritual challenges related to sexual orientation can be shared in a friendly, non-judgemental environment. Website
  • Gay Buddhist Fellowship, San Francisco, USA: a non-denominational forum for Buddhist practice in the LGBTQ community, cultivating a social environment that is inclusive and caring. Website
  • San Francisco Zen Centre Queer Dhamma, USA, an affinity group running for over ten years, welcoming everyone. Website
  • San Francisco Dhamma Collective HYBRID Q Sangha, meets online and in person every 4th Sunday. Website
  • TransBuddhists a collective of Buddhist practitioners from different traditions who seek to address systemic exclusion of transgender and gender nonconforming people from Buddhist spaces. Website

International LGBTQIA+ Friendly Monasteries and Organisations

  • The Alliance for Buddhist Ethics exists to affirm the importance of the core ethical principle of non-harming in all Buddhist traditions so that the Dharma can flourish with integrity for a future of equality and respect for all. Website
  • Anukampa Bhikkhuni Project, Oxford, UK, aims to promote the teachings and practices of Early Buddhism, through establishing a Bhikkhuni presence in the UK. Website
  • Bodhicitta Dakini Monastery is an emerging socially engaged monastery for Western monasticism in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition in Australia that aims to provide training, shelter, emotional and spiritual support to Western nuns, monks and the lay community. Website
  • Chenrezig Institute is a Buddhist Centre located in Queensland, Australia affiliated with the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT). Website
  • Dhammadharini Monastery, California, USA, a bhikkhuni monastery and a spiritual destination for women to train as monastics in Theravada tradition and lay visitors to practice and volunteer. Website
  • Empty Cloud Monastery, New Jersey, USA, a Buddhist monastery dedicated to spiritual self-development, personal and social transformation, and positive community engagement. Website
  • Jalu Buddhist Meditation Centre, Toowoomba, Australia, a queer run, mostly online organisation inspired by the Dzogchen tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, as well as the Chan tradition (Chinese Zen). Website
  • Lokanta Vihara, Sydney Australia, the “Monastery at the End of the World” explores what it means to follow the Buddha’s teachings in an era of climate change, globalised consumerism, and political turmoil. Website
  • Tilorien Monastery, Mabompré, Belgium, is a monastic community based on Early Buddhist teachings and inspired by kindness, equality, inclusivity and environmental sustainability. Website
  • Plum Village Community, Bordeaux, France, the headquarters of the global community founded by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, teachings engaged Buddhism and the art of mindful living. Website
  • Sravasti Abbey, Washington, USA, Western Tibetan Buddhist monastic community where nuns, monks and lay students learn and practice the path. Website
  • Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women  is a global community to benefit Buddhist women and nuns, to reduce gender injustice and awaken women to their potential. Website
  • Sakyadhita Australia the Australian branch of Sakyadhita International. Website
  • Sydney Zen Centre, Sydney, Australia, a welcome and inclusive lay community affiliated with the Diamond Sangha. Website
  • Triratana Buddhist Order a worldwide movement of people who try to engage with the Buddha’s teachings in the conditions of the modern world. Website
  • Zen Mountain Monastery, Mt. Tremper, New York, USA, a member of the Mountains and Rivers Order, with a commitment to diversity, eqiyty, inclusion and justice. Website

Videos &Talks

Check out Rainbodhi’s youtube channel for videos from online talks with teachers including Brother Phap Hai, Bhante Akaliko, Bhante Sumano, Lama Rod Owens and much more!

Other Videos:

  • Bhante Akaliko talks about Rainbodhi and offers practical tips for individuals and organisations on how to be more inclusive for LGBTQIA+ people. Watch the video.
  • Panel Discussion with Ayya Yeshe, Bhante Akaliko and Lama Rod Owens from the Festival of Radical Awakeningtalking about issues that affect the LGBTQIA+ community, as well as race, discrimination, power and privilege in contemporary Buddhism. Watch the video.
  • Panel Discussion: Pleasure and Danger; Faith, Sex and Sexuality, an online conference  about the intersection of sexuality, spirituality and ethics: with Bhante Akaliko from Rainbodhi LGBTQIA+ Buddhist Community; Siobhan Irving from Sydney Queer Muslims; Des Perry from Pitt Street Uniting Church, and; Lóre Stevens a Unitarian Universalist and academic at the Harvard Divinity School. Watch the video.
  • Michelle McNamara, Buddhist and academic describes her experience of Buddhism as a trans woman and the importance of Buddhist teachings in her life. Watch the video.
  • Lama Rod Owens, a black poly-queer teacher from USA talks about bringing Buddhist concepts into our sex life and practising non-harm. Listen to the talk.
  • Ajahn Brahm talks about marriage equality and how relationships can be part of the spiritual path. Watch the video.
  • Bee Scherer, scholar of Buddhism and queer theory, and leader of the Intersectional Centre for Inclusion and Social Justice (INCISE), Prof Scherer gives an overview of gender and sexuality in Buddhism. Watch the video.
  • Bhante Sumano discusses how LGBTQIA+ people can relate to the teachings of the Buddha, as well as how other Dharma practitioners can skillfully relate to LGBTQIA+ people. Watch the video
  • Venerable HaiAn and Lauren Barkume discuss LGBTQIA+ issues in the Plum Village tradition and broader society for the Making Visible webinar series. Watch the video
  • Anjelica Ross, trans rights activist, actress (you might recognize her as Candy from FX’s Pose) and founder of TransTech Social Enterprises, talks about how Buddhism has helped her in her personal and work life. Listen to the talk

Books about LGBTQIA+ Buddhism (AZ by Author)

  • Developing Trans* Competence: A Short Guide to Improving Transgender Experiences at Meditation and Retreat. By Anonymous. A hand-drawn booklet offering advice on how to make Buddhist spaces safer, more just, and more accessible to trans* practitioners. Read more here.
  • Buddhism, Sexuality, and Gender, edited by Jose Ignacio Cabezon. This anthology explores historical, textual, and social questions relating to the position and experience of women and gay people in the Buddhist world from India and Tibet to Sri Lanka, China, and Japan. It focuses on four key areas: Buddhist history, contemporary culture, Buddhist symbols, and homosexuality, and it covers Buddhism’s entire history, from its origins to the present day. (NB slightly dated, published 1992) Read more here.
  • Out of the Ordinary by Michael Dillon, (Lobzang Jivaka).  The fascinating story of the first transgender man, Michael Dillon, who, after discovering Buddhism, was also the first westerner to be ordained in the Tibetan tradition when he became a monk named Lobznag Jivaka in 1960. His autobiography was published posthumously in 2017. Read more here.
  • My Buddha Is Pink, by Richard Harrold.A collection of essays designed to help gay practitioners follow the Buddha’s path without getting lost in dogma. A fun and lighthearted look at being a happy and healthy modern gay Buddhist in an environment where homophobia remains an issue. Read more here.
  • Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan, by Gary Leupp. Combing through popular fiction, law codes, religious works, medical treatises, biographical material, and artistic treatments, Leupp traces the origins of pre-Tokugawa homosexual traditions among monks and samurai. Read more here.
  • Queer Dhamma: Voices of Gay Buddhists, Volume 1, edited by Winston Leyard. A pioneering book from 1998, featuring35 writers who talk about integrate being gay and their spirituality as Buddhists. Read more here.
  • Queer Dhamma: Voices of Gay Buddhists, Volume 2, edited by Winston Leyland. In this second volume gay men write indepth about how they have integrated their sexuality and spirituality via Buddhist practice. This book is focused on Buddhist practice and gay male sexuality/relationships in ten long personal accounts. Read more here.
  • Transcending; Trans Buddhist Voices, edited by Kevin Manders, Elizabeth Marston, an anthology of trans* Bhuddhist writers from around the world talk about their experiences.  Read more here.
  • Love and Rage: The Path of Liberation through Anger, by Lama Rod Owens. Through the lens of mindfulness and compassion-based practices, black queer teacher, Lama Rod Owens, shows how the power of raging at injustice can be transformed into a force of healing. Read more here.
  • Resting into Stillness, by Martin Jamyang Tenphel and Pema Düddul, a queer couple and co-directors of Jalu Meditation Centre present a collection of short pieces about the heart of the Buddhist path and especially about meditation and compassion. Read more here. 
  • Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation, by Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams,  Lama Rod Owens and Jasmine Syedullah Ph.D. outlines a new dharma that takes into account the ways that racism and privilege prevent our collective awakening and demonstrates how social transformation and personal, spiritual liberation must be articulated and inextricably linked. Read more here.
  • Awakening Together, by Larry Yang explores how we can embrace diverse identities and experiences within our spiritual communities, building sanghas that make good on the promise of liberation for everyone. Read more here.

   Articles (AZ by Author)

  • Brenna Grace ArtingerOn Pāli Vinaya Conceptions of Sex and Precedents for Transgender Ordination, the author evaluates ideas of sex and behavior in Pāli Vinaya texts in order to better understand the roles of such terms and their consequences on monastic inclusion.
  • Alexander Berzin, scholar and translator has written several thought provoking articles on sexuality and ethics in Buddhism:  Buddhist Sexual Ethics: An Historical Perspective; Buddhist Sexual Ethics: Main Issues; Buddhist & Western Views on Sex.
  • Ray Buckner, See Us Clearly: A Buddhist’s View of Transgender Visibility. Buckner, a gender queer and trans Buddhist author talks about trans visibility and unique possibilities for liberation. Read more here.
  • Ray Buckner discusses the important work Buddhist need to do to create welcoming spaces for gender diverse people in their article  Our Opportunity to Include All Genders in Buddhist Communities. Read more here.
  • José Ignacio Cabezón, Thinking through Texts: Toward a Critical Buddhist Theology of Sexuality. Cabazón, a gay Buddhist academic and writer contemporary western Buddhist approaches to sexuality with the Buddhist textual tradition.  Read more here.
  • José Ignacio Cabezón, Revisiting the Traditional Buddhist Views on Sex and Sexuality. Gay Buddhist scholar and author, Cabezón challenges us not to dismiss traditional Buddhist views on sexuality but rather to critically examine them, beginning with the study of sexual ethics in Buddhist texts. Read more here.
  • Bhante Shravasti Dhammika, Buddhism and LGBT Issues. A thorough overview of Buddhist views on sex and relationships from an early Buddhist perspective. Read more here.
  • Michael Dillion, Becoming Jivaka:, a Transgender man and Aspiring Buddhist Monk (Tricycle 2007).  Tells the fascinating story of the first transgender man, Michael Dillon, who, after discovering Buddhism, was also the first westerner to be ordained in the Tibetan tradition when he became a monk named Lobznag Jivaka in 1960. Read more here.
  • Janet Gyatso, One Plus One Makes Three: Buddhist Gender, Monasticism, and the Law of the Non-excluded Middle,  a scholarly article examining women and gender in Buddhism, as well as gender non-comforming people in early Buddhism. Read more here.
  • Richard Harrold, Call Us By Our Chosen Name. Gay author and blogger discusses homophobia and intersectional oppression in Buddhist communities.Read more here.
  • Richard Harrold, My Buddha is Pink, Interview with Tricycle Magazine.  Gay Buddhist author and blogger discusses his journey into Buddhism and why he writes a blog about being a gay Buddhist   Read the interview here and check out the My Buddha is Pink blog.
  • Andrew Holecek, Narayan Helen Liebenson and Sallie Jiko Tisdale, three cis Buddhist teachers answer a reader’s question: Does my transgender identity conflict with Buddhism’s teachings on no-self? Read more here.
  • Jay Michaelson, We’re Queer And We’ve Been Here: Rediscovering Buddhism’s LGBT history of gay monks, homoerotic samurai, and gender-nonconforming practitioners and gods. An overview of the mixed history of acceptance and discrinination against LGBTQIA+ people in Buddhism. Read more here.
  • Josephine Nolan, Tibetan Buddhist Views on LGBTQI. An overview of different teacher’s views on LGBTQI issues including marriage equality. Read more here.
  • Ajahn Punnadhammo, Same sex Marriage,  a monk from Arrow River Hermitage, USA, writes about marriage equality, saying there is no reason why not, and asks what is “all the fuss about?” Read more here.
  • A. L. De Silva, Homosexuality and Theravada Buddhism looks at early Buddhist attitudes and advances several rebuttals to common contemporary anti-gay positions. Read more here.
  • Justin Simen, Empathizing With Haters. Black queer Buddhist and the creator of “Dear White People” talks about race, empathy and his Buddhist practice in this interview from 2017. Read more here. 
  • Bhante Sujato, Why Buddhists Should Support Marraige Equality. A rebuttal of common arguments against marriage equality and an examination of historical Buddhist teachings on sex and relationships in different Buddhist traditions. Read more here.
  • Thay Thong PhapWho Am I Deepest Down? Read Thay’s notes for his deeply personal Rainbodhi talk about identity here.
  • Michael Vermeulen, The Rise of Rainbow Dharma: Buddhism on sexual diversity and same-sex marriage. An article for the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religions and sexulaity. Read more here.
  • Michael Vermeulen, Meditating under the rainbow: why queer dharma can refresh and transform your practice. An overview of queer Buddhist practice in San Fransisco’s castro district in the 1980’s and and its links to queer theory. Read more here.
  • Michael Vermeulen, The Buddhist pioneers of same-sex marriage in the West: a little-known history of compassion in action. Looks at the early same-sex marriages for Buddhists around the world and the concepts of LGBTQIA+ people in early Buddhist texts. Read more here.
  • Venerable Vimala, discusses the barriers to gender diverse people in taking ordination and how this is often based on incorrect readings of ancient terms, Through the Yellow Gate, Ordination of Gender-Nonconforming People in the Buddhist Vinaya
  • Kobai Scott Whitney, The Lone Mountain Path: The Example of Issan Dorsey. A fascinating account of Issan Dorsey. An eccentric and anti-establishment queer zen teacher and practioner living in San Fransisco during the AIDS epidemic. Read more here.   
  • Jef Wilson, All Beings Are Equally Embraced By Amida Buddha: Jodo Shinshu Buddhism and Same-Sex Marriage in the United States. Ministers in the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) began performing same-sex marriages in the 1970’s. These were among the first clergy-led religious ceremonies for same-sex couples performed in the modern era, and were apparently the first such marriages conducted in the history of Buddhism. Read more here.