LGBT teens are being forced to become monks by homophobic Buddhist Thai parents but are taking to social media to express their identities according to the Bankok Post.
28 year-old Deer, who identifies as female while being born male, spoke to the Post about being forced to become a monk by her father.
‘I’ve felt trapped inside a male body ever since I can remember,’ Deer said.
‘When I was young, I acted, talked and dressed like my sisters, and didn’t feel there was anything wrong with that.’
Deer said that as her father’s only son there was incredible pressure on him to live a heterosexual life and continue the family line.
‘When I turned 12, my father spoke to me really seriously about the way I was acting. He said he was disappointed, and had decided that the only way I would be able to change my ways was to join the monkhood.
‘My parents took me to the local temple and forced me to join the monastery against my will. The minute my head was shaved I started to cry. I felt naked without my hair, as it was the only escape I had from being a boy.’
Deer was forced to stay at the monastery for the next six years before she was allowed to leave at age 18, after which she moved to Bangkok and began to live her life as a woman.
Thai monk Venerable Shine Waradhammo told the Post that many young LGBT monks were turning to social media to express their identities.
‘Social media platforms provide a means of communication for young monks,’ Waradhammo said.
‘Like all young people they want to express themselves, and sometimes that means wearing makeup or dressing in women’s clothes.’
Director-general of the Thai National Office of Buddhism Nopparat Benjawatananun acknowledged that many Thai parents believed that sending LGBT teens to monasteries would turn them heterosexual but said there was no problem with monks being same-sex attracted or effeminate as long as they obeyed the same rules that applied to heterosexual monks.
‘Many families believe that the monkhood can change the behavior of their gay children,’ Benjawatananun said.
‘They think that being a monk will lessen their sons’ sexual impulses and make it easier to control themselves.
‘I’ve met many monks that act and speak in a feminine manner, but they are smart, don’t break the rules and are well liked by the local community. For me, they are fully qualified to serve as venerable monks.’
Benjawatananun said that if LGBT monks were acting up on social media, that was for authorities within their monastery to deal with.
‘If someone is accused of doing something wrong, that’s for the abbots and other senior figures within the temple to sort out,’ Benjawatananun said.
However Wat Suankaew temple abbot Phra Payom Kalayano said that monasteries were becoming more welcoming of gay and transgender people who wanted to become monks by choice for sincere reasons.
‘In the past, [gay and transgender people] had no hope of being ordained because the rules were stricter and society was less open minded. But they have just as much right as anyone else to join the monkhood,’ Kalayano said.
‘The best thing about [gay and transgender monks] is that they are intelligent and well loved by local people, and they are really good at handicrafts. Masculine monks like me can’t do that stuff.’