On June 28th, 2023 the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB), in collaboration with Bangkok Pride and other LGBTIQAN+ activists, hosted a first-of-its-kind interfaith gathering where voices of religious leaders came together expressing support for gender equality and social inclusion for LGBTIQAN+ people.
For too long time, many religions have been seen as opposed to the Pride movement and those who identify outside of binary norms. Unfortunately, many religious contexts are not safe or accepting places for LGBTIQAN+ people, a reality often reinforced by negative narratives around LGBTIQAN+ visibility which are harmful to members of this marginalized community. For instance, terms such as “sinful” or “bad karma” are regularly used to describe a person who express and identify themselves outside of gender binary.
The intention of this interfaith gathering was to develop trust and model religious allies in support people of the LGBTIQAN+ community. The emergent network of allies is dedicated to exploring faith and religious doctrines which affect the safety and wellbeing of the LGBTQIAN+ community seeking a path forward to building a truly inclusive society.
A special mark for the pride movement in South East Asia, 50 participants attended the gathering which included a panel discussion featuring a Christian pastor, Muslim community activist, Buddhist monks and Bhikkhunis as well as a modern Thai spiritualist practitioner. Small group work facilitated direct connection between participants in an environment of deep listening and mutual respect.
By opening a space for LGBTIQAN+ people and members of the religious community to start a dialogue on how to promote peace within Thai society we take an important step toward welcoming diversity and offering the respect all people deserve regardless sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or gender expression.
In the spirit of collaboration this gathering began the process of directly engaging religious leaders to provide space for LGBTIQAN+ people where they can be their authentic selfs without fear of becoming excluded or harassed. Promoting equal partnership and forging a new narrative to include LGBTIQAN+ people in religious institutions reinforces the values of peace and loving kindness which we find to be the core of religious and spiritual life.