Thai Buddhist accounts of male homosexuality and AIDS in the 1980s

(THai Sexuality in the Age of AIDS: Essays in Memory of Robert Ariss)

by Peter Anthony Jackson

The Australian Journal of Anthropology

Vol.6 No.3



Copyrighyt by Anthropological Society of New South Wales

1. Introduction In the early to mid-1980s, the official Thai response to the spread of HIV infection in that country was characterised by denial and silence. It was only in the latter years of the decade that the threat HIV/AIDS posed to public health in Thailand was formally acknowledged by government and public health officials and that public education campaigns began to be formulated and implemented. As in many other countries, the initial responses of many public figures in Thailand to the recognition of the serious issues posed by the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS were informed more by prejudice and fear than by reasoned consideration of the evidence on modes of infection. In this period homosexual men, female prostitutes and Western tourists and residents in Thailand were condemned as sources of AIDS and threats to public health by many Thai journalists, politicians, public health officials, Buddhist monks and other public figures. In my previous work (Jackson 1989a) I argued that popular Western perceptions of a general tolerance of homosexuality in Thailand are to an extent inaccurate. Although there are no legal or formal sanctions against homosexuality in Thailand, I showed that a wide range of normative cultural sanctions operate to stigmatise Thai homosexual men and women. Sanctions against homosexuality are diffused throughout Thai society rather than being focused in any clearly definable institution or set of homophobic practices as has historically been the case in most Western societies. However, this situation changed somewhat in the late 1980s. The initial 'shock, horror' response to AIDS provided a focus for previously diffuse anti-homosexual sentiments as homosexual men were publicly labelled as the main 'source' or 'origin' of HIV infection in Thailand. A number of Buddhist writers were involved in this stigmatisation of homosexual men, drawing on Buddhist teachings to construct arguments against homosexuality that contributed to the fear and angst surrounding much public discussion of HIV/AIDS in the country in the late 1980s. I begin by describing accounts of male homo-eroticism in the Thai language translation of the Tipitaka(2), the canonical scriptures of Theravada Buddhism, noting, firstly, divergences in ethical judgements made on homosexuality in the canon and, secondly, similarities between scriptural descriptions of pandaka (Thai: bandorh) and the popular Thai notion of the kathoey (transvestite, transsexual, male homosexual). I then consider traditional Thai accounts which propose that homosexuality arises as a kammic consequence of violating Buddhist proscriptions against heterosexual misconduct. These kammic accounts describe homosexuality as a congenital condition which cannot be altered, at least in a homosexual person's current lifetime, and have been linked with calls for compassion and understanding from the non-homosexual populace. Thirdly, I describe more recent Thai Buddhist accounts from the late 1980s that describe homosexuality as a wilful violation of 'natural' (hetero) sexual conduct resulting from lack of ethical control over sexual impulses. These accounts presented homosexuality as antithetical to Buddhist ethical ideals of self-control and were associated with vehement anti-homosexual rhetoric and vociferous attacks on male homosexual behaviour as the purported origin of HIV/AIDS. 2. References to male homosexuality in the Theravada scriptures The Pali canon of Theravada Buddhism contains numerous references to sexual behaviour that today would be identified as homo-erotic and to individuals who would be called homosexuals and transvestites. However, as would be expected of a series of texts composed over two millenia ago in a non-European culture, sexual categories found in the canon do not match contemporary notions of homosexuality or of homosexual individuals. Most notedly, the canon does not clearly distinguish homosexual behaviour from cross-gender phenomena such as transvestism. Nevertheless, while not being given a single, distinctive name, male-male sex is referred to in many places in the Vinaya,(3) the clerical code of conduct, being listed amongst the many explicitly described forms of sexual activity which are proscribed for monks. It is important, however, that Theravada Buddhist accounts of homosexuality are understood in the context of the religion's general disdain of sexual activity and distrust of sensual enjoyment. It is also important to keep in mind that Buddhism began as an order of celibate male renunciates, the sangha, and that the Vinaya is predominantly a clerical not a lay code of conduct. In Buddhism all forms of sexual activity and desire must be transcended in order to attain the religious goal of nibbana, literally, the extinction of suffering. The first section of the Tipitaka,(4) provides detailed guidelines on the practice of clerical celibacy in the form of often explicit examples of the types of sexual misconduct which entail 'spiritual defeat' (parajika) and automatic expulsion from the sangha. To quote an often repeated formula in this section of the Vinaya, 'Whatever monk has sexual intercourse is parajika, a defeated one, and will not find communion [in the order]' (Vinaya, Vol. 1, p.27, passim). The precision with which monks' conduct is monitored is shown in the canonical definition of 'perform' in the expression 'to perform sexual intercourse', which is described as a monk inserting his penis into a vagina, mouth, anus, etc. 'even if only as far as the width of a sesame seed' (Vinaya, Vol. 1, p.49). The extreme imagery evoked in the Buddha's denunciation of a monk who was found to have kept and trained a female monkey to have sex with him graphically portrays the kammic consequences that were believed to follow from a monk's violation of his vow of celibacy or brahmacariya, Behold O worthless man (moghapurisa), the penis you insert into the mouth of a poisonous snake is yet better than the penis you insert into the vagina of a female monkey. It is not good. The penis you insert into the mouth of a cobra is yet better than the penis you insert into the vagina of a female monkey. It is not good. The penis you insert into a pit of blazing coals is yet better than the penis you insert into the vagina of a female monkey. It is not good. For what reason do I say the mentioned points are better? Because the man who inserts his penis into the mouth of a poisonous snake, and so on, even if he dies or suffers to the point of death because of that action . . ., after death and the dissolution of his body he will not enter the state of loss and woe (apaya), the states of unhappiness (duggati), the place of suffering (vinipata), hell (naraka). As for the man who inserts his penis into the vagina of a female monkey, after death and the dissolution of his body, he will enter the state of loss and woe, the states of unhappiness, the place of suffering, hell. (Vinaya, Vol. 1, p.29) According to the canon, sexual misconduct (kamesu micchacara) should be avoided by the pious laity as well as by monks and nuns. In Thailand lay sexual misconduct is most commonly interpreted as meaning 'violating another person's wife' (Thai: phit mia khon u'n), or as 'violating another person's spouse (husband or wife)' (Thai: phit phua-mia khon u'n). Homosexuality amongst laymen has traditionally fallen outside the scope of kammicly significant sexual misconduct in Thailand. 2.1 Heterosexuality and homosexuality as equivalent defilements In the context of Buddhism's general anti-sex attitude, the Vinaya often describes homosexuality in terms that place it on a par with heterosexuality. But this ethical equivalence is negative, with heterosexuality and homosexuality being described as equally repugnant sources of suffering and as constituting equivalent violations of clerical celibacy. The Vinaya identifies not two but four gender types: male, female, ubhatobyanjanaka and pandaka. The latter two Pall terms are used to refer to different things in different sections of the canon, but broadly ubhatobyanjanaka(5) refers to hermaphrodites while pandaka(6) refers to male transvestites and homosexuals. The Vinaya lists those sexual activities with men, women, pandaka and ubhatobyanjanaka that entail spiritual defeat and a monk's automatic expulsion from the order: 1. Anal, vaginal or oral intercourse with a female human, non-human (i.e. an immaterial being or animal, 2. Anal, vaginal or oral intercourse with an ubhatobyanjanaka human, non-human or animal, 3. Anal or oral intercourse(7) with a pandaka human, non-human or animal; and 4. Anal or oral intercourse with a male human, non-human or animal. In the Vinaya's listings of proscribed sexual activities, sex between monks and the various categories of women, hermaphrodites, transvestites, men, dead bodies, animals and inanimate objects are all described in equivalent terms, none being presented as any more morally reprehensible than any other and all entailing spiritual defeat, although sex with inanimate objects was regarded as a lesser infraction entailing penance but not expulsion. However, elsewhere in the Vinaya and in other sections of the Tipitaka it is made clear that ubhatobyanjanaka and pandaka are spiritually and ritually inferior to men, often being compared with women and criminals. 2.2 Scriptural examples of discrimination against pandaka and ubhatobyanjanaka The scriptures describe the Buddha as demonstrating a compassionate attitude towards people who began to show cross-gender characteristics after ordination and who, while attracted to members of the same sex, were regarded as being physiologically and behaviourally true to the prevailing cultural notions of masculinity. However, the Buddha opposed accepting into the sangha those who openly expressed cross-gender features at the time they presented for ordination. Volume Four of the Vinaya recounts a story of a pandaka who violated the clerical vow of celibacy and whose bad example led to the institution of a comprehensive ban on the ordination of pandaka. Contemporary Thai stereotypes of kathoeys (transvestites and transsexuals) have precedents in descriptions of pandaka in Pali. Zwilling (1992:205) notes that the view of pandaka as 'lascivious, shameless, unfilial and vacillating' was reflected in early Buddhist literature, According to Buddhaghosa pandakas are full of defiling passions (ussanakilesa); their lusts are unquenchable (avapasantaparilaha); and they are dominated by their libido (parilahavegabhibhuta) and the desire for lovers just like prostitutes (vesiya) and coarse young girls (thulakumarika) (Samantapasadika III, p.1042). Thus the pandaka . . . was considered in some degree to share the behaviour and psychological characteristics of the stereotypical 'bad' woman. It might be contended that the Buddha's ban on the ordination of pandaka reflects his concern about the disruptive effect of transvestite homosexuals in an order of celibate, predominantly heterosexual monks. However, the scriptural emphasis is usually on receptive anal sex as the violation and source of disruption. The Vinaya conflates receptive anal sex with demasculinisation, i.e. being a pandaka, and the Buddha's ban on the ordination of pandaka indicates a concern to exclude non-masculine men from the sangha. The ban on the ordination of pandaka or kathoeys has continued until today. In 1989 the supreme governing body of the Thai sangha considered the matter of 'sexually perverted (Thai: wiparit thaang pheet) persons being ordained as monks' (Khamhuno 1989:37). The Sangha Council discussed the matter after news reports of the ordination of a kathoey and local criticism of the abbot who permitted the ordination, and the meeting affirmed that the Vinaya and the laws of the Council clearly specify that people who are kathoeys or pandaka are prohibited from being ordained, adding that they are also prohibited from being ordained as novices (ibid.). 3. Contemporary Thai views on homosexuality However, scriptural attitudes to pandaka are not uniform and depending on which sections of the Tipitaka are referred to or emphasised can lead to differing ethical positions on homosexuality, some compassionate and others invidious. Indeed, two broad schools of thought on homosexuality are current among contemporary Thai Buddhist writers, one accepting, the other unaccepting. The key factor differentiating the divergent stances is the author's conceptualisation of the origin of homosexuality; those who, taking a liberal stance, maintain that it is a condition which is outside the conscious control of homosexual men and women and has its origins in past misdeeds, whereas those who maintain that homosexuality is a wilful violation of ethical and natural principles take an antagonistic position. 3.1 Kammic accounts of the origins of homosexuality Bunmi (1986) has provided a detailed exposition of the kammic explanation of homosexuality which has prevailed in Thailand until recent decades, as well as the ethical corollaries of this account. Like most contemporary Thai authors writing on Buddhist attitudes to homosexuality, Bunmi translates pandaka into Thai as kathoey, which he appears to understand in its more traditional sense. That is, for Bunmi kathoey primarily denotes an assumed gender imbalance and only secondarily denotes homosexuality. Bunmi lists a number of types of sexual misconduct in a past life that can lead a person to engage in homosexual activity in their current life. These misdeeds include committing adultery, being a prostitute, sexually interfering with one's children or being sexually irresponsible, such as a man not caring for a woman who becomes pregnant by him. Criticising popular Thai ideas on the origins of homosexuality, Bunmi denies that being a kathoey is caused by raising a boy with girls or by raising a girl with boys, maintaining that individuals in the categories of human beings, animals and 'lower level spirits' (Thai: phii-saang-theewadaa) are born as kathoeys because of causal factors in their past lives (1986:39-41). Buddhist views that being a pandaka/kathoey carries a stigma that marks a person as deficient are clearly shown by Bunmi's note that the Abhidhammapitaka (no reference cited) lists the kammic causes of being born with a disability. He maintains that being a kathoey is included in this list of disabilities along with being born or becoming physically disabled, being mute, mad, blind, deaf and intellectually retarded (ibid:265). The Buddha prescribed that people with any of these disabilities, plus those with serious illnesses and diseases, should be barred from ordination. Bunmi maintains that sex-determined kamma is of two types, that which manifests from birth and leads to hermaphroditism and that which manifests after birth and leads to transvestism, transsexualism and homosexuality (ibid:287). He says those who are born hermaphrodites cannot attain nibbana in this life but those who become kathoeys after birth can attain nibbana if they apply their discriminating intelligence (Thai: panya) to the task of spiritual liberation (ibid:294). Bunmi also says that kathoeys tend to be born in societies in which sexual misconduct is prevalent because such societies provide appropriate environments for them to expend their kammic debts (ibid:301). Significantly, Bunmi maintains that actions and desires which have an involuntary cause in the kammic consequences of past sexual misconduct do not themselves accrue any future kammic consequences. They are the outworking of past kamma, not sources for the accumulation of future kamma. According to Bunmi, homosexual activity and the desire to engage in homosexual activity fall into this category and are not sinful and do not accrue kammic consequences. In a similar vein, he says that, Changing one's sex is not sinful (ducarita). Consequently the intention to change one's sex cannot have any ill kammic consequences. But sexual misconduct (Thai: phit-kaam) is sinful and can lead to consequences in a subsequent birth. (ibid:306) In Bunmi's account the only sexual activities that accumulate future kammic consequences are traditionally sanctioned forms of heterosexual misconduct. Bunmi says that sexual misconduct with a member of the opposite sex has kammic consequences because, 'it is like stealing, because the person responsible for that person has not given their permission' (ibid:308). Bunmi does not explicitly refer to female kathoeys and his examples of sexual misconduct that lead to being born a kathoey are moral infractions committed by men. His use of a proprietary simile, comparing adultery to theft, would appear to reflect a view of women as men's property. The sexual activities that Bunmi says Buddhism classes as sins are precisely those which in Thailand, and presumably also in ancient India, have historically been regarded as dishonouring and sullying the female victims and their male relatives or spouses, namely, adultery, rape and sex with a girl who has not been given in marriage. In this cultural context two men having sex does not cause any equivalent damage or loss (Thai: sia haai), except perhaps to their reputations as 'real men' should they be discovered. But when a man is cuckolded or his wife is raped, then his property has been interfered with and, in Bunmi's words, an action equivalent to a theft has occurred. There is therefore a close relationship between, on the one hand, those sexual activities which Buddhist teachings proscribe for lay people and which are interpreted as incurring kammic debts and, on the other hand, the sexual mores and gender roles of Asian societies. A range of physical gender imbalances and sexual activities and inclinations which slip outside these traditional norms are considered to have a neutral kammic impact and are not regarded as evil or sinful. Significantly, Bunmi's traditionalist Buddhist account proscribes violations of taboos and mores relating to potentially reproductive sexual consequences but does not denounce as sinful homosexuality and other forms of behaviour without reproductive consequences. However, this contrasts markedly with some more recent Thai Buddhist interpretations. 3.2 AIDS and the rise of intolerance in Thailand Since the arrival of HIV/AIDS in Thailand in the mid-1980s a number of lay and clerical authors writing on Buddhist attitudes to sex have presented strongly anti-homosexual views. As in the West, which I suspect to be the source of many of the more extreme anti-homosexual arguments presented in Thailand in recent years, HIV/AIDS has led to the foregrounding of subcurrents of homophobia in Thai culture and society. The recent critics continue to conflate cross-gender behaviours with homosexual activity, interpreting homosexuality as a consequence of gender imbalance or perversion. However, in the light of the focus on male homosexual activity as a mode of transmission of HIV infection during the early years of the pandemic, Thai Buddhist critics concentrated more on the sexuality of people identified as kathoeys than on these persons' assumed gender imbalance. It is interesting that this inversion of the historical structuring of notions of gender and sexuality in the notion of a kathoey, that is, placing homosexuality rather than gender at the focus of the concept, was associated with a shift in Buddhist attitudes from relative tolerance of homosexuality to condemnation. AIDS, therefore has had an important cultural impact in Thailand, contributing to shifts in the understanding of what constitutes a kathoey and leading to increased stigmatisation of certain sexual practices. In his book, A Vaccine to Protect Against AIDS, the monk Phra Phadet Thattajiwo(8) (1987:Introduction), a member of the influential and conservative Wat Phra Thammakay movement, says: In an age such as the present when people believe that they have achieved the pinnacle of progress whoever wants to do something does it. For example, women want to be men and men want to be women. They walk into hospitals and have doctors change their sex. People who in the past would have avoided society because of shame of their sexual perversion (Thai: wiparit phit pheet),(9) people whom we call kathoeys, express themselves openly to have society accept them. At the same time, they try to make their behaviour, which is wrong for their own gender, more open for society to accept it. Others who don't see through these people's [actions and claims], who have mistaken views or who have suffered some disappointment in life, put themselves up to ridicule by accepting and following the practices of this group. Some people experiment with this type of behaviour because they believe it simply represents a change of preference or taste in their lives. None of these people knew that they were building up the sin virus (Thai: chu'a baap) to boil them alive. Until finally one day in this very decade an extremely severe disease arose to destroy the lives of those degraded, mentally perverted (jit-wiparit) people. This disease is AIDS, a disease with no cure whose sufferers die slowly in great suffering and torment. Phra Thattajiwo says that 'sexual perverts', whom he identifies with AIDS sufferers, are reaping the kammic consequences of sexual misconduct in past lives. But he takes the kammic argument further, saying that because of moral blindness such people persist in their perversity even in this life, weakening their bodies and making them susceptible to infection from AIDS so that, . . . when they are reborn in a future life their suffering will be even more severe than this, both from their behavioural perversions and from the cruel torture that they will suffer from a disease that will be many times more severe than AIDS. (ibid:20) Phra Thattajiwo calls AIDS 'the executioner of people mad about sex' (ibid:Preface), describing it as another form of the same holocaust (Thai: fai pralai kaan or the conflagration that destroys the universe at the end of each cosmic epoch in Buddhist mythology) that has already destroyed the world so many times in the past. He thus maintains that AIDS is not a new disease but has arisen innumerable times in the past, After it has spread for a period and destroyed (Thai: laang(10)) those people with this type of kamma this disease will also disappear, until a time when people with this type of kamma are born once more and this disease will then return and spread again . . . It is the shadow of the executioner following us. (ibid:14) Phra Thattajiwo blames homosexual men for the spread of AIDS. But writing in an appendix to Phra Thattajiwo's book titled 'AIDS: Humanity's Kamma That Must Be Repaid', one Dr Appasorn Bunpradap makes the stronger claim that homosexual men were the cause of AIDS, When AIDS is viewed from the standpoint of spiritual truth (saccadhamma) it is as if nature were sending a punishment to those people who have engaged in unatural sexual behaviour. (ibid:49) AIDS has resulted from the behaviour of gays and people who engage in promiscuous sexual activity, and these groups have resulted from families that lacked warmth and did not hold fast to moral principles in conducting their lives. And according to the principles of religion which say that a result must come from a cause this situation must be rectified at the source. Consequently, dhamma is the single and only medicine which can put a stop to the spread of AIDS in Thailand. (ibid:51) Dr Appasorn further maintains that lobha (greed), dosa (anger) and moha (spiritual delusion) cause social problems such as, 'drinking liquor, smoking cigarettes, gambling, playing the lotteries, corruption, being gay, engaging in promiscuous sexual activity, drug addiction, and so on' (ibid:49). That is, she lumps homosexuality together with a range of other social issues which, it is maintained, would be eradicated if people followed Buddhist ethical principles. The moral 'vaccine' against AIDS that Phra Thattajiwo prescribes in his book is the Buddhist practice of kayagatasati or observing the unpleasantness and unsatisfactoriness of the body. Kayagatasati involves seeing the body as merely a compound of thirty two different components such as hair, nails, teeth, skin, sinews, internal organs, blood, sweat, fat, spit and other fluids. The goal of this practice is to aid the ending of attachment to the body and assist in the extinguishing of carnal desire. When we look at the body from the perspective of what it truly is [a container of various kinds of filth! then there will be no opportunity for us to be remiss in upholding the principle of ethical sexual conduct, which would lead to us being born as a kathoey or becoming a victim of AIDS. Phra Thattajiwo's 'vaccine' to prevent AIDS is ultimately sexual abstinence, achieved by Buddhist practices which focus on realising the ugliness of the body and the distastefulness of sex. Phra Thattajiwo does not mention safe or unsafe sexual practices in his discourse on AIDS, saying that because people in the Buddha's time followed the practice of kayagatasati they, 'not only did not suffer from the disease of sexual perversion, they were also pure in action, word and thought' (ibid:Preface). Phra Thattajiwo's view misrepresents the Buddhist scriptures, where it can be seen from the Vinaya that even a number of the Buddha's ordained disciples were involved in unusual sexual practices such as bestiality ('The Case of the Female Monkey', Vinaya, Vol.1, p.27), necrophilia ('The Two Cases of Open Sores [in Dead Bodies!', Vinaya, Vol.1, pp.221-2) and sex with inanimate objects ('The Case of the Moulded Image', Vinaya, Vol.1, p.222; 'The Case of the Wooden Doll', Vinaya, Vol.1, p.222). It is clear from the Vinaya that, apparently contrary to the Buddha's expectation, some of the monks who went into charnel grounds and graveyards to contemplate the transiency of the body came to see the decaying corpses that were supposed to repulse them as sexually attractive objects. That is, the Vinaya inadvertently provides evidence that the kayagatasati practice proposed by Phra Thattajiwo as a 'vaccine' against AIDS may not be as effective as he claims because not everyone regards what Buddhism defines as the 'filthy' aspects of the body to be repulsive. Indeed, for some people contemplation of these attributes of the body might serve to incite their sexual appetite rather than dampen it. In a different vein, the Buddha himself urged caution in the practice of kayagatasati after some monks following this practice apparently became so repulsed by their own bodies that they committed suicide. Another clerical commentator on Buddhism and sex, Isaramuni, writing in his book 'The Method to Protect Against AIDS', presents an even more vehement anti-homosexual argument than Phra Thattajiwo. He defines sexual desire (Thai: tanhaa thaang pheet) as 'sexuality', using the English word, saying that it is a natural phenomenon whose function is to ensure men and women perpetuate the human race. But, Isaramuni maintains, when sexual desire is excessive it cannot be controlled or kept within limits, leading to sexual disorder or confusion (Thai: lak-lan) whereby a man develops sexual desire for another man rather than for a woman (Isaramuni 1989:3-4). That is, Isaramuni maintains that homosexuality derives from an excess of sexual drive or from lack of moral control over the sexual drive to ensure that it is kept within 'normal' or 'natural' limits. The philosopher monk Phra Ratchaworamuni(11) also appears to support the idea that homosexuality derives from lack of control over sexual desire. In his Dictionary of Buddhist Teachings (Ratchaworamuni 1984:135-6.) he defines a pandaka as: A kathoey, a person who does not appear to be either male or female. Namely: someone born as a kathoey, a castrated man called a eunuch, and a man with strong sexual desire who behaves outside of sexual conventions and who incites other men to be likewise. Implicit in Phra Ratchaworamuni's brief account of male homosexuality is the supposition that male-male sex results from excessive lust that cannot be satisfied by heterosexual intercourse. In effect male homosexuality is presented as resulting from lust breaking out of the bounds of an assumed heterosexual normality. In this view homosexual men are considered immoral because they do not contain their sexual urges within normal heterosexual limits. Given that control and ultimate extinction of desire is the basis of the Buddhist path to end suffering and attain salvation, in this view homosexual men are regarded as the antithesis of Buddhist spirituality. The view that the origin of homosexuality lies in excessive lust appears to lend support to the popularly held view in Thailand that homosexual men and women cannot attain nibbana or high spiritual states, because in order to attain nibbana one must control and contain desire. Furthermore, if this ethical control were exercised, sexual desire would not flood outside the normal bounds of heterosexuality. Homosexuality is considered immoral because if homosexuals learned sexual self-restraint, like the heterosexual population, they would cease to be homosexual. In this view homosexuality is considered to be a universal but immoral human potential that ethical control keeps in check. Isaramuni takes this line of argument further, claiming that homosexuals' imputed immorality is not only the cause of their homosexuality but was also the direct cause of AIDS, When a critical event such as this occurs [i.e. homosexuality] the environment in the world changes, things which have never existed before arise because of the hidden consequences of human beings' unnatural activities. That is, matter changes its form and chemical changes take place. The AIDS virus arose thus and has caused a frightening crisis to arise in the human world, that is, the spread of the AIDS disease. (Isaramuni ibid:5) Consequently we can say that the true origin of AIDS is homosexuality. If there were no homosexuality the AIDS virus would not have arisen. Or if human beings were to confine the scope of their sexual desire within the natural laws or processes of the world, that is, to only have sexual activity between males and females, the AIDS virus would not have arisen. But now we [human beings] do not play according to the rules and so the matter has become very complicated. People cannot control their own minds and let craving arise whenever they want and play along in accord with the power of that desire. A desire which should not have arisen has arisen and now the AIDS disease has become a grave danger to human beings. (ibid:6) Conclusion Buddhism is a complex tradition and there is no single canonical or scripturally sanctioned position on homosexuality. Rather, the Pali scriptures contain a number of divergent trends which different interpreters can use to develop views on homosexuality that range from the sympathetic to the antagonistic. Whether an interpreter adopts a sympathetic or a critical stance depends on whether he or she regards the cause of homosexuality as lying outside the individual, in 'old kamma' (Thai: kam kaw) built up in a previous life, or in the individual's own supposedly immoral conduct. It is interesting that the latter, intolerant view is the more recent and, paradoxically, is presented by some authors who are otherwise identified as socially and politically progressive. For example, Phra Ratchaworamuni is widely respected in Thailand for his concern to reform Thai Buddhism by uprooting institutional corruption, demythologising Buddhist metaphysics and making the sangha a purer and more effective cultural vehicle for transmitting Buddhist values in the contemporary world. As in the West, public panic about AIDS and latent fears about homosexuality combined in Thailand to produce an increasingly explicit intolerance of homosexuality in some quarters. But AIDS alone does not explain the vehemence of the recent Buddhist attacks on homosexuality. As I have described elsewhere, (Jackson 1988, 1989b) reformist formulations of Buddhism are associated with a de-emphasis on kamma as an explanation for why society and people are the way they are. This has opened the way for the development of an interventionist Buddhist social theory which focuses more on individuals' capacity to change their circumstances than on the extent to which their current life conditions are pre-determined. From an ethical standpoint, however, interventionist and socially progressive Buddhist theories place more emphasis on individuals' responsibility for their own future. In the context of the AIDS panic in the second half of the 1980s and a widespread if previously diffuse anti-homosexual sentiment in Thailand, the new reformist accounts of Buddhism have fostered the development of a more focused anti-homosexual polemic. Reformist and modernist trends in Thai Buddhism are often regarded as politically progressive because of their opposition to the historical alignment of the sangha with the centralised state and military. On the other hand, metaphysical and spiritistic views of Buddhism which emphasise the determining power of kamma are criticised by reformists as intellectually backward and politically conservative. Paradoxically, however, the reformist, politically progressive interpretations of Buddhism are often linked with a strident moralism and a vehement anti-homosexual stance unprecedented in recent Thai history. On the other hand, the conservative traditionalists who still believe in the determining power of kamma take a more laissez faire approach to issues such as homosexuality. Thailand in the 1980s thus provides an interesting example of how changing intellectual and social conditions can bring a previously neglected area of social life to prominence and invest it with new meanings and significance. Thai history in the 1980s also shows that political progressivism, intellectual modernisation and ethical liberalism are not necessarily related trends and can move independently and at different rates. Indeed, the very factors which lead to perceived progress and expanded opportunities for some sectors of society can simultaneously lead to regressive and discriminatory developments in other spheres which restrict and deny opportunities to other sectors. Nevertheless, the impact of Buddhist authors' anti-homosexual rhetoric appears to have been relatively small. To a large measure this has been because the 1980s issue of homosexuals as the purported source or originating site of AIDS has all but been forgotten in the 1990s as the magnitude of the problem of heterosexual transmission of HIV has become apparent.(12) The vehement anti-homosexual rhetoric in Thailand in the second half of the 1980s has not led to any noticeable increase in publicly expressed intolerance or discrimination against homosexual men beyond that which already existed. Paradoxically, the brief period of public anxiety about homosexual men as supposed vectors of HIV/AIDS and the associated religiously authorised criticisms of kathoeys may in fact have contributed to the consolidation of gay identity among increasing numbers of Thai homosexual men, and not only because of the public prominence given to homosexuality. There has been considerable discussion among Western gay/lesbian analysts about the historical shift in Western societies from viewing homosexuality as a behaviour to a defining characteristic of a type of person, i.e. homosexuals (see Halperin 1990). The changing relative emphases on gender and sexuality in the notion of kathoey appear to be leading to a similar shift in Thailand. When the class of people identified as kathoeys were primarily defined by their assumed gender imbalance then homosexuality was viewed as a behaviour that 'men' as well as kathoeys may engage in. But as kathoeys have come to be defined more by their sexuality, then the idea of the homosexual as a class of person has also gained currency in Thailand. Despite their discriminatory character, the fact that the anti-homosexual diatribes published in the light of HIV/AIDS focused on homosexual men's unconventional sexuality rather than their ascribed cross-gender behaviour has contributed to the consolidation of notions of gay identity in Thailand. In the 1990s Thai homosexual men tend to be defined as much by their sexuality as by their assumed breach of gender norms and one consequence of the 1980s criticisms appears to be the firmer establishment of homosexuality as an acknowledged focus of sexual and social existence in Thailand. Thanks to Eric Allyn and Ross McMurtie for their valuable comments on earlier versions of this paper. 2. In this paper unmarked italicised words represent Pali versions of terms. Thai language terms are marked as such, except for the frequently used Thai term kathoey, which variously denotes a male who has breached cultural norms of heterosexuality and/or masculinity. 3. Zwilling (1992:208) notes that there are no explicit references to homosexuality in the Suttapitaka, the collection of the Buddha's discourses. 4. I refer to the Thai translation of the Tipitaka in this paper because the selection of Thai terms used to translate Pali often reflects Thai cultural values, providing insight into the translators' views and preconceptions. For example, the Pali term pandaka is sometimes translated directly by the equivalent Thai technical term bandorh, while at other times it is translated by the colloquial Thai term kathoey. All translations in this paper are my own. 5. Pali: ubhato - Two-fold; byanjana - A sign or mark (of gender, etc.); ka - Derivative-forming suffix. 6. It is possible that pandaka is derived from the Pall term anda, which variously means 'egg' or 'testicles', and may originally have had the sense of male reproductive deficiency or incapacity. Monier-Williams (n.d.:580) defines the cognate Sanskrit terms pandra and pandraka as 'eunuch or impotent man'. Zwilling (1992:204) says that the term is of obscure origin and may ultimately be derived from apa + anda + ka, 'without testicles'. He adds, however, that this should not be taken literally as meaning that a pandaka was necessarily a eunuch but, rather, should 'be interpreted metaphorically as we do in English when it is said of a weak or pusillanimous person that he (or she) "has no balls"'. Zwilling adds that the term pandaka used in the canon could not have meant a eunuch because, with the exception of the congenitally impotent, accounts of pandaka describe a man who is capable of 'either erection, ejaculation, or the experience of sexual pleasure'. 7. The fact that vaginal intercourse is not listed as a possibility for pandaka indicates that they are biologically male. 8. In his books Phra Phadet Thattajiwo is variously referred to by his lay name, Phra Phadet, and by his clerical name, Phra Thattajiwo. I here refer to him as Phra Thattajiwo. Phra is a Thai title for an ordained Buddhist monk. 9. Phit pheet may be translated as either 'inappropriate gender' or 'inappropriate sexuality', the term pheet, like kathoey, melding notions of gender and sexuality. I here translate wiparit phit pheet as 'sexual perversion' rather than its possible rendering as 'gender perversion' because of Phra Thattajiwo's general emphasis on sex in this discourse. 10. The Thai word laang can mean both 'to destroy/be destroyed' and 'to cleanse/be cleansed'. 11. Phra Ratchaworamuni is regarded as one of the most progressive contemporary Buddhist thinkers in Thailand, having written widely on the need to modernise Buddhism and relate teaching and practice to contemporary social and economic issues. 12. Chris Lyttleton notes that, at least in many rural areas of Thailand, officially sponsored safe sex education programs conducted in the early 1990s have all but ignored unprotected homosexual sex as a risk activity, focusing almost solely on heterosexual sex (private correspondence). This further demonstrates the marginal nature of homosexuality in Thailand. In the early years of the pandemic, homosexuals were isolated and stigmatised as the supposed source of HIV infection. But as the heterosexual population has become threatened in Thailand, homosexual men, who are at just as great a risk of infection as heterosexual men, have tended to be ignored in the official safe sex campaigns. References Buddhist Scriptures Phra Traipidok Chabap Luang (The Tipitaka, Official Royal Edition). Bangkok: Department of Religious Affairs, Ministry of Education, 4th Printing, 1982 (B.E. 2525). Other Books Appasom Bunpradap. 1987 (B.E. 2530). AIDS: humanity's kamma that must be repaid. Appendix in Phra Thattajiwo Bhikku. Waksiin Porng-kan Rook Eet (A Vaccine to Protect Against AIDS). Pathumthani: Thammakay Foundation. Bunmi Methangkun. 1986 (B.E. 2529). Khon Pen Kathoey Dai Yaang-rai (How Can People be Kathoeys?), Bangkok: Abhidhamma Foundation. Halperin, D. M. 1990. One Hundred Years of Homosexuality and Other Essays on Greek Love. New York: Routledge. Isaramuni. 1989 (B.E. 2532). Withii Porng-kan Rook Eet (The Method to Protect Against AIDS). Isaramuni Pointing the Way Series Vol. 34, Work to Revive the Dhamma for the Return of Ethics and the Supramundane, Bangkok: Liang Chiang Press. Jackson, P. A. 1988. Buddhadasa: A Buddhist Thinker for the Modern World. Bangkok: The Siam Society. Jackson, P. A. 1989a. Male Homosexuality in Thailand - An Interpretation of Contemporary Thai Sources. New York: Global Academic Publishers. Jackson, P. A. 1989b. Buddhism, Legitimation and Conflict: the Political Functions of Urban Thai Buddhism. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Khamhuno (pseud.). 1989 (B.E. 2532). Gay Praakot Nai Wongkaan Song (Gays Appear in Sangha Circles). Sangkhom Saatsanaa (Religion and Society Column). Siam Rath Sut-sapdaa (Siam Rath Weekly), 18 November, 1989 (B.E. 2532). 36 (22):37-8. Monier-Williams, Monier. n.d. A Sanskrit-English Dictionary. New Delhi: Oriental Publishers. (Phra) Phadet Thattajiwo Bhikkhu. 1987 (B.E. 2530). Waksiin Porng-kan Rook Eet (A Vaccine to Protect Against AIDS). Pathumthani: Thammakay Foundation. (Phra) Ratchaworamuni (current ecclesiastical title Phra Thepwethi). 1984 (B.E. 2527). Photjanaanukrom Phutthasaat Chabap Pramuan-sap (A Dictionary of Buddhist Teachings, Compiled Edition). Bangkok: Mahachulalongkorn Ratchawitthayalai. Zwilling, Leonard. 1992. Homosexuality as seen in Indian Buddhist texts. In J.I. Cabezon (ed.) Buddhism, Sexuality, and Gender. New York: State University of New York Press.