Spiritual Inclusion and Support for LGBTQIA+ Buddhists
Rainbodhi is a spiritual friendship group for LGBTQIA+ Buddhists and an advocate for more inclusion and diversity in the broader Buddhist community. Our name combines two words: "rainbow", representing the diverse LGBTQIA+ community, and "bodhi", the Buddhist concept of enlightenment.
Rainbodhi was founded in 2019 by Akāliko Bhikkhu, a queer Buddhist monk in the Theravada forest tradition.
Rainbodhi SG regularly organises temple tours, picnics, and Zoom Care & Share sessions for queer-affirming Buddhists to get better acquainted with the triple gem (Buddha, Dharma and Sangha).
Discussing the importance of religions welcoming all people, Bhante Akāliko comments:
“Religions often have a bad track record when it comes to affirming and supporting LGBTQIA+ people. We need to let our community know that it’s fine to be LGBTQIA+ and a person of faith. We want queer Buddhists to feel that they are loved and that they belong. There has always been queer and trans people in religious life; it’s important for us to acknowledge that publically, with pride. Buddhism has a role to play in recognizing and celebrating the diversity of our entire community. Love and compassion for all is a fundamental Buddhist concept. No religion should preach hate or harm others.”
Rainbodhi Singapore is the first international chapter of Rainbodhi and aims to be a community leader in Singapore and Asia, allowing LGBTQIA+ Buddhists to join together in spiritual friendship in safe and supportive spaces.
Kyle Neo, the leader of Rainbodhi Singapore, discusses the importance of a LGBTQIA+ affirming spiritual community and why advocacy is needed:
LGBTQIA+ people face many challenges in everyday life in Singapore. Even though there are some protections against hate crimes, in the workplace, there are currently no anti-discrimination policies that are actively enforced when a person is fired for being queer. In addition, queer people face difficulties in obtaining housing due to a variety of housing laws. Finally, in healthcare and in education, there still is still a long way to go to ensure that partners get to see their loved ones in times of emergency, and that students are adequately supported when they come out in school.
Singapore’s shift in attitudes towards gay rights is visible in the last few years. A recent survey by the Institute of Policy Studies* in Singapore reveals a rise in support for marriage equality, with 6 out of 10 people aged below 25 in favour. In the largely conservative Singaporean society, a few voices are actively championing the cause of equality, inclusion and diversity for the LGBTQIA+ community. Rainbodhi Singapore will play an important role amongst Buddhist organisations, providing a platform for discussion, representation and mentoring for the LGBTQIA+ community. Now is the time for Buddhists to show their love and support for the LGBTQIA+ community.
Speaking about Rainbodhi Singapore’s debut event, Kyle Neo says a highlight of the session will be the launch of a new resource for Buddhists:
We are delighted that this event will also see the launch of Rainbodhi’s brand new resource, Welcoming the Rainbow: A Guide to LGBTQIA+ Inclusion for Buddhists, with free copies made available for distribution. This resource aims to help make Buddhist centres more aware and welcoming of the LGBTQIA+ Buddhist community.
What will Rainbodhi Singapore Offer to the LGBTQIA+ Buddhist Community?
Rainbodhi has already established a regular stream of both online and in-person events over the last three years. In 2020, at the height of the covid pandemic, Singaporean Buddhists participated in Rainbodhi’s online series, LGBTQIA+ Buddhist Toolkit, connecting communities and giving people the spiritual skills to cope with uncertain times. Past Rainbodhi events have also included Dhamma discussion and guided meditations, as well as social activities, such as coastal walks and picnics.
Kyle Neo says Rainbodhi Singapore intends to build on these successful activities, by creating dynamic and interactive events especially for the Singaporean community:
Rainbodhi Singapore aspires to care for the LGBTQIA+ Buddhist community in Singapore by providing a safe space for anyone who identifies as LGBTQIA+ or questioning to engage in Buddhist community practice; such as discussion groups, social gatherings, retreats, and spiritual educational programs.