LGBTQ Buddhists: Teachings, Profiles, and Conversations

A collection of teachings from, profiles on, and conversations with LGBTQ folks in Buddhism.

Hal Atwood
11 June 2021
Rainbow Buddha
Illustration by Norman Pelletier.

While many religions enact rules about sexual behavior, Buddhism simply says lay practitioners should not harm others through sexuality. Therefore, Buddhist attitudes toward LGBTQ people are often a reflection of culture rather than Buddhist philosophy. Specifically in the West, Buddhism is generally socially liberal and welcoming to LGBTQ members. There are prominent queer teachers, and most major communities host events, meditations, and retreats specifically for LGBTQ practitioners.

On you’ll find teachings, articles, and resources for and by LGBTQ Buddhists. Whether you’re part of the LGBTQ community or not, we hope you find inspiration, peace, and wisdom in the resources below that highlight the richly influential lives of these folks.


Queer Spirituality
Peter Sweasey on sexual identity as help and hindrance on the path towards spiritual discovery.

Revisiting the Traditional Buddhist views on Sex and Sexuality
José Cabezón challenges people to critically examine traditional Buddhist views of sexuality.

Buddhism and Sexuality: It’s Complicated
Jeff Wilson reviews José Cabezón’s Sexuality in Classical South Asian Buddhism (2017).

You and Me: It’s all One Thing
James Ishmael Ford says an old Zen story can help us overcome any confusion about another person’s gender, sexuality, or identity.

Pablo Das is dubious about Buddhist refuge in the Trump era
Gay Buddhist teacher Pablo Das responds to Trump’s election, stating that Buddhists should stand with the most vulnerable in society.

The Fleeting Feeling of Joy
Reflecting on Orlando, Ray Buckner says — even in the darkest times — there is joy and freedom amidst suffering and repression.

See Us Clearly: A Buddhist’s View of Transgender Visibility
What it means to be Buddhist, genderqueer, and trans — and why they all fit together like “a miracle.”

The Dalai Lama’s View on Sexuality, “According to Buddhist Tradition”
In a 1998 commentary, Steve Peskind (1951-2004) reflects on a 1997 meeting he had with the Dalai Lama and seven gay and lesbian leaders in San Francisco regarding the definition of sexual misconduct in Buddhism.

Personal Stories

How Far We’ve Come
George Takei reflects on his life as a gay man, an activist, and a Buddhist.

Coming Home: Getting to Ellen
Ellie Krug writes about her transition story and the teacher who helped her find the courage she needed.

Happily Ever After
Steve Silberman, author of Neurotribes, recalls marrying his husband in the midst of an American culture war.

The Narrow Way
An excerpt from Chris Lemig’s memoir of coming out, getting clean, and finding Buddha.

My Original Face
Caroline Contillo asks what it means to be gay.

My Body, My Life
Lama Rod Owens reflects on mindfulness and living as a black queer man.

Where I Make Sense
Finn Enke, professor of gender and women’s studies, chronicles their lifelong journey with identity.

Even a Broken Heart is Fundamentally Good
Ray Buckner tackles breaking up and letting go, and how the dharma can help.

What Does It Mean To Be Kind?
Hal Atwood realizes that being kind and being nice to a partner are two very different things.


The Lone Mountain Path: The Example of Issan Dorsey
Kobai Scott Whitney profiles Issan Dorsey, a drag-queen-turned-Zen-abbot.

Love and Justice: the Radical Dharma of Rev. angel Kyodo williams
John Demont profiles Rev. angel Kyodo williams, ordained Zen priest and co-author of Radical Dharma.

Where Everyone Can Thrive
Lindsay Kyte profiles the East Bay Meditation Society in Oakland, California — a leader in inclusivity.

It Takes A Village Zendo
Lindsay Kyte profiles Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara, the Zen teacher who leads an engaged community in Greenwich Village with her partner, Barbara Joshin O’Hara.


“Dear White People” creator Justin Simien talks Buddhism, empathizing with haters
Justin Simien talks with Sam Littlefair about his identity, his new Netflix series, and his Nichiren Buddhist practice.

Meet a Teacher: Larry Yang
Larry Yang answers questions to help readers better get to know him.

How does Buddhism view LGBTQ people?
A reader asks Lion’s Roar staff how Buddhism views queer folks.

Does My Transgender Identity Conflict with No-self?
Buddhadharma’s Ask The Teachers answer a question from a transgender practitioner.

Buddy Nielsen of Senses Fail on trauma, sexuality, and Buddhism
Buddy Nielsen talks with Rod Meade Sperry about Buddhism, trauma, and the sexuality spectrum.

We’re All Different: Musician Glenn Copeland on his journey as a Black, Buddhist, Transgender Artist
John Harvey Negru talks to Glenn Copeland about his life as a pioneering musician and his forty-four years of Buddhist practice.

Advice From A Queer Sangha Leader
Steve Levitt, leader of a queer sangha in Los Angeles, talks with Hal Atwood about the importance of safer spaces and maintaining a healthy relationship with your mind.


Our Moment of Possibility and Joy
Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara shares three teachings that have given her solace and strength as she asks: “Who am I, really?”

Do you know your true face?
Lama Rod Owens says we all must look honestly at each aspect of who we are.

Awakening Through Race, Sexuality, and Gender

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel on recognizing that race, sexuality, gender, and class shape how others see and treat her. 

News and Video

Watch: Robert Chodo Campbell says New York City is the best place in the country to meditate

Buddhist figures, communities respond to Orlando massacre

Watch: Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche urges respect for LGBTQ people

Watch: East Bay Meditation Center’s Larry Yang talks Pride, mindfulness, and social justice

Watch: “Love Has No Labels” first PSA to win Emmy

Hal Atwood

Hal Atwood

Hal is a communications and marketing strategist with a background in multimedia journalism. They have more than five years of experience in the corporate and nonprofit sectors assisting with media strategy, campaign activations, sustainability initiatives and employee engagement. By day, they develop research-based purpose strategies to help organizations achieve their growth objectives while serving the needs of their stakeholders. By night, they kickbox (occasionally and badly), enjoy the great outdoors, and brew (surprisingly okay) beer. Hal holds a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of King’s College, where they helped over-looked voices tell their stories across more than 10 publications. They recently moved from Nova Scotia to PEI with their beautiful partner and their very shy rescue pup.