Thailand: A Thai Buddhist monk who is gay and a former cross-dresser has publicly gone on public television to say there is nothing wrong with gay people becoming Buddhist monks, causing much controversy in Thailand where Buddhism is the primary religion and has special status.
“I am who I am, and I’m not going to pretend just to fit in,” Venerable Tanaisawan George Chandha-dhammo,28, told Woody Talk, the popular MCOT talk show. “Gay people can make good monks too,” the Buddhist monk said.
His interview had led Thai censors to stop that segment of the popular television talk show from broadcasting that interview last month. However it was finally allowed to air on television recently, reports bangkok.coconuts.co.
The popular MCOT talk show host had revealed on Facebook that they had to postpone its “Gay Monk” interview segment because censors had objected:
“Apologies to our audience. Woody Talk has to postpone the broadcast of the ‘Gay Monk’ interview because the Censorship Committee is evaluating its appropriateness. The tape contains some hot issues!” the post had said.
With 44,000 views, the episode’s teaser provided a few quotes from the young monk, who discusses being a gay monk.
The crux of the interview was whether it is appropriate for a man is openly gay and has strong faith in Buddhism can choose to become a monk
Venerable George used to be a medical student and dressed like a woman publicly.
Now he practices Buddhism at Vivegvanaram Monastery in Hat Yai, Songkhla province, southern Thailand.
Known for his sharp religious homilies Venerable George is loved and revered by locals in the area.
Religion is a sensitive issue that the Thai media rarely touches and Venerable George’s public outing of his sexual orientation is probably a first for public television.
More than 95 percent of Thailand’s 67 million people are Buddhists and although Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, it has a strong Southeast Asian tradition of Buddhist kingship that ties the legitimacy of the state to its protection and support for Buddhism.
Buddhist institutions and clergy are guaranteed special benefits by the government.
You can watch part of the interview in Thai with English subtitles here: