Concluding my series on the ethical and practical challenges ISKCON faces in dealing with homosexuality, I would like to touch on the subject of sex change operations.
Last year the story of Tim Petras made headlines – as the youngest person ever to have a sex change operation. Tim is now Kim Petras (picture above), at only 16 years of age! The operation was done in Germany and the procedure started when he was 12.
In Thailand alone, 30 thousand men a year seek sex change operations. In Iran, the fundamentalist regime has encouraged sex change operations as a means to combat homosexuality (considered a serious crime in Iran). The government even sponsors the operations in some cases.
So, what happens if Kim joins the Hare Krishna Movement? Would she stay in the brahmacarini ashram? Could someone like her stay there before the full sex-change procedure is complete (it takes 2-5 years)? If she later marries a male devotee, will she have the right to a full agni-hotra ceremony?
If a woman has a sex change operation (much rarer than the man to woman changes), could he (ex-she) then be allowed to take sannyasa later in life? (If yes, why can’t women take sannyasa without a sex change operation?)
Has it already happened? It’s not inconceivable that we have already had such a marriage between a man and a woman who used to be a man in the Movement.
Even Ayatollah Khomeini discussed these issues of homosexuality, transsexuality, etc. We need clear guidelines for our Society too. Guidelines that, to use Srila Hridayananda das Goswami Acharyadeva’s words, “best preserve our sacred principles: both our moral rigor as well as our deep compassion.”