Hinduism on Gender Identity and Homosexuality
The recent ruling by the US Supreme court legitimizing Gay and Lesbian marriages has been criticized by the Christian Church and conservatives. Hinduism on the other hand has always held a very liberal view of Sexuality and in fact about gender identity itself.
Hinduism recognizes that all women are 51% women and 49% men. And men are actually 51% men and 49% women. Being equal in both aspects is considered the state of enlightenment. As such your sexual identity is not given that strong a place in Hinduism. It is your choice. And ultimately when you are in the state of choicelessness, you are both and neither.
Innumerable references exist in our puranas to humans and Gods who change their Gender. Here are a list of some of them. Homosexuality is perhaps not directly mentioned in the Hindu scriptures as we face it today because they knew the science of changing their body’s gender. Hence being stuck in a different body than the gender which one wishes to associate themselves with was perhaps never a problem they faced.
Mohini (the enchantress)
The God Vishnu – the God of preservation – took the form of an alluring woman Mohini during the churning of the milky ocean to distract the demons from their share of immortality. He has assumed the Mohini avatar at subsequent times too.
The God Ayyapa was born out of the interaction between Shiva and Vishnu who was in the form of Mohini.
The is the form of Shiva who is half man and half woman. This represent the ultimate state of enlightenment where you are both man and woman and neither.
Mahabharatha talks about Shikandi who was born a man who was born with the body of a woman and later through the interaction with a Yaksha (a higher dimension being) becomes physiscally a man. She/he plays a vital role in the war where he/she defeats Bhishma by shielding Arjuna from Bhishma’s arrows. Bhishma wouldn’t attack Shikandi because of his dharma which prohibits from attacking women.
During the one year forest stay of the pandavas Arjuna changes his gender to be a woman and teaches dance to princess Uttara. In fact Arjuna learns the technique of changing his body and mind to that of a woman from Krishna because he was jealous of the women who were able to be intimate with Krishna while he wasn’t.