Critical Dharma for Thinking Minds
In an effort to continually raise awareness and celebrate transgender people, GLAAD has conducted interviews with transgender individuals of faith as part of an ongoing series. This series aims to highlight the reality that transgender people exist across many religions and faiths.
Yvo Manuel Vas Dias is a transman with a jewish background and buddhist faith. He studied and worked as a social worker, case manager and public relations manager.
He is the chairman of TransAmsterdam, Amsterdam TransPride, and The Workgroup Transgender, Religion, Philosophy of Life and Ethics, as well as project manager of LGBTQ Amsterdam.
He set up a number of transgender networks; Transgender Religion Global Network – Transgender Friendly Religious Alliance, International Network for Transgenders with a Jewish Background, International Transgender Buddhist Sangha, International Network for Transgender and Art, The World of the Transman and International Transgender Information Network.
GLAAD: What is your relationship to your faith?
Yvo Manuel Vas Dias: I am Buddhist with a Jewish background. My Jewish backgound is more a culture than a religion. My buddhist path gave me balance, strength, self confidence and courage.
GLAAD: How has your faith impacted your coming out process/transition?
Yvo Manuel Vas Dias: My Jewish background and interest in religion were a challenges in my life. Buddhism, which I got to know out of curiosity, helped me to deal with my feelings. More than that it taught me how to assemble the various types of male personae that I have in me and mold together into one entity. The teachings of the Buddha, meditation and reciting mantras, led me to see that my masculinity expresses itself in various ways. Through years of meditation and mantra practice, as well as doing a number of retreats, my transition has been a good one.
GLAAD: What do you want to tell to people of faith who do not understand what it means to be transgender, or still hold onto misinformation and stereotypes?
Yvo Manuel Vas Dias: We have a long journey to go in society, religion, spirituality and the world to accept transgender people. There is still to much violence and suicide against the transgender community. Education, information and spirituality can be very important tools to step out of the closet. Don’t too preoccupied with the rules of faith listen and talk with transgender people in your community. Open up your heart, show your compassion. We are more than our gender. We are human!
GLAAD: What led you to become a faith leader, and how has it been thus far?
Yvo Manuel Vas Dias: I set up an organisation on transgender and religion. We give information and advice. We organize transgender religious and spiritual events and meetings. Our goal is to build a bridge between religious/spiritual transgender people and the different religions.
GLAAD: What stories or lessons from you faith do you find inspiring as a transgender person?
Yvo Manuel Vas Dias: I love the story of Avalokitesvara/Chenrezig “Buddha of great compassion” (bodhisattvas who changed his/her gender) and the mantra of compassion Om Mani Padme Hum.
GLAAD: How accepting has your faith community been during your transition? Do you think they can be even more accepting?
Yvo Manuel Vas Dias: My buddhist teacher has helped me during my transition. He supported me with his teachings, mantra and meditation practice. My buddhist community/sangha has accepted me the way I am.
GLAAD: If you could go back and tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?
Yvo Manuel Vas Dias: Have faith in your self. Listen to your intuition. Follow your path and heart. Be kind to your self.
For more from Yvo Manuel Vas Dias