Self-Acceptance may appear simple, but it is not for everyone, especially those who identify as LBGTQ. Shozenji Temple in Osaka’s Moriguchi City is Japan’s first temple built especially for the LGBTQ community.
Soshuku Shibatani, the temple’s 65-year-old head nun, was born biologically male. In elementary school, she began to identify as a female but never dared to express her gender identity. She met people similar to her at University and briefly felt at ease among like-minded peers. She had to hide her true self once more when she started to work but verything changed when she began studying Buddhism and enrolled in community courses at Koyasan University’s Graduate School. She later resigned from her job, joined the priesthood, and studied Esoteric Buddhism.
She had gender reassignment surgery in 2010 and became Japan’s first transgender Buddhist nun. She received her doctorate from Koyasan University in 2013. Then, in 2017, she began planning for the construction of Shozenji Temple.
People flock to Ms. Shibatani because she is the first transgender nun in Japan’s Buddhist community. Some come to clear their minds and find answers. Others come to find an outlet for their emotional pain caused by gender identity issues, or to get married, as the center also hosts Buddhist weddings for same-sex couples. However, Shozenji Temple is no different from any other temple. Other temples’ religious practices are also held here.
Mrs. Shibatani believes that “Shozenji is a temple for everyone, not just the LGBTQ community.” There are no distinctions between LGBTQ people and non-LGBT people. For her, LGBTQ is simply a label for people having different gender identities and sexual orientations.
Usually, the monk community emphasizes the importance of tradition; there is a significant difference between men and women, but Mrs. Shibatani believes that Gender Didn’t Exist Before Buddha because not mentioned in Buddhist scriptures. Kannon Bodhisattva did not have a gender identity. The male-dominated society we know today arose as a result of changing times.
While sexism still exists in our world today, Mrs. Shibatani believes that everyone is equal at Shozenji Temple. The location serves as a refuge for those in pain and is a haven of peace for all visitors.