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On the psychopathology of homosexuality

April 30, 2012
Does it matter if Baha’is think reparative therapy works? Here is Spitzer’s retraction and why it matters.

I believe I owe the gay community an apology for my study making unproven claims of the efficacy of reparative therapy. I also apologize to any gay person who wasted time and energy undergoing some form of reparative therapy because they believed that I had proven that reparative therapy works with some ‘highly motivated’ individuals.

Robert Spitzer. M.D.

Prejudice makes me sick, illustration by www.sonjavank.com/design. Free to use.

-
“Prejudice against homosexuals is a part of any system that labels it an illness”

D.W.

Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry, Columbia University, U.S.A.
25 April 2012, cited: http://www.truthwinsout.org/news

On April 11th the Huffington Post ran this headline: “Psychiatrist Behind Controversial ‘Ex-Gay’ Study, Retracts Original Claims”

Then a few days later this headline: “Dr. Robert Spitzer Apologizes to Gay Community for Infamous ‘Ex-Gay’ Study” was followed by a letter of apology by Robert Spitzer for his 2001 study which while it did not make any claims about the success rate of ex-gay therapy, concluded that “highly motivated” individuals could “successfully” change their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual.

The news of his retraction has gone around the world because although his study was discredited by the scientific community it continues to be used as an argument for curing homosexuality. The “Rachel Maddow talkback show” (Her show begins with mention of the overturning of a death penalty for two consenting adults who were charged with sexual relations in the privacy of their home in Texas in 1998. The segment I am referring to starts at 2:08 minutes) demonstrates that his study was used in court by “Proposition 8” advocates (to remove existing marriage rights for homosexuals) in California, arguing that gays are not discriminated against if it is proven that gays can change. The argument being that to be treated equally all a homosexual needs to do is to change to being heterosexual!
The second part of this show has an interview with a lawyer to discuss the implications of gay rights in the context of civil rights. An interesting correlation for Baha’is is that the October 2010 letter from the U.H.J. instructs the Baha’i community to treat the same-sex-marriage akin to the Baha’i policy on party politics. That is, Baha’is are encouraged to vote, to be involved in secular electoral systems as individuals and individual voters, but as a community or as representatives, Baha’is are not to take a position.

I assume that this would mean that once same-sex marriage is legal then this would mean that in order not to practice discrimination, a Baha’i community would have no reason not to welcome legally married same-sex couples just as they would treat any other married couple who wish to join. However, even last week at a Baha’i event here in the Netherlands I was told by a Baha’i that a same-sex- married Baha’i couple was not possible. He was clear to state that gays are treated with equality but then compared homosexuality to alcoholism. I pointed out that one was an illness and the other was not. What was most surprising for me was that he just couldn’t conceive that such a thing would be possible. Here in the Netherlands same-sex-marriage has been legal for the past decade.

Needless to say there are no gay Baha’is in my local community. And this makes sense: in the Netherlands society welcomes gay couples and families as equals so the views of most Dutch Baha’is sound like prejudice. In a society where gays are not treated equally, the view that homosexuality is an illness wouldn’t stand out as prejudice. Alcohol is bad for your health, but it is prejudice that causes suffering for homosexuals. If gays are treated equally being gay is not bad for your health.

Unfortunately many Baha’is associate homosexual orientation with illness and from this deduce that because it is an illness it can be cured, and that’s the danger. It is one thing to decide someone else is diseased, but deciding that the other person, different to yourself, can be fixed (into your likeness) and if they aren’t fixed then it is their fault, removes the empathy which you might feel for them.

Teenagers subjected to such attitudes will hate themselves even more: they are not only being told they are diseased, they are too weak to be cured. No wonder there is a strong correlation between suicide and gay teenagers in communities where homosexuality is seen as an illness. Something just broke in me. I was trying to destroy myself because I had internalized all the homophobia from therapy.”
prospect.org/article/my-so-called-ex-gay-life

So now perhaps you see the implications of Spitzer’s study and why it is such a big deal that he has retracted his ‘gays can be cured’ claim. Spitzer’s study was particularly controversial because in 1973 he “spearheaded the removal of homosexuality as a psychiatric disorder in and of itself” from the American Psychological Association list of mental disorders.

He ruled that homosexuality would be deleted from the list of mental disorders and that a listing of “ego-dystonic homosexuality” be included; that is, homosexuality that causes distress to the individual…. He stated that the revision in the manual could provide the possibility of finding a homosexual to be free of psychiatric disorder.” 

respond.org.uk/support/resources/talks/homosexuality_psychoanalysis.html

However his 2001 study put it back into the category of psychopathology – if it could be cured, then it was an illness.

When Spitzer’s study came out (published in 2003) there was a lot of criticism of the generality of his conclusions (for all homosexuals) based on a methodology in which there was no follow-up of individual cases, and the context of the individual cases was not considered.
Moreover the sample was pre-selected, for the cases were supplied to Dr. Spitzer by NARTH (National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality – an organization that views homosexuality as a disorder) and by Exodus International (which has the slogan: freedom from homosexuality). There was no control group, and no check that these individuals were not under pressure.

In the scientific world his study was discredited on scientific grounds.
(This page lists a brief history leading up to a 2009 American Psychological Association Taskforce which concluded that there were no grounds to support a cure for gays.
This page lists the flaws in the study.
Another study (Ariel Shidlo and Michael Schroeder, “Changing Sexual Orientation: A Consumer’s Report,” 2002) found that out of a sample of 202, eight stated that their sexual orientation had changed, and seven of these individuals for the ex-gay movement as counsellors or group leaders (2002, pp. 249–259). More references to reparative studies can be found here.)

I told Spitzer that Nicolosi had asked me to participate in the 2001 study and recount my success in therapy, but that I never called him.

“I actually had great difficulty finding participants,” Spitzer said. “In all the years of doing ex-gay therapy, you’d think Nicolosi would have been able to provide more success stories. He only sent me nine patients.”
“How’d it turn out for you?”
he asked.
I said that while I stayed in the closet for a few years more than I might have, I ended up accepting my sexuality. … —ten years after my last session with Dr. Nicolosi—I married my partner.
Gabriel Arana, 11 April 2012,
http://prospect.org/article/my-so-called-ex-gay-life

Spitzer’s research involved a single 45 minute phone interview with 200 individuals supplied to Spitzer by those who developed and promoted reparative therapy. Of these, 93% identified as being religious. He judged the basis of his findings on their own views and made no attempt to contact any of the clients for whom the reparative therapy had failed. Spitzer also made no distinction between bisexuals and gays. His conclusion that gays could be cured was based on finding that 66% of the males and 44% of the females were able to give him a believable testimony that they were now heterosexual most of the time.

Although Spitzer has made a public apology, if he is serious, he needs to be scientific about this. As the medical academic Alice Dreger noted, Spitzer claimed to want to retract his research, but in itself there is nothing wrong with the data only with Spitzer’s conclusions. Reading the available data myself, it seems likely that those whom Spitzer saw as functioning heterosexuals had actually become bisexuals, or were bisexuals to start with.

Dreger wrote: “All Spitzer has to do is put in writing that he no longer believes what he said about the interpretation of his data, and Zucker will publish his revision.” Spitzer will need to frame this in the manner according to scientific standards, as a revision of his views and conclusions.

It shouldn’t be hard for Spitzer to do this since, in a letter to Kenneth J Zucker, editor of Journal of Sexual Behavior, Spitzer wrote:

“Several months ago I told you that because of my revised view of my 2001 study of reparative therapy changing sexual orientation, I was considering writing something that would acknowledge that I now judged the major critiques of the study as largely correct. After discussing my revised view of the study with Gabriel Arana, a reporter for American Prospect’, and with Malcolm Ritter, an Associated Press science writer, I decided that I had to make public my current thinking about the study. Here it is.

Basic Research Question. From the beginning it was: “can some version of reparative therapy enable individuals to change their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual?” Realizing that the study design made it impossible to answer this question, I suggested that the study could be viewed as answering the question, “how do individuals undergoing reparative therapy describe changes in sexual orientation?” – a not very interesting question.

The Fatal Flaw in the Study – There was no way to judge the credibility of subject reports of change in sexual orientation. I offered several (unconvincing) reasons why it was reasonable to assume that the subject’s reports of change were credible and not self-deception or outright lying. But the simple fact is that there was no way to determine if the subject’s accounts of change were valid.

I believe I owe the gay community an apology for my study making unproven claims of the efficacy of reparative therapy. I also apologize to any gay person who wasted time and energy undergoing some form of reparative therapy because they believed that I had proven that reparative therapy works with some “highly motivated” individuals.

http://www.exgaywatch.com/wp/2012/04/spitzer-i-owe-the-gay-community-an-apology

It could be argued that Spitzer was tricked by NARTH or Exodus International when he was supplied the list of 200 ‘cured’ gays. However it as a scientist it was his job to be thorough and the problem was his conclusion. It is a pity that 11 years have passed – 11 years where hundreds of teenagers have been pressured to be ‘cured’ and considered failures for not being cured.

A Baha’i commenter on this blog wrote: “See the NARTH website for current research which dispels the “born that way” theory argument, shows pro-heterosexual and etiology of gay lifestyle choice studies, lists inpatient treatment centres for gays who want to change and who move out of their living situations, and offers support for them every step of the way through recovery.

… Recovery from any addiction–especially sex addiction is difficult at best but it is achievable.

… Yes, many overcome the craving for the same sex as well, especially after intensive inpatient treatment which we have at hospital and mental health facilities in the U.S.” (I asked the commenter for actual numbers of ‘cured’ gays and you can read his response here.

So let’s see what NARTH has to say about Spitzer?

Well, they ignore Spitzer’s retraction, calling it “regrets he might be having about getting involved with research on unwanted homosexuality” (http://narth.com/2012/04/all-the-talk-about-the-spitzer-study
Accessed 30 April 2012. The blog was removed sometime in 2013)

I note in the rest of their blog there is no attempt to engage scientifically with the reasons for his retraction. Instead they refer to “this modern “third rail of politics” (it used to be social security and old age benefits)” (ibid) and then state this is not about politics! The link they provide does likewise, providing no evidence to show that Spitzer’s original conclusion was valid, but instead attempt to confuse the issue. And just like the commenter who wrote on my blog, while they present themselves as scientific, words that “end in words” (Baha’u’llah, LAWḤ-I-MAQṢÚD (Tablet of Maqṣúd), Tablets After the Kitab-i-Aqdas, p.169) are not science. Just saying ‘someone is not born gay’ is an opinion; it is not scientific evidence even if the person stating the opinion is a therapist.

You might ask if it matters if Baha’is support the idea that homosexuality can be changed? It matters because Baha’is state they believe in the balance of science and religion and then ignore this when it comes to homosexuality. It matters because Baha’i youth are told they are wrong if they do not change to being heterosexual. It matters because it forces gay youth to hide their sexual orientation so that they are not pressured to undergo therapy. It matters because Baha’is such as the commenter on my blog then state things such as “The other two left therapy because they did not want to go through the tough work of changing, similar to other addicts who do not want to take the “road less traveled.””

Baha’is along with other religions have been listed since 2008 as supporters in the NARTH mission statement Here’s a (screenshot of this for the day when this reference is removed from the NARTH website).
And the Baha’i community (through its BNASAA program (Bahá’í Network on Aids, Sexuality, Addictions, and Abuse) continues to refer to NARTH as a resource on its page on sexuality (accessed 28 April 2012 ). In particular Lynne Schreiber has been travelling across the U.S. with the support of the Baha’i community to give presentations on overcoming homosexuality. Her article citing NARTH and EXODUS International as resources is widely circulated by Baha’i counselors (known as ‘assistants’) While Baha’is do not have clergy, the assistants have a pastoral function. Their advice is not authoritative, but some Baha’is give it great weight.

How do I know this? My gay Baha’i friends are bombarded by these attempts to get them to change.

Don’t let another day pass in which any Baha’i or Baha’i community tells a gay Baha’i that they should be cured.

Change starts with you, and in speaking out. To quote Baha’u’llah: “Our purpose is that thou mayest lift up thy head from the couch of heedlessness, shake off the slumber of negligence, and cease to oppose unjustly the servants of God. So long as thy power and ascendancy endure, strive to alleviate the suffering of the oppressed.”
Baha’u’llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 168

I’ve come to know a number of Nicolosi’s former patients and others who underwent therapy with NARTH members. …

Nicolosi’s ideas did more than haunt me. The first two years of college, they were the basis for how I saw myself: a leper with no hope of a cure. I stayed in the closet but had sexual encounters with classmates nonetheless. I became increasingly depressed but didn’t go to mental-health counseling for fear that a well-meaning therapist would inform my parents that I was living the “gay lifestyle.”

I planned for what I would do if my parents decided to stop paying my tuition. I would stay in New Haven and get a job. I would apply for a scholarship from the Point Foundation, which gives financial aid to gay kids whose parents have disowned them. I would not go back to Arizona. I would not see an ex-gay therapist.

I spent hours in front of the window of my third-story room, wondering whether jumping would kill or merely paralyze me. I had a prescription for Ambien and considered taking the entire bottle and perching myself on the ledge until it kicked in—a sort of insurance. I am not sure how it all came to a head. Perhaps it was academic pressure combined with the increasing conflict between my ideals and my behavior. But in the spring of my sophomore year, the disparate parts of myself I had managed to hold together—the part of me that thought being gay was wrong, the part that slept with men anyway, the part of myself I let the world see, and the part that suffered in silence—came undone. I slept in 20-minute spurts for two nights, consumed with despair. I eyed the prescription bottles on my dresser with anxious excitement. I had reached a point at which I feared myself more than what would happen if I were gay. Realizing how close I was to impulsively deciding to kill myself, I went to the college dean’s office and said I was suicidal. He walked me over to the Department of Undergraduate Health, and I was admitted to the Yale Psychiatric Hospital. During the intake interview, I had a panic attack and handed the counselor a handwritten note that said, “Whatever happens, please don’t take me away from here.” I had signed my full name and dated it. More than anything, I feared going home. …

I indeed had to go home for a year before returning to school. By then my father, who flew to New Haven the day I committed myself, realized that therapy—and the pressure he and my mother had placed on me—was doing more harm than good. “I’d rather have a gay son than a dead son,” he said.

The ordeal was a turning point. While it took years of counseling to disabuse myself of the ideas I had learned while undergoing therapy with Nicolosi, it was the first time I encountered professionals who were affirming of my sexuality, and the first time I allowed myself to think it was all right to be gay.”

prospect.org/article/my-so-called-ex-gay-life

And to finish, a few words from ‘Abdul-Baha: “The Papal See has constantly opposed knowledge; even in Europe it is admitted that religion is the opponent of science, and that science is the destroyer of the foundations of religion. While the religion of God is the promoter of truth, the founder of science and knowledge, it is full of goodwill for learned men; it is the civilizer of mankind, the discoverer of the secrets of nature, and the enlightener of the horizons of the world. Consequently, how can it be said to oppose knowledge? God forbid! Nay, for God, knowledge is the most glorious gift of man and the most noble of human perfections. To oppose knowledge is ignorant, and he who detests knowledge and science is not a man, but rather an animal without intelligence. For knowledge is light, life, felicity, perfection, beauty and the means of approaching the Threshold of Unity. It is the honor and glory of the world of humanity, and the greatest bounty of God. Knowledge is identical with guidance, and ignorance is real error.

Happy are those who spend their days in gaining knowledge, in discovering the secrets of nature, and in penetrating the subtleties of pure truth! Woe to those who are contented with ignorance, whose hearts are gladdened by thoughtless imitation, who have fallen into the lowest depths of ignorance and foolishness, and who have wasted their lives!” (my emphasis)
‘Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 125/6, U.K.edition (noted on the Baha’i Reference library as page 137)

See this blog for another view on treating homosexuality as an illness >> http://bahairants.com/pathology-of-homosexuality-1763.html#diagnose. This is linked to the section on the situation in Turkey at the moment.

23 comments

  1. Anon wrote:

    In its Ridvan letter 2012, The Universal House of Justice writes:

    “Alas, notwithstanding the laudable efforts, in every land, of well-intentioned individuals working to improve circumstances in society, the obstacles preventing the realization of such a vision seem insurmountable to many. Their hopes founder on erroneous assumptions about human nature that so permeate the structures and traditions of much of present-day living as to have attained the status of established fact.” (emphasis added)

    The Universal House of Justice undoubtedly had other things than homosexuality in mind when it wrote this, but I believe any misconception in any society which becomes calcified as hard fact and continues to separate people from a condition of spiritual union can be an overwhelming obstacle to attaining our vision of a unified world. In the true spirit of open consultation, where every viewpoint can be expressed, and a fearless and unfettered search after truth enjoined upon us by Baha’u’llah, I would like to pose a few questions for consideration.

    Have some of the writings of the beloved Guardian through his secretaries in the realm of science (where he claimed no infallibility) now come to be regarded as “established fact” by the Baha’i community – particularly the guidance that homosexuality is an illness that should be treated? How do Abdu’l-Baha’s clear teachings regarding the agreement of religion and science apply when the pillars upholding any scientific validity to the view of “homosexuality as illness” are crumbling to dust? Might this view, indeed, be one of the “erroneous assumptions about human nature that so permeate the structures and traditions of much of present-day living?” Can we not remove one of the “obstacles preventing the realization of such a vision” by creating a Baha’i community where all are welcomed with open arms as representatives of the beautiful diversity of humankind, and allowed to blossom and grow in our Garden without being told that first they need to undergo a certainly fruitless and potentially harmful “cure?”

    “The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice.” –Baha’u’llah

    There is no justice in turning countless creative and illumined beings away from the Baha’i Faith because we view them as ineligible for membership due to one of their God-given attributes. There is no justice in removing administrative rights from individuals who try with all their might to build a life that is based on a lie once the façade comes crashing down and the truth is discovered, especially when sexual indiscretions of “straight” Baha’is do not receive comparable sanctions. There is no justice in proclaiming the elimination of prejudice in all its forms when a glaring prejudice against gay people stands nakedly revealed to anyone who views the Baha’i community with a discerning eye. If we aren’t prejudiced against gays, where are they? Hiding for their very lives!

    How long will we as a community continue unjustly to discriminate against gay people? I, for one, cannot keep silent when I find the religion I love is promulgating positions which are starkly at variance with scientific evidence and, worst of all, with the essential spirit of the oneness of humanity!

    [submitted on behalf of anonymous]


  2. According to the laws of Baha’u’llah a Baha’i cannot have sex outside of marriage and a Baha’i cannot marry someone of the same sex. So both heterosexuals (that for different reasons no one wants to marry) and homosexuals are equally “discriminated” in that matter.
    The Universal House of Justice cannot change this law according to the teachings of Baha’u’llah.
    So one question is:
    is all the writings, explanations and guidelines given by Baha’u’llah wrong or are there other answers to the question …
    Life is short and the only thing we can take with us is the experience and growth of our spiritual qualities. These qualities we develop through acts and strivings. Sometimes through difficulties. WE ALL FACE DIFFICULTIES in different forms.
    Personally there are some of the laws of Baha’u’llah that i don’t understand but there are such an immense ocean of truths in His writings that those few that i don’t understand, i accept.
    The teachings of Baha’u’llah saves the world and the individual … this i know through my own experience.


    • Thanks for your response Hans,

      I have not seen any text in Baha’i Scripture (which is not subject to change) state who marriage may be between.

      It is implied or assumed in the Adqas that this is between a man and a woman, but likewise in the Aqdas it is implied that the individual the laws apply to is a male. The U.H.J. have ruled (see note 133) that the laws of Baha’u’llah apply equally to each individual unless the context makes it impossible. It is possible for same sex marriage to be legal. It was not possible in Baha’u’llah’s time. Likewise nowadays it is not a scandal for women to serve on Local Spiritual Assemblies.

      So the decision to officially recognize same sex marriage would be up to the U.H.J. or for the U.H.J. to allow each N.S.A. to make this decision in line with the laws and culture of each country.

      Here’s what I mean:
      “In general, the laws of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas are stated succinctly. An example of this conciseness can be seen in the fact that many are expressed only as they apply to a man, but it is apparent from the Guardian’s writings that, where Bahá’u’lláh has given a law as between a man and a woman, it applies mutatis mutandis between a woman and a man unless the context makes this impossible.”
      The Kitab-i-Aqdas, 1992, Page 8

      There are specific examples on this page

      http://reference.bahai.org/search?max=10&first=1&query=mutatis&idxname%5B%5D=en-KA


    • {posted on behalf of Anonymous known as Z}
      Of course “Hans” rushes to state that the laws of celibacy are the same for straights and gays outside of marriage. We have no objection to that. It is the “sicko” label and the push to make us try to change our fundamental nature that causes the problem. And the opinion from the majority of Baha’is that if you aren’t successful in fixing yourself (“straightening” out), you are somehow not a good Baha’i or not firm enough in the covenant. Stark and blatant prejudice! No, this is not a comparable situation at all. This “erroneous assumption” that gays have it within their power to change is the seed of a cancer that, untreated, will surely prevent the realization of Baha’u’llah’s vision.
      {posted on behalf of Z}


  3. Only $14,000 to make you repressed and unhappy, but no guarantees. And we’ll blame YOU if it doesn’t work. http://www.salon.com/2005/07/19/gaytherapy/


  4. California Bill Would Protect Patients From Harmful Ex-Gay Therapy

    http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2012/04/23/469667/california-ex-gay-bill/


  5. My buddy R wrote in another place in regards to Sonja fine work:

    So deeply ingrained is this prejudice. This essay should have national task forces spearheading community discussion and deepenings like lives depended on it.

    I replied:

    Well, if this was a serious, real religion… it would… this is all a demonstration to me that there is something inherently not right in the Bahaí Faith… and it breaks my heart, and to be honest it is why I have left it behind me.

    There seems an unreal need to not want GLBT people… the need to hold the line against GLBT people, to shun, to ignore us… it so really sad.

    At best people make excuses, we are a young religion, etc… but to me, the way in which the vast, overwhelming majority of Baha’is will not stand up for their glbt children, freinds and colelagues, but so passively accepts this homophobia tells me, at least, that this may not be what I had thought when I enrolled so many years ago… if

    This Faith was once about tolerance, justice, love… where has it gone? Why this silence from the vast heterosexual majority? Why this need to condescendingly tell gay/lesbians over and over again what the “rules” state, without any compassion… thanks ever to Sonja… but to me, it all seems lost… it is so obvious to the greater non-Baha’i progressive community that the Baha’is are a very conservative and homophobic lot.

    Any of us on this forum know of and see other religious communities who are doing a far better job at inclusiveness than any Baha’i community. Where as they all have the same sad teachings on homosexuality… they seem to enable places for GLBTs to feel welcomed, and do not treat them as diseased.

    The Catholic gay folks I know do not live in fear of any removal of rights when you get married. The Buddhists I know do not exclude you, indeed do not care at all, they just enjoy your prescence. There are dozens of examples of communities in a diversity of spiritual beliefs that are far more advanced… what gives?

    Really… there are, what, 6 million Bahaís in the world, and all we have are a very small handful of safe, progressive, tolerant postings on blogs?

    This religion is so small, so insignificant; it makes me wonder why they even care if I am gay or not. Yet they use what little energy and meager resources to hound out GLBT’s… Where I ask, where are the soldiers of light in this fight?

    This religion offers no hope or refuge for anything or anyone if it can’t do a better job with its GLBT friends, children and colleagues… this to me and many, many others is the canary in the mineshaft… no LSA’s or NSA’s or administrators OPENLY saying that enough is enough to the the world to our communities?

    I see really nothing that we can be hopeful about here… sorry… just a few feeble hopes… but nothing from the leadership, telling the entire world that this homophobia must stop… Not even one community standing up for GLBT people! Nada!

    I just read replies on various sites and it’s depressing – the homophobia tolerated – and the gays asked to leave. Meanwhile the rest of spiritual humanity has moved along… and the Baha’is remain insignificant and backward.

    Shame!

    Daniel Orey


  6. Shakespeare said “Nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” I am living this incredible life full of love and community and spiritual growth and service and connection — and yet I wake up feeling sad that I cannot practice my religion with fellow believers because I have been shut out for supposedly being incurably ill. People, can’t you see the tragedy in this? I am healthy and whole. It is you who think I am sick, and have therefore convinced yourselves that I am.


  7. Daniel wrote this on his blog:

    The “ex-gay” industry has been rocked to its core this year. First the head of its most infamous group announced that not one person had ever actually been “cured.” Then the researcher who authored the most widely cited “ex-gay” study recanted his findings and apologized to the gay community. So maybe it’s not surprising that nobody wants to attend an “ex-gay” convention.

    In what seems like the logical extension of the recent trend, Exodus International has decided there were not enough people interested in attending their Love Won Out conference scheduled for later this month to justify the expense. Conference attendance has been trending downward, with their last conference bringing in barely 400 people. This is….

    (go to Daniel’s blog for more >>)


  8. I think that the Baha’i-writings not focuses on wether you can solve this or that issue in this life. The writings is preparing us for the next world, the spiritual world, which has quite little, if at all, to do with sex and which is much much longer lasting and important than this life.
    The assumption that Baha’is are homophobic because most of us trust Shoghi Effendi (even if he can be wrong) is just another kind of prejudice. We are many Baha’is who have close friends that are gay. As well as there are many Baha’is who have problems with relating to homosexuality that not necessarily makes them “fobic”.
    Baha’u’llah teaches us that we shall love everybody, but He also states that the only way to be able to do that is through detachment and love of God. (for most people detachment is really really difficult) If we achieve that capacity, we free ourselves from every limitation of the material worlds influence. Where each one of us are on that road, gay or not, knowledgeable or not, rich or poor… only God knows.
    It is important for all of us to fight (strive) for things we believe is true and right, but giving other people names, labels, because they don’t see life from your own perspective is probably not the way to go forward.


  9. Sonja,
    my one quibble is that you refer to Lynn Schrieber as “ex-lesbian”. Doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose of the article? Perhaps you meant: Lynn Schrieber, who self-labels herself as an “ex”-lesbian


    • Thanks Baquia, You are correct. I was using a term that I thought Lynne might use, not because she would actually be ‘cured.’ I’ll will remove the reference “ex-Lesbian” because it doesn’t matter.


  10. A friend of mine, CC, posted this on my Facebook wall in relation to a link to the blog “Pathology of Homosexuality” and I share this here so others can respond or discuss this – Sonja

    From CC:
    I feel compelled to share this letter which an eminent doctor has just written to me. I am bowing out of further discussion on this subject. That’s all:

    Dear CC,
    This article is clearly written by a Covenant-breaker, who has no understanding of the purpose and significance of Baha’u’llah’s Revelation and teachings. There is absolutely nothing about true human nature, the purpose and proper use of the sexual impulse, the laws of biology, human anatomy, or indeed the stance of previous divine teachings on homosexuality, all of whom have condemned it as an aberration of human nature, worthy of the severest of punishments – in order to preserve the integrity of the family unit, and ensure health for all. Contrary to what he says, scientific evidence changes dramatically from time to time and time-honoured institutions and widely-held beliefs are often superceeded by new understandings. To state that homosexuality was rife in previously corrupt and declining societies is no reason to justify its presence as normal and part of life. His argument is the same as saying war has always been part of life, so it’s natural. Medicine is still in its infancy – once we have become more spiritualised, and spend less funds on armaments, and resources will be directed towards proper medical research, then all these things will become apparent. Then homosexuality will be prevented and cured – according to the House of Justice. It took 1000 years from Muhammad stating that the earth was going round the sun in the Quran, to it being proven by science, because of the science of the time proved the contrary. The Moslems were ridiculed and mocked by Christians for centuries for this assertion. We must be patient, loving, and understanding, and have faith that whatever the Divine Physician has ordained will come true word by word in due time. At the moment, it’s very difficult to discuss some issues such as this to a sceptical, morally- bankrupt society.

    The other big issue is that the author clearly has no faith in the Covenant and is a Covenant-breaker. You should not be wasting your time reading these articles.


    • Thanks for the message Sonja. The comment made by the ‘eminent’ doctor is riddled with errors. Here is my response:

      First, I’m not a covenant breaker, although it is sadly not the first time that a fellow Baha’i has used that beauteous concept as a cudgel. It is ironic because any Baha’i who gives themselves permission to call another Baha’i a covenant-breaker has substituted their own authority in place of the institutions’ and by that very definition, broken the covenant.

      The doctor brings up quite a few points which have already been addressed at length in the article. Among them the question of what is ‘natural’, the nature of scientific advancements, etc. so rather than answer these again I would suggest a more careful reading.

      While not a pivotal point in the discussion, it is important to give credit where it is due and when it comes to the question of cosmology, Islam and the Quran do not deserve any credit. While after 1000 AD select Islamic astronomers flirted with heliocentrism, for the most part, the Ptolemaic system held sway. This is because a reading of the Quran and the Hadiths affirms geocentric cosmology. And as such, unbeknownst to the doctor, this is actually an example of the sort made in the article. The only difference is that unlike the Catholic Church, Islam didn’t persecute their astronomers for disagreeing with the Quran. The good doctor is excused for ignorance of this topic as s/he is neither a historian nor an astronomer.

      To compare homosexuality to something as horrendous as ‘war’ as the doctor does demonstrates an astonishing level of ignorance. While war causes pain, suffering, death, and a host of other ills on an individual and societal level, homosexuality has no such characteristic. If the doctor can do more than just assert a claim of pathology for homosexuality, then please do so and have it demonstrated! I dare say a Nobel prize may be just recompense for such a feat.

      Mere gesticulation and empty assertions are of little value. Especially when confronted with a mountain of evidence from such diverse fields as neurology, biology, psychiatry, embryology, psychology, evolutionary biology, etc. all converging on the same answer.

      Using hindsight, medicine will always be ‘in its infancy’ because scientific advancement is infinite and incremental. What we know today is more than what we knew 60 years ago. Of what value is a medical professional who denies scientific advancements and empirical evidence and imposes their own dogmatic opinion in their place?

      As the Master so eloquently said:

      “Among other principles of Baha’u’llah’s teachings was the harmony of science and religion. Religion must stand the analysis of reason. It must agree with scientific fact and proof so that science will sanction religion and religion fortify science. Both are indissolubly welded and joined in reality. If statements and teachings of religion are found to be unreasonable and contrary to science, they are outcomes of superstition and imagination.”

      The consensus of science on the question of the pathology of homosexuality is clear. Many years ago, homosexuality was assumed to have a pathology without any evidence. Then 1948 came and brought Kinsey who wondered if there was any evidence. And then 1953 came and Dr. Evelyn Hooker started her research looking for the same. Since then thousands of other researchers have explored this issue and arrived at the same conclusion: homosexuality is not a disease. And sexual orientation is not malleable; therefore attempts to change it are not recommended by any health organization as they can be extremely harmful.

      Every person can investigate the truth and either accept it or wallow in ‘superstition and imagination’.

      The surging tide of an ever advancing civilization is much much larger than you, me or this doctor. It is awe inspiring to observe the gradual realization of this truth dawning on a global scale. We are witness to a pivotal moment in history; just as people in the 1960’s were witness to the civil rights movement and before that women’s suffrage and before that the abolition of slavery.

      Allaho-Abha


  11. Fight Against Gay “Conversion Therapy” Gathers Momentum

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com

    The fight against a controversial form of therapy aimed at making gay people straight is gaining some momentum.


  12. This post is in reply to justabahai’s post dated April 30, 2012 at 12:08. I cannot reply to that one as the blog system is limited.

    You write:
    I have not seen any text in Baha’i Scripture (which is not subject to change) state who marriage may be between.

    Well the Universal House of Justice states:
    “In a letter dated March 26,1950, written on his behalf, Shoghi Effendi, the authorized interpreter of the Baha’i Teachings, further explicates the Baha’i attitude toward homosexuality. It should be noted that the Guardian’s interpretation of this subject is based on his infallible understanding of the Texts. It represents both a statement of moral principle and unerring guidance to Baha’is who are homosexuals.”

    Also: “It is evident, therefore, that the prohibition against Baha’is engaging in homosexual behavior is an explicit teaching of the Cause. The Universal House of Justice is authorized to change or repeal its own legislation as conditions change, thus providing Baha’i law with an essential element of flexibility, but it cannot abrogate or change any of the laws which are explicitly laid down in the sacred Texts. It follows, then that the House of Justice has no authority to change this clear teaching on homosexual practice.”

    The statement you wrote on April 30, 2012 is in clear contradiction to the statements from the Universal House of Justice and that of Shoghi Effendi (which they quoted). Who is correct?


    • A letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi is Baha’i Scripture? If that were true, many interesting questions would be raised, considering the nature of many things said in such letters – I believe Sen McGlinn has pointed some of these out – maybe Sonja can provide a link?


  13. Outstanding article, well researched, carefully referenced. Thanks.
    Your work helps clarify for me and perhaps others that the UHJ needs to order that all are welcome in the Baha’i community regardless of sexual orientation and that Baha’is should refrain from any prejudice or obsessions regarding the sexuality of fellow Baha’is. Some of the following points have appeared on my blog:
    1. AFAIK, the word homosexuality does not even appear in Baha’i scripture (writings of Baha’u’llah and ‘Abdu’l-Baha) and the only reference is to a particular sexual act without any clarification regarding who, when or where (that is, the rationale remains to be clarified).
    2. Could it be that the UHJ erred quoting a 1950 letter from Shoghi Effendi (cited in a comment above)? It appears to use non-scripture (writings of the Guardian) to justify “no authority to change this clear teaching on homosexual practice”. Hello. There is no “clear teaching” in scripture (#1 above), period. Am I wrong?
    3. I have previously estimated that the percentage of homosexuals in the Baha’i community _was_ at least double that in the general population due to the loving, accepting atmosphere that (previously?) existed and that these persons made huge contributions to the advancement of the Baha’i community. The UHJ should recognize these contributions, ASAP.
    4. In this post-infallibility era regarding UHJ writings, it follows that it is often appropriate to analyze and discuss UHJ letters including critical evaluation of their content. From the above, it might appear that the UHJ might self-examine its estimation of what Baha’i scripture is and is not (#2 above), compared to interpretation of same and clearly mandate the suggestion in the first paragraph above.
    5. Re some science known for decades from experimental animals, certain hormonal variations during an early critical period in gestation may later cause the adult male subjects to exhibit female sexual behavior and a similar role reversal for female subjects. These subjects are not viewed as diseased. Rather the research shows a critical period during gestation (before birth) where brain “wiring” regarding sexual behavior may be established.
    6. Any country boy or girl observing cattle, goats, etc, knows young females will often mount other females or males (a male behavior). This sort of observation is not used by anybody to cull the herd or to characterize these young adults as abnormal or misfits that need to be cured.
    In summary, it might be viewed as an outrage that the Baha’i administration has apparently mishandled its duty to provide useful guidance regarding homosexual phenomena. What else could explain that a charlatan is allowed to preach prejudice and quackery in the U.S. Baha’i community, as described?


  14. This is a reply to Barb Ruth-Wright and to anyone who uses the “on behalf of the Guardian” argument to imply that these letters carry no weight. Which statement do you disagree with?

    1. “The Guardian’s infallibility covers interpretation of the revealed word, and its application.”
    2. The Guardian interpreted the “subject of boys” statement as a prohibition on homosexuality.
    3. Thus, homosexuality is prohibited in the Baha’i Faith.

    4. The Guardian approves all messages sent from his office without exception.
    5. A letter on behalf of the Guardian states that “It is evident, therefore, that the prohibition against Baha’is engaging in homosexual behaviour is an explicit teaching of the Cause.” (He also added an addendum with personal greetings and his signature to this letter)
    6. Thus, the Guardian approves the statement: “the prohibition against Baha’is engaging in homosexual behavior is an explicit teaching of the Cause.”

    The letters written on behalf of the Guardian have less authority then his own hand; that is true. However, “Instructions sent on behalf of the Guardian are binding, as are the words of the Guardian; although of course, they are not the Guardian’s words.”


    • Steve – Since you feel it all important to repeat once again, what everyone already knows about the homophobic teachings of the Baha’i Faith, and since honesty is a virtue, I rather think it is best that you and the rest of the Baha’i fundamentalist homophobes who obviously are worried that GLBT people might just might want to become Baha’is, I as that you sir at least be honest and sincere here. Your number 3 above should read:

      3. Thus, homosexuality is prohibited in the Baha’i Faith and GLBT are not welcome in this religion.

      Since you and so many Baha’is continue to openly demonstrate to the world how important it is to stand firm on exclusiveness, I ask that you at least be honest with your shameful homophobic need to exclude GLBT people. Just say it

      GAYS NEED NOT APPLY!

      Shame on you!

      Daniel Orey
      Brasil


    • The Baha’i-writings do not focus on wether you can solve this or that issue in this life. The writings is preparing us for the next world, the spiritual world, which has quite little, if at all, to do with sex and which is much more important than this life.
      The assumption that Baha’is are homophobic because most of us trust Shoghi Effendi is just another kind of prejudice. We are many Baha’is who have close friends that are gay. As well as there are many Baha’is who have problems with relating to homosexuality that not necessarily makes them “fobic”.
      Baha’u’llah teaches us that we shall love everybody, but He also states that the only way to be able to do that is through detachment and love of God. Each one of us are on that road, gay or not, knowledgeable or not, rich or poor… only God knows where we are.
      It is important for all of us to fight (strive) for things we believe is true and right, but giving other people names, labels, because they don’t see life from our own perspective is probably not the way to go forward.
      The solution you present that gay people should be told that they don’t need to apply means that we also should say to all people that remain single and cannot have sex should not bother to apply too!
      Personally i think that the best, shortest and most rich way to grow spiritually and prepare for the spiritual world is through the teachings of Baha’u’llah, no matter who you are … we all have battles to fight and the easiest way to win them is to follow the Holy Writings.


  15. Reply to Daniel: I do feel it is important but this isn’t a proactive response, it is a reactive one.
    You erroneously edited my statement to this:
    “3. Thus, homosexuality is prohibited in the Baha’i Faith and GLBT are not welcome in this religion.”

    This is simply incorrect. Are those afflicted with alcoholism rejected from the Faith? No. There is, however, an implicit expectation that they change their ways.

    Whether you like it or not, when you join the Baha’i Faith, your actions in public will be affiliated with the Faith. A Baha’i who drinks in public (acting contrary to the teachings of the Cause) is not an acceptable action.

    I do not appreciate the insults you have flung at me. I do not know you nor have any ill wishes against you. I’m not worried about GLBT people becoming Baha’is. It is not only inevitable but beneficial for the Faith to embrace people of all backgrounds and have a proper cross-section of society. However, we cannot put our own desires before the standards of the Faith. I, as a heterosexual, cannot expect to participate in pre-marital sex publicly and expect to simply be accepted for who I am. So, why do you think GLBT people have some sort of exception?


  16. Daniel may I ask that you not respond to Steve’s comments above. Instead Steve here is my response to your statement “So, why do you think GLBT people have some sort of exception?”

    The Universal House of Justice wrote: “The purpose of the Faith of Baha’u’llah is the realization of the organic unity of the entire human race, and Baha’is are enjoined to eliminate from their lives all forms of prejudice and to manifest respect towards all. Therefore, to regard those with a homosexual orientation with prejudice or disdain would be against the spirit of the Faith. Furthermore, a Baha’i is exhorted to be “an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression”, and it would be entirely appropriate for a believer to come to the defense of those whose fundamental rights are being denied or violated.“

    (Letter from the UHJ to an individual, 27 October 2010) Emphasis added.

    So Steve your 21 June comment:
    “3. Thus, homosexuality is prohibited in the Baha’i Faith.”

    is incorrect.

    Gay Baha’is, according to this new guidance from the Universal House of Justice are not to be discriminated against. I realise you are a Baha’i and you might say to a gay Baha’i that they are not welcome or you might even say to that person they cannot practise being a homosexual (although it is a silly thing to say because a person’s identity is not something that is so black and white. When am I not a heterosexual? When I sleep?).

    So my hope is that another Baha’i hears you state this and corrects you or that gay Baha’i has experiences from other Baha’is who are not afraid “to come to the defense of those whose fundamental rights are being denied or violated.”
    I disgree with you, yes there is room in the Bahai community for individuals who identify themselves as gay.

    You took issue with Daniel for being erroneous for writing:
    “3. Thus, homosexuality is prohibited in the Baha’i Faith and GLBT are not welcome in this religion.”

    to your statement which was: “3. Thus, homosexuality is prohibited in the Baha’i Faith.”

    You make a much worse error in my view – was this a mistake or did you really intend to be misleading is my question – when you wrote:
    “and to anyone who uses the “on behalf of the Guardian” argument to imply that these letters carry no weight.”

    Your statement is too general for me to have any idea what you are referring to in particular.
    So I assume you are objecting to those who make a distinction between letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi by a secretary and to texts penned by Shoghi Effendi himself.

    My aim is to treat these letters with the same status as it seems to me Shoghi Effendi intended these to be treated. I say ‘seems’ because of course I do not claim to know what was in his mind. All I can do is see what has been written and do my best to see what the context was for these letters is or was in order to understand their function.

    “The exact status which Shoghi Effendi has intended the friends to give to those communications he sends to individual believers is explained in the following statement written through his secretary to the National Spiritual Assembly on November 16, 1932:
    “As regards Shoghi Effendi’s letters to the individual Baha’is, he is always very careful not to contradict himself. He has also said that whenever he has something of importance to say, he invariably communicates it to the National Spiritual Assembly or in his general letters. His personal letters to individual friends are only for their personal benefit and even though he does not want to forbid their publication, he does not wish them to be used too much by the Baha’i News. Only letters with special significance should be published there”

    Baha’i News, February 1933 (No. 71, pp. 1-2)

    There are more letters written by Shoghi Effiendi which follow a similar theme of showing a differing status for these letters to Shoghi Effendi’s own writings as authoritative interpretor and there’s a letter which states that the advice is not binding to the addressee.

    “…When he feels that a certain thing is essential for the protection of the Cause, even if it is something that affects a person personally, he must be obeyed, but when he gives advice, such as that he gave you in a previous letter about your future, it is not binding; you are free to follow it or not as you please.”
    From a letter, dated 17 October 1944, written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual

    In the above letter, the rule of obedience is not a blanket rule of obedience.

    You wrote:
    “However, “Instructions sent on behalf of the Guardian are binding, as are the words of the Guardian; although of course, they are not the Guardian’s words.” ”

    I found this as from the book Lights of Guidance which is authored and arranged by Helen Hornby and published in 1983.

    1055. The Guardian is Assured the Guidance of Both Bahá’u’lláh and the Bab

    “Instructions sent on behalf of the Guardian are binding, as are the words of the Guardian; although of course, they are not the Guardian’s words.

    “The Guardian’s infallibility covers interpretation of the revealed word and its application. Likewise any instructions he may issue having to do with the protection of the Faith, or its well-being must be closely obeyed, as he is infallible in the protection of the Faith. He is assured the guidance of both Bahá’u’lláh and the Bab, as the Will and Testament of Abdu’l-Bahá clearly reveals.”

    (From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, August 20, 1956)

    http://bahai-library.com/hornby_lights_guidance_2.html&chapter=2

    Reading this, I cannot tell if that phrase you quote is actually from the 1956 letter or a summary written by Helen Hornby.

    IF it is a quotation from the 1956 letter then it contradicts the 1932 and 1944 letters and another letter from 1933 (below). There is another letter with similar wording “Although the secretaries of the Guardian convey his thoughts and instructions and these messages are authoritative, their words are in no sense the same as his, their style certainly not the same, and their authority less, for they use their own terms and not his exact words in conveying his messages.” (Letter Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 25 February 1951 to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles)

    “…He has also said that whenever he has something of importance to say, he invariably communicates it to the National Spiritual Assembly or in his general letters. His personal letters to individual friends are only for their personal benefit and even though he does not want to forbid their publication, he does not wish them” (1933)

    I’ll stop, As any reader will see this is getting complicated. If letters contradict each other, which one is right or how are we to treat them? After all we cannot treat some letters as if they are Bahai Scripture while ignoring others. What is their status then?

    I do not know, but I do know that they were never intended by Shoghi Effendi to have the status of Bahai Scripture. Anything that is not part of Bahai’ Scripture is an area where the Universal House of Justice is free to rule on. Sometimes the Universal House of Justice appears to treat these letters as if they are Scripture and other times it appears to treat these letters as advice that was for the addresse, such as the letter on the evils of birth control. I say ‘appears’ because I do not know how the Universal House of Justice thinks. And of course we have no idea how a future Universal House of Justice will rule. It could be making policy in light of these letters or might not be. Again, context is very important.

    And what I try to do (as a Baha’i) is place the Baha’i principles
    (see: http://justabahai.wordpress.com/2012/03/31/the-individual/) at the fore and if any text, whatever the source appears to contradict this then try to find out more about the context and if I can’t and the statement still appears to be a contradiction with a Baha’i principle, and if the text is not part of Bahai’ Scripture I then give Baha’i Scripture priority.
    So to cut to the chase, if any statement appears to contradict the Bahai Teaching of equality, if it is not Baha’i Scripture I do not treat the text as if it is.

    So Steve, it seems to me that the problem here is that you are unable to see the difference in status between a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi and what is penned by Shoghi Effendi himself, and you even imply in your comment above that anyone using the phrase “on behalf of” to show that this is to quote your own words to “imply that these letters carry no weight.”

    You wrote:
    “Whether you like it or not, when you join the Baha’i Faith, your actions in public will be affiliated with the Faith.”

    So please, just stop and think, your comments here are showing the world that here is a Bahai who thinks that is it just fine for a Bahai to state that being gay is like being an alcoholic. What kind of image does this give of the Baha’i Faith?



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