h1

Should I still call myself a Bahai?

May 21, 2016

“I am a 2nd generation Baha’i who is also gay. For the last 21 years, I have been happily “married” to the most loving and amazing man in the world – easily and without question my Soulmate. During this time, and for a number of years prior, I have been inactive in the Faith. I still consider myself a Baha’i – but I find it increasingly difficult to abide by the current stance of the Faith toward gays. (I am not “sick,” “unnatural,” or “handicapped.” I was made this way. And our Creator does not make an imperfect creation. I am perfect just the way I am. But enough on the truth it’s taken me my lifetime so far to realize.)
On to my question…

Is there any reason for me to continue to have any affiliation with a faith that questions my inherent and God-given perfection? Is it finally time for me to just throw in the towel with the Baha’i Faith as an organization and seek spirituality and nearness to my Creator on my own (something I’ve been doing for the past 25+ years anyway)?
To be completely honest, given the Faiths stance toward gays, I’m ashamed to tell people I’m a Baha’i. I feel much more love, acceptance, support, peace, unity- and even spirituality! – within the Buddhist community. What has happened to the Baha’i Faith? Has it already failed less than 200 years later?
I see that I have asked more than one question. I suppose I’ve always believed that the only bad question is the one not asked. Reading over what I’ve just written, some of you may get the impression that I’m angry. I’m not. Just frustrated – and wanting to know your thoughts.”

A: Only you can decide if the Baha’i Faith is still right for you. I have chosen to go it alone. I can not be part of a religion that doesn’t fully accept us and I don’t see any chance of them accepting us in the future.

B: It is the question that I have been struggling with for over 30 years since my administrative rights were removed. It helps to voice the question, and the frustration. I can see a time when I will be able to completely disassociate myself from the Faith, but that moment hasn’t arrived. I keep hoping that there will be a positive change toward embracing all. It defies reason that it hasn’t happened yet, but I keep hoping.

C: I have similar questions, myself. I usually tell people I’m an ex-Bahá’í, even though I haven’t removed myself from the Faith, only stepped back for 10 or 11 years. I still have some lingering hope somewhere that if enough voices within the Bahai community speak up for LGBT+ acceptance (not this strange sort of tolerance where we’re seen as having an affliction to be cured), then the Faith will move forward. I’m a 3rd generation Bahai and I’m trans and mga (multiple gender attracted), and I’ve been in a same-gender relationship with my partner since 2007.

D: I’m a transwoman – I was in the Faith for 32 years but finally had to leave because it wasn’t working for me on a number of levels. But I think the big one was that it did not give me a way to understand myself that I could accept or live with. And by that meaning that God had made me a man outwardly and inwardly given me the heart and soul of a woman. When I left to find something else – I wasn’t sure what – it was the beginning of a huge awakening still going on today. And one of the first things I learned was that God loved and accepted me far more than I had ever realized before. But I guess I haven’t entirely cast the Faith aside, as I am here reading what others say and making comments.

E: It all depends on if you believe Bahaullah is who he said he is. If so you are a Bahai whether you have rights or not. If you believe that in the big picture the Bahai model is best for the future then support the faith. I disagree with the UHJ not doing their job in modifying the social teachings for the current age. I believe that the continuance of the covenant through the UHJ was to provide a body to bring the faith through 1000 years, updating the social principles of the faith as humanity matures. They seem reluctant to do that. I believe that our spiritual journey is our own and we are responsible to listen to others then prayerfully make our own conclusions.

F: I agree with the Faiths basic belief that we as individuals are responsible for our own spiritual health and growth (hence, no clergy – which I couldn’t agree with more). But I never thought that would include rejecting the “clergy” of the UHJ. (I suppose they are just fallible men and women, after all, but…) I’m all for self discovery, exploration, and personal truth seeking, … but I never thought as a gay man that I’d have to “boldly go where no one has gone before” (to coin a phrase) with my own faith! The prospects are both lonely and scary. And exciting.

G: Gandhi was excommunicated by the Hindu religious authorities for travelling overseas. His friends and family would have been excommunicated as well if they saw him off at the wharf. These days, however, nobody thinks of him as a bad Hindu. I’m hoping the conditions Bahais face within their religion are also temporary, but I won’t hold my breath. I don’t regret my time as an active and involved member of the Bahai community, but I vastly prefer being unaffiliated.
Unaffiliating, whether you remain a believer or not, is enormously disruptive in the short term. But it may be better in the long-term. In the short-term, you're closing a door, but in the long-term, it may well re-open. For example, the 25-year Ruhi program has only five more years to run. Only the individual can decide what to do — but I think it's important to think both short and long-term when making the decision.

H: I’ve noticed some recent outreach to me by the local community (for teaching training as an example, which is opened up to anyone to help implement the 5 year plan), so while I’m a non-enrolled convert…I remain hopeful. At the very least (and this can be considered separate but equal), the community seems to be trying to figure out how to fit folks in who can’t follow all the “rules” or whatever. It’s a step.

10 comments

  1. I’ve pretty much left it. I’m sure I’m on the roles somewhere. And being a Persian, do you ever really leave it? But I really have not interest anymore in religions that don’t accept the LGBT people as God created us. Right now in North Carolina we are fighting a horrible discriminatory law that was passed by the right wing Republican legislature. The $$ coming to back these type of anti LGBT laws in the US are coming from right wing Christian groups that can’t stand that now gay people can get married in this country; something they fought hard against for years.
    As much as Bahais want to tell you that they are different, that they don’t discriminate, etc etc LGB people are discriminated against and in a new World Order will be discriminated against. Don’t expect that in a Bahai society, two men or two women will be able to marry and adopt children.
    And btw, I left T out of LGB because there is a loophole for trans people (as there is Shiiate Iran right now). The UHJ has given permission for someone who is trans to change their sex and adopt the sex they wish to be…. as long as they keep within the marriage laws of the Bahai Faith and continue the sexual norms that are accepted for females vs males.
    Anyway, my two cents worth…..


  2. I felt exactly the same way and resigned from the Faith for that reason. It felt disingenuous to me to continue to belong to an organization that does not embrace all of humanity, yet hangs its hat on oneness.


  3. If you truly understand the Covenant of Baha’u’llah, you understand that the House of Justice does NOT have the authority to update OR change the teachings of the Bab, Baha’u’llah, Adbu’l-Baha or the interpretations of Shoghi Effendi.

    The stand of the Guardian regarding homosexuality was really quite moderate, saying that to punish gay people without a similar sanction of heterosexuals who were breaking Baha’i laws created an untenable situation. Now, however, the legalization of same-sex marriage has created a unique situation, leaving no room for flexibility.

    The transgender issue is entirely different in my opinion.

    I believe the House has done every thing they can to encourage Baha’is to be loving and accepting of gay and transgender individuals but there are definitely limits to what they can do or are accept.


    • Rex yes you are correct that it is a Bahai teaching that no one can “change the teachings of the Bab, Baha’u’llah, Adbu’l-Baha or the interpretations of Shoghi Effendi.” However none of the above wrote anything about homosexuality, so I guess you are confusing this with the 5 letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi when you wrote “The stand of the Guardian regarding homosexuality was really quite moderate” These letters were penned by his secretaries not Shoghi Effendi in his role as interpreter of Baha’u’llah’s teachings. Bahai Scripture is not penned by secretaries! See this for clarification: https://justabahai.wordpress.com/find/#letters

      I assume you are responding to E’s comment “I disagree with the UHJ not doing their job in modifying the social teachings for the current age. I believe that the continuance of the covenant through the UHJ was to provide a body to bring the faith through 1000 years, updating the social principles of the faith as humanity matures.” But actually Abdul-Baha made it very clear that a main purpose of the Universal House’s power to make law was so it could update on new issues. Here’s the text:

      “It is incumbent upon these members (of the Universal House of Justice) to gather in a certain place and deliberate upon all problems which have caused difference, questions that are obscure and matters that are not expressly recorded in the Book.
      Whatsoever they decide has the same effect as the Text itself. Inasmuch as the House of Justice hath power to enact laws that are not expressly recorded in the Book and bear upon daily transactions, so also it hath power to repeal the same.
      Thus for example, the House of Justice enacteth today a certain law and enforceth it, and a hundred years hence, circumstances having profoundly changed and the conditions having altered, another House of Justice will then have power, according to the exigencies of the time, to alter that law.
      This it can do because these laws form no part of the divine explicit Text. The House of Justice is both the initiator and the abrogator of its own laws.”

      (Abdu’l-Baha, The Will and Testament, p. 20)


    • Indeed, the UHJ does not have the power to interpret the teachings at all. But it has authority to update the Bahai laws and its own policies. These are two quite different things. The hands of the House of Justice are not “chained up” by the fact that it cannot provide authoritative interpretations of the writings. It may be constrained by its present understanding of the Writings, but then we must pray that their understanding develops further.


  4. What is missing in most LGBT+ discussion amongst Baha’is is this, “What possible harm does it do to allow GBTQ+ people to be in your community? How exactly does that married gay couple sitting next to you at your feast affect you, your family in a negative way?” It seems that Baha’is are workign overtime to justify their need to be homophobic, and not working to listen to GLBTq+ people and welcome and love them… LGBTQ+ are not allwoed to participate openly, to talk openly and are beign sanctioned for speaking out… and the majority of Baha’is are either silent or find this acceptable. Thank you JustaBahai for your support…


  5. D wrote: “I am a human. I am a son, a brother, a husband, an uncle. I also happen to be Catholic, an American (of Canadian/Irish extraction) and gay. With all the things that I am, it is absurd that anyone would take something that is (if I thought about it a little longer) probably less than 1/8th of my personal identity and make an issue out of it. When I was younger, I gave those people who would pass judgement on me a great deal more credibility. Now I can only give them pity. They are pathetic wastes of time whose hatred defines them and does not affect the way I will live and who I will love.
    I’ve learned a great deal of what Baha’i is by reading your posts. Through your lens, I’ve seen that it can be a very beautiful thing, just as can be Catholicism. It’s the people in the different faith groups that do ugly things. Most faith teachings are profoundly beautiful in their sentiment, it’s just the students of those teachings who mess it up with their personal interpretations, bias & hatred. The ironic thing is, when I think of Baha’i, I think of you. Let the elders, priests, bishops, or electors (whatever they’re called) put that in their collective pipes and “smoke it!” Hugs, my friend.”


  6. “The stand of the Guardian regarding homosexuality was really quite moderate” These letters were penned by his secretaries not Shoghi Effendi in his role as interpreter of Baha’u’llah’s teachings. Bahai Scripture is not penned by secretaries! ”

    For many years I have noticed this argument being used in numerous attempts to undermine the Guardian’s emphatic interpretations on homosexuality and other key issues. The attempt to assert it was his secretaries and not the Guardian is utterly false.

    Yet the Guardian categorically stated :”I wish to add and say that whatever letters are sent in my behalf from Haifa are all read and approved by me before mailing. There is no exception whatever to this rule.”
    Please note this guidance from the UHJ: http://bahai-library.com/uhj_letters_behalf_guardian

    I’ll quote the sections I found relevant to this discussion re letters from his secretaries being “authoritative” and that they “convey his thoughts and instructions”.

    “With regard to your questions about the authority of letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, particularly those sent from the Holy Land during the latter part of his ministry, there is no justification for summarily dismissing the authoritative guidance contained in this body of correspondence. If concerns arise in relation to specific messages or topics addressed, clarification can be sought from the Universal House of Justice.”

    “Reference is made to statements on the Internet which apparently infer that the Guardian discontinued the practice of reviewing all letters written on his behalf when the amount of correspondence increased. Mr. __ seeks confirmation of the fact that Shoghi Effendi continued to review all letters written on his behalf until the end of his life. The Research Department sets out below the only information it has, to date, been able to locate on this subject.

    In a postscript appended to a letter dated 7 December 1930, written on his behalf to an individual believer, Shoghi Effendi described the normal procedure he followed in dealing with correspondence written on his behalf:

    I wish to add and say that whatever letters are sent in my behalf from Haifa are all read and approved by me before mailing. There is no exception whatever to this rule.

    Given the Guardian’s categorical assertion, it follows that any “exception” to “this rule” would require his explicit permission. For example, in the latter years of his ministry, Shoghi Effendi assigned to the Hand of the Cause Leroy Ioas the special responsibility for monitoring the progress of the goals of the Ten Year Crusade.


    • Thanks for your comments Roland. You wrote “numerous attempts to undermine the Guardian’s emphatic interpretations on homosexuality and other key issues.” – First it is your own bias to call an attempt (which is what my goal is when I state that letters penned by secretaries have a lesser status than any penned by Shoghi Effendi himself) to understand how Shoghi Effendi intended these letters to be used and what role they play in relation to the Bahai Teachings, to ‘undermine.’ I understand why you might see it as a form of undermining because from my perspective a problem we have in the Bahai community is in elevation of the status these letters, just 5 of them that mention homosexuality, to the status of something penned by Shoghi Effendi, while ignoring the advice given in hundreds of other letters. For me this ‘bias’ – to pick and choose some letters and to ignore others, informs me that the real issue here is a hatred, fear or misunderstanding about homosexuality, but the argument is dressed up as if it is about the status of these letters.
      You also wrote ” The attempt to assert it was his secretaries and not the Guardian is utterly false.” – please quote Shoghi Effendi himself or any of the letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi that shows that these letters were not penned by his secretaries. That would be proof not a statement that Shoghi Effendi read these. Reading and authoring are two different things. I hope my comments here clarify things for you. The last part of your comments were hard to follow because you didn’t have clear quotation marks and it wasn’t clear to me who the author was. At some point it was the Research Department of the UHJ.


  7. I joined the faith at 15 in 1963 and after 20 years of serving on committees, assemblies, pioneering to goal districts, holding firesides, praying, fasting, teaching and all the rest, realised that to be unable to grow in love with another man was intolerable. The idea of growing old emotionally alone felt positively dangerous to my mental health. Having accepted my being gay since early adolescence I decided I had to be with other men like myself. I thought then that I could possibly continue to serve but also find mutual love with another guy but could be discrete. Love not sex please note because Bahai’s always, always, confuse the two. I met some great guys and quickly realised that these guys were just as normal as me, in fact they were really attuned to human difference and the complexity of being the other in an intolerant society so that paradoxically, in many ways, they showed greater, more honest Bahai characteristics than many in my own local community. Time spent in their company became far more enriching and emotionally rewarding than sitting on an Assembly reading more incomprehensible Bahai speak letters from the Institutions. I had shared the pain of the Bahai culture wars with dear friends forced out for their academic research and writing, and who were tormented with vile abuse, still happening today. The absence of a warm fulfilling community life with other Baha’is was cruelly exposed. Then a truly decent gay Baha’i acquaintance, on one of his sexuality guilt trips, shopped me to an ABM as gay. This ABM, a doctor working in a hospital which had done ECT on Gays, wrote offering me a weekend of therapy which would cure me of these unhealthy and unacceptable urges. I declined, rather impolitely. I regret not being more diplomatic. Now outed I decided to come out to close friends in the community. My closest friend of many years, told me of his shock and how he never wanted to speak with me again and could not bear to even shake my hand. I haven’t seen him since, and still miss him. Another told me he would never leave his son in a room alone with me. Another dear friend could not bear to meet or hear about the man I had fallen in love with. So it went on. I wondered how I could easily continue to serve on Institutions with these people It simply was impossible. I chose to become inactive. I then had Assembly members call to my home to tell me I was sick in the head. I decided to quit one evening in a restaurant, having dinner with a gay friend, a dear, kind, sweet, lovely guy battling cancer, who would have been a credit to any community, may he rest in peace. Into the cafe came a party of Baha’is including some who had served on an Assembly with me. They sat two tables away in full view of me and pointedly ignored me. I sat chatting to my friend and thought, who do I prefer to share my life with? Did I want a life with these Bahai’s, supposedly modelling themselves on the Master, or with really decent people like my friend. It was a no-brainer. I quit. That was 1983. I have now shared my life for over 36 years with one man, the love of my life. We are married. We made a home, a life and a business together, and I have never much regretted leaving Bahai. Whatever excuses people make, however they quote scripture, or the Guardian’s letters, it will never change. The community itself is homophobic from top to bottom. It is beyond change. I saw so many closeted gays in the Baha’i community twisting themselves into knots over their sexuality, lonely single lives,or sterile marriages, having kids to prove they are devout, casual sex with strangers as a release. One guy married and on honeymoon confessed he was gay, followed by speedy divorce. So much unhappiness along with intolerance to gays who could truly show many Baha’is the depth of real human compassion and love just seems so utterly sterile. It hardly deserves a future. The community here is no bigger now than in 1983, it just has more committees and institutional bodies, it is still largely unknown. It has apparently had no impact of any kind of depth on this wider society. It has many fine people trying their best, but on at least this issue don’t waste your emotional or spiritual energy. It is not worth it. Move on honourably and decently and leave them to their understanding of a prejudice free world order. Keep your love for aspects of it and its founders by all means. I have no bitterness and wish my former friends no ill will at alI. Time will tell if I am wrong, and just another Cassandra. Perhaps after all they will in fact create their frightening new world order, but be assured gays will never be an accepted people within it. That bet I think I will win.
    warmest regards and love Barry



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: