Archive for the ‘science’ Category

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Time changes… an interview with a young American Baha’i

April 25, 2013

He spent 4 years hanging out with Baha’is and then signed his declaration card 2 months before this interview took place.

What was your first exposure to the Baha’is? Were you openly gay then?

I first met a Baha’i via my boyfriend in college. His best friend is married to a Baha’i and we would go over their house for couples game night. So yes, I was openly gay from my very first contact with the Baha’i community. At some point we got into a conversation about religion, and they were really good conversations!

For about 6 months it was just good conversation. Then I learned about progressive revelation and asked how Buddhism fits when there is no direct concept of God.
What that conversation revealed to me about the nature of God and the importance of context over absolute truth really made an impression on me. So now this was more than just good conversation. It was something worth serious investigation.

Tell me more about your religious background and your experience growing up and coming out.

Long story short: My family are Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was one of those kids you could point to and say he’ll probably be gay.
I wasn’t effeminate, but I didn’t like rough play as a child and loved dolls and horses. I first realized it at age 11. Started actively fighting it at age 13 with the help of my parents. Stopped fighting and came out at 19 and I was celibate for two more years.

Coming out was no fun. When I officially came out at 19, my parents were disappointed but couldn’t do much since I was celibate. When I was excommunicated from the Jehovah’s Witnesses community at 20, however, it was a different story. I didn’t talk to my family for 6 months to avoid bringing shame on them. When I finally did tell them they moved from the next state over and blackmailed me into moving in with them, threatening to stop paying for school if I didn’t, and they tried taking me back to church. They imposed a curfew on me. They outed me to my extended family, half of whom now pretend I’m a ghost when we’re in the same room together. No talking, No eye contact. I couldn’t have a civil conversation with my mother for 8 months when she found out. Five years on, and I now have a fairly productive relationship with my parents where we talk about our work and so on, and avoid mentioning my sexuality except that every 6 months or so, there’s an argument about why I’m still gay.

Luckily I had supportive friends and a supportive university psychiatrist when I came out.

Participating in a LGBT bible study at the Methodist ministry on campus did a lot to help me resolve my spiritual issues, as my life was falling apart with the battles I was having at home.

So what happened next in your journey?
I spent the next two years learning all I could about the Faith. At first it was mostly focused on theology and there were several other obstacles I had to overcome such as women on the U.H.J., the nature of ‘infallibility’, and the marriage laws, along with reconciling Baha’i beliefs with my fundamentalist Christian background. I used the book “Responding: 101 questions often asked of Baha’is” as the basis for many long conversations. Even though I was asking difficult questions and was confrontational at times, I never felt my questions were unwelcome or out of bounds. Each Baha’i I spoke with saw my sincerity and was eager to engage and to share their experiences and opinions along with explaining the official Baha’i position. Even when the answers were unsatisfactory to me and we continued to disagree, they did not dismiss me but respected my conscience and continued inviting me to participate in their community. As a scientist from a fundamentalist background this made a big impression on me.

Of course the Faith’s stance on homosexuality was probably my biggest obstacle. If it weren’t for that issue I probably would’ve declared 6 months after learning about the Baha’i Faith. But my biggest fear was of getting involved in another religious community and then having to endure the excommunication and shunning I had experienced as a Witness. This fear kept my investigation, earnest though it was, somewhat academic for a long time. Some of the texts on the subject are quite harsh in their wording, especially letters on behalf of Shoghi Effendi. But there was so much that was good about this Faith and the Baha’is I knew.

Eventually two things helped me to allay my concerns. First, exposing myself to different Baha’i perspectives online helped me to understand the Baha’i definition of infallibility and how it applies to the Baha’i writings. Combined with the Baha’i principle that science and faith should be complimentary, and understanding the different roles of the Guardianship and the U.H.J., most of my concerns about homosexuality were allayed. Second was the quality of the Baha’is I met in the community. Over time I came to realize that even if I was not able to have a Baha’i marriage, I would still be welcome in the community and it would be a place where I could feel safe raising my kids. Not all Baha’is would agree with me but that’s OK. The quickest path to truth is unity in diversity. And the Baha’is showed me that I was more than welcome to be a part of that.

Some other things happened along the way including 2 trips to the Wilmette temple and several frank conversations with LGBT Baha’is of various stripes. I decided to publicly declare my faith in Baha’u’llah in February of 2013.

You said that roughly a third of the population in your city area are openly gay individuals. Why do you think this is so high?
This is a metropolis in a culturally conservative part of the county, so gay people move here because it’s easier to live openly.

What sort of impact do you think this has on your Baha’i community and in your view how has this affected how you are accepted as an openly gay man and a Baha’i?
I think it means that the Baha’i community is familiar with the LGBT community and there’s less prejudice and ignorance than there probably is in other places. Also they see multiple definitions of what it means to be gay. It’s not just parties and bathhouses, we come in as many varieties and lifestyles as straight people. So there is less suspicion among the straight Baha’is and less doubt about my intentions and morality. It means Baha’is in my community can see the possibility of me leading a Baha’i lifestyle as a gay man.

They may not agree, but they see the possibility and respect my conscience. And, frankly, many of them show that they are happy to see me actively participating in the community. They realize this is a contentious issue that leaves people feeling as if the GLBT community is outside the scope of the Baha’i community. And that doesn’t sit well with them. They recognize the need to have more GLBT people involved in the community. Also the fact that I’m active in the community helps others to see aspects to my personality outside of my sexuality and this lightens any discord that might be caused by my sexuality.


I was blessed in that all three Baha’is I initially had contact with identified as GLBT, even though I didn’t know it at the time. So my initial exposure to the community was sensitive to my concerns as an openly gay seeker. One of the things I did before enrolling was to make an effort to get to know as many GLBT Baha’is as possible. Within my own local Baha’i community there’s a wide spectrum: one gay man is married to a woman; one bisexual woman is married to a man; there’s a single gay who keeps his gay and Baha’i identities separate, while being out to the important people in his life; another Baha’i is a closeted gay; and now there’s me. I also came across a Baha’i from another community who is in a same-sex marriage who is active in his community and served on his LSA for a time. I also familiarized myself with the stories of gay Baha’is who did not have positive experiences with the Faith. Having all these perspectives helped me to have a representative view of what the gay Baha’i experience could be like and whether I could see a place for not only myself but also my future family in this community.


I had one of these friends raise my concerns with the local LSA, since she was secretary at the time, and I got a very nice response from them as a seeker. The gist of the response from the LSA was this: “Baha’i law is Baha’i law, and it is our job to enforce it. However, we are not in the business of prying if you’re not flagrantly making us look bad. And even if you choose not to enrol there is still much you can benefit from and we would love to have your contributions to our community.” This made me feel very welcome and helped alleviate some of the pressure I felt to resolve all my conflicts before getting involved with the community. The Baha’is didn’t seem to be nearly as concerned as I was whether I had the “right” beliefs. They were most concerned that I was actively involved in my journey and that the community would benefit from what I had to offer for however long I chose to associate with the Baha’is. After this I started becoming more actively involved in the Baha’i community. Before I declared I had attended talks, devotionals, deepenings, and even a Baha’i feast.

So given what you have said about the diversity of those in your community, I guess you knew that identifying openly as being gay wasn’t seen as a bad thing and wouldn’t be considered being flagrant.
Nope. I knew same-sex marriage was a controversial topic. But homosexuality in itself was not something rejected by the community. It might cause some temporary discomfort as people reminded themselves about Baha’u’llah’s teachings on prejudice, equality and inclusion, especially since many come from an evangelical or Baptist background. The general mood seems to be that being openly gay may be awkward but most Baha’is in my community show that they are actively working to overcome this. There’s a bit of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude with the LGBT Baha’is who were raised in the community, which is understandable given where we are on this issue in the wider culture.
But it’s something that many in the community both straight and gay are working to improve. The important thing is that the community is not looking for black and white reasons to include or exclude, but rather they are looking at how you apply the Baha’i principles in your life. They look for the fruits and judge that rather than with whom or how you express yourself.

So you mean some Baha’is did say to you that being gay wasn’t OK or said that Baha’u’llah forbade it?
No one said anything as direct as this, but the feeling is there. I still live in a conservative part of the country and many Baha’is come from conservative religious and cultural traditions. That’s why being active in the community is so important for me. It gives others a chance to see evidence of my commitment to Baha’u’llah and that the majority of my life – any gay person’s life – is spent outside the bedroom. Some Baha’is in my community believe that Baha’is can’t have a same sex marriage and some are uncomfortable with this, while others feel it’s perfectly justified.

However, nobody is pressuring me to date women or play more football or anything.
At least here in the States, most people who live in bigger cities are comfortable enough around gay people and have enough exposure to be able to see us and not automatically think of sex, regardless of whether they support or oppose civil or religious gay marriage.

To give you an impression of the wider Baha’i community in my area here’s a story I submitted to the “gaybahai.net” forum:

Recently I told a Persian Baha’i colleague that I was gay. He’s an older gentleman, and during the Fast we’d been going on walks during our lunch hour once or twice a week. I’d found our walks very encouraging and uplifting so then I decided to open up to him.

I started by telling him about a sermon I had listened to by the founder of the Gay Christian Network, Justin Lee, on how God is an artist and why I thought that illustration fits well with Baha’i ideas. We all have different potentialities to develop the assortment of virtues/colors. And while there are rules to painting, sometimes they have to be broken to create a masterpiece. And God’s primary concern isn’t maintaining the letter of the law, but in creating masterpieces. I would definitely recommend checking it out here.

I then asked him for his thoughts on marriage and whether we focus too much on romance here in the West. After talking about that for about 10 minutes he asked me if I had a girlfriend, like I figured he would. I told him I had a boyfriend and that things are going well. He was surprised by the revelation but he took it in stride. No theological debates, no prejudiced comments or looks, no insistence that I’m sick or in need of therapy or that I should try dating women.
He reiterated that science and religion must agree so he expects the UHJ to rule on this eventually and that until then we must strive to adhere to the laws we do have and that, at the end of the day, whatever we do, we must be able to answer to our God with our heads held high. To which I agreed and added that I do expect to be able to have a Baha’i marriage someday based on what I know of the Writings and science and my own personal experience. And that even if I can’t have a Baha’i wedding I do intend to apply Baha’i principles to my union, whatever it is called. Even if I cannot adhere to the letter of the law, keeping with the spirit of it will only help me and those in the community who see.

We then continued our walk and our conversation about marriage and the purpose of laws. It was a great conversation. While I’m working on a need-to-know basis with my sexuality I have never been closeted in my interactions with the Baha’i community. And, in general, people have either been openly supportive or politely neutral. I’ve never felt judged or treated differently after people found out.


Now would this Baha’i support gay marriage on a ballot? I don’t know. But what I do know is that he is committed to his faith, while at the same time being open to learning from the experiences of others and adjusting his perspectives as new information comes along. He is why I have faith that the Baha’i community will eventually find its way through this issue.


Unlike a lot of religious communities, Baha’is are very much engaged in the non-Baha’i world around them. And that constant interaction with different ideas and perspectives and worldviews helps us to refine our own, to know the limits of what we know for sure. Often this ends up forcing us to narrow the scope of what we know for sure and embrace the constantly shifting shades of gray built into human experience. Admittedly I live in a very gay city, it is number 1 by percentage of the population, last time I checked. So my experience is by no means universal or even typical among Baha’i communities. It probably won’t be for a while yet. But it shows things are getting better. Being exposed to happy, healthy, religious, productive members of society who happen to also be GLBT helps. It doesn’t eliminate the controversy or even change minds necessarily. But by keeping the issue in front of people our presence in the community keeps the conversation open. And that’s the most important thing. People can only endure cognitive dissonance for so long when they are constantly reminded of it.

That’s why it’s so important for us to not only be out, but to stay engaged with our spiritual communities if at all possible. Yes, it means enduring injustice. I’m not saying we should keep allowing people to hurt us. Lord knows how many of us have been scarred on our souls by the “good intentions” of religious people, even Baha’is. I still have family that won’t talk to me since I was excommunicated from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. But we can’t let that poison us, poison our relationship with God, poison our relationship with our communities. Ultimately that just hurts us and allows ignorance and injustice to persist that much longer.

Know your limits. But do what you can. Don’t give up. There’s hope.

I share this Baha’is hope that the Bahai community will eventually find a way through. I think there is nothing in Baha’i Scripture to inhibit the possibility of same sex marriage, but for those Bahais who think that there is something in Baha’i Scripture which implies that marriage is restricted to marriage between one man and one woman: here’s a quotation from a talk given by ‘Abdul-Baha:
“Time changes, and when time changes the laws have to change.”

What ‘Abdul-Baha means here is not to change the law, but not to enforce a religious law that is no longer relevant. Religious laws are “the accidentals of religion” and “useful in accordance with the exigencies of the time.” These fall under what Baha’u’llah refers to as social teachings. So if a social teaching or religious law is in conflict with the principle of equality or justice, if we follow ‘Abdul-Baha’s example, we do not enforce it.

The context for this quotation is below:
“In the Taurat there are ten commandments concerning the murderer. Is it possible to carry these out? Can these ten ordinances, concerning the treatment of murderers, be enforced?
Modern times are such that even the question of capital punishment – the one form which some nations have decided to enforce in relation to a murderer – is a mooted question. Wise men are consulting as to its feasibility or otherwise. So everything that is valid is only valid for the time being. The exigency of that time demanded that if a man committed theft to the extent of a dollar they would chop off his hand, but now you cannot cut off a man’s hand for a thousand dollars. You cannot do it; it is impossible. This is true, for it was useful for that time, but things are useful in accordance with the exigencies of the time. Time changes, and when time changes the laws have to change. But remember, these are not of importance; they are the accidentals of religion.”

From the middle of a talk given at to congregation in the synagogue, the Temple Emanuel, (Emmanu-El) in San Francisco on Saturday, October 12, 1912, in Star of the West Vol. 3, No. 13, p. 3, which corresponds to The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 365.
Talks in “Star of the West” are more reliable as a source than Promulgation of Universal Peace because the editor of Promulgation of Universal Peace was sometimes very free in what he added to the text.
Talks in the volumes of “Star of the West” are not authentic scripture unless they can be verified by a Persian version.
There are notes in Mahmud’s diary from p. 299 of Vol 1, which closely reflect the Star of the West version above. Mahmud’s dairy is a personal recollection by Mahmud Zarqani which ‘Abdul-Baha encouraged him to write. It was written during ‘Abdul’-Baha’s lifetime and so it is very likely that Abdul-Baha read this.
One day if Persian notes for the above can be found, then this could be treated as authentically by ‘Abdul-Baha.

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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.

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Homosexual Fish

December 2, 2011

“Oestrogen had gotten into the water and changed the fish. It made them homosexual,”  he said.

A seemingly innocent comment made by a Bahai at a Bahai gathering, got me thinking. It was prejudice to my ears – yet I didn’t have the words at the time to respond so I was silent.

What it told me as listener, was that this person felt comfortable associating homosexuality as something abnormal in the company of other Bahais and while the conversation centered on the fish and pollution caused by the contraceptive pill, the comment also reminded me of another issue Bahais often bring up in connection with gay rights. That nature is geared towards reproduction and from this they imply that any relationship not geared towards reproduction is wrong because in their eyes it is against nature.

Look at any society: a ‘survival of the fittest’ type of rationale for relating to each other would be considered inhuman.

Relationships and partnerships endure because of love and friendship not because of children or how many children are reproduced. We are not fish, which do not form partnerships to start.

These words on the Bahai International Community website are so familiar that they are almost a mantra for Bahais:
“All human beings, Bahá’u’lláh states, have been “created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization.” The creation of a peaceful global society that fosters both individual and collective well-being is at the heart of the Bahá’í vision of the future.”

Bahá’u’lláh makes this disassociation with a ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality even more strongly:
“All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization. The Almighty beareth Me witness: To act like the beasts of the field is unworthy of man. Those virtues that befit his dignity are forbearance, mercy, compassion and loving-kindness towards all the peoples and kindreds of the earth. Say: O friends! Drink your fill from this crystal stream that floweth through the heavenly grace of Him Who is the Lord of Names. Let others partake of its waters in My name, that the leaders of men in every land may fully recognize the purpose for which the Eternal Truth hath been revealed, and the reason for which they themselves have been created.”
Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 346 [Some of the above also sourced near the end of Section IV of the “Promise of World Peace”, a statement widely circulated in 1985]

And a 2010 statement by the Universal House of Justice specifically concerns homosexuality:
“…With respect to your question concerning the position Baha’is are to take regarding homosexuality and civil rights, … “
“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.”

So, yes, any innocent comment made associating homosexuality with abnormality or illness is, in my view, an expression of prejudice or disdain. So how do we change this? How can we change the culture of our Bahai communities so that such comments were be a rare slip of the tongue, to which another could just say “You’re not serious?” to which that Bahai might say “Oh no, I’m sorry I didn’t mean to make this negative association” and so then the discussion would be the issue at hand, in that case, how pollution was affecting the population growth of the fish, which had nothing to do with homosexuality.

My silence at the time was not knowing how to voice my discomfort because so often when I do, I’m told I am over sensitive or that it is not prejudice to make such a disdainful association with homosexuality.

Some Bahais have also told me that this 2010 statement by Universal House of Justice is not actually about treating homosexuals with equality because further in the same letter is the following:
“In working for social justice, Baha’is must inevitably distinguish between those dimensions of public issues that are in keeping with the Baha’i Teachings, which they can actively support, and those that are not, which they would neither promote nor necessarily oppose. In connection with issues of concern to homosexuals, the former would be freedom from discrimination and the latter the opportunity for civil marriage. Such distinctions are unavoidable when addressing any social issue. For example, Baha’is actively work for the establishment of world peace but, in the process, do not engage in partisan political activities directed against particular governments.”

Their argument being that they interpret “neither promote nor necessarily oppose” as meaning what they consider as being the status quo which agrees with their personal view that same sex married couples must separate or leave the Bahai Faith or not marry to start with.
As you can read for yourself, you can see that the statement by the Universal House of Justice means that publically, no Bahai community should be seen as ‘for or against,’ but rather, just as on the topic of party politics, any said Bahai community is to take a neutral position. Individuals such as myself are certainly free to vote as they please, and likewise may advocate same sex marriage as valid as any other legally recognized marriage between consenting adults as both a right and a responsibility. I should and would never claim that my views are those of any Bahai community and likewise with any Bahai who holds the opposite view on this topic.

However until now there have been examples of Bahai communities advocating against homosexuality [see: 1996: NSA of the Bahais of the U.K., 1999: Guyana, 2007: Uganda, 2010: Guyana. Here I make some comments about interfaith groups, 2011: Baha’i Office for the Advancement of Women], so in my view to work for a Bahai culture of neutrality, as Bahais we not only need to work at even seemingly innocent comments about diseased fish as posing no opportunity for an expression of disdain towards an aspect of the diversity of humanity, but to voice differing views as I am doing in this blog, so not only our fellow Bahais realise that not all Bahais think there’s something fishy about being gay, but also so that the public in general are aware that there are Bahais who do advocate equal rights and responsibilities for their gay brothers and sisters.