You might wonder why more famous gay Baha'is are not named here on this page. Silence is the reason - the silence and secretiveness of the Baha'i Faith regarding its gay members. It is not that there are fewer gay Baha'is in our history than in the history of other groups (perhaps there are more, in fact, particularly in the early days of the Faith), but that a shroud of secrecy surrounds them. Even if I know that a famous Baha'i from our past was gay, I do not reveal the name of that person if that individual was not "out" during his/her lifetime, and the gay nature of that person is not already public knowledge, particularly when it is considered that the family of that person would not want their gay nature revealed. With present-day Baha'is, of course, they are apt to keep their identity as gays or lesbians private, considering the extreme homophobia that exists in the Baha'i Community. At some point I will address on the blog page a definition of homophobia, since Baha'is tend to exclaim that they are not afraid of homosexuals, and scoff at the idea that they might be "homophobic"!
Mark Tobey (December 11, 1890 - April 24, 1976),
famous artist, dedicated and devout Baha'i, was gay. His life and work were commemorated in the essay “Mark Tobey and the 'two powers'” (the two powers being Baha'i and his art) by Julie Oeming Badiee in Vol. XIX of The Baha'i World (1983-1986). This was an article reprinted from the Baha'i magazine World Order.
In his later years, Tobey moved in 1960 to Basel, Switzerland with his long-time companion Pehr Hallsten (they were together for twenty years) and his secretary, Mark Ritter, there to live out the last years of his life. An interview with artist Jan Thompson from Sept. 6 to Nov. 16, 1983, was done by Sue Ann Kendall for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. In this interview, Thompson confirmed what Tobey's closest friends knew, that Tobey was gay and that he and his long-time companion Pehr Hallsten were lovers, although Tobey had at one time denied this (understandably). Tobey continued to live with his secretary, Mark Ritter, after Pehr's death in 1966, and served as Chairman of the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Basel for sixteen years until his death in 1976.
Referring to the Baha'i Faith, Tobey said “I found in my life what I call the light,” and in regard to his art, “I believe that a considerable amount of what might be called my better work is derived from Baha'i love. That, I think, has had the strongest effect on me.” He was introduced to the Faith by Juliet Thompson, who was a favorite of Abdu'l-Baha. Shoghi Effendi was fond of Tobey, and some of Tobey's correspondence from the Guardian is included in the essay.
R. Jackson Armstrong-Ingram (April 30, 1954 - Oct. 21, 2004),
Baha'i Scholar, supportive of gay rights, helped write the letter from the Gay Baha'i Fellowship to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is United States, in 1993. Jackson wrote an article concerning provisions regarding Sexuality in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, presented at a Baha'i meeting of scholars in 1996, which presents a very different understanding from the one Baha'is are given today.
Published in South Bend Tribune
South Bend, IN: 2004-12-04
Oct. 21, 2004, R. Jackson Armstrong-Ingram died in Henderson, Nevada.
He was born on April 30, 1954, to Richard and Margaret "Min" Armstrong-Ingram in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He left school and educated himself to the degree that he was able to get a B.A. from Goshen College in one year, graduating in 1978. He married Karen L. Eggermont of South Bend, Indiana, on September 26, 1976.
His first son, Conan, was born on September 1, 1977, in Goshen, Indiana. After a move to Belfast, Northern Ireland. Tiernan was born on December 13, 1978. In 1982 the family moved to Evanston, Illinois, and Jackson worked at the Bahá'í House of Worship Archives in Wilmette. After a move to South Bend, Indiana, he spent some time working for a telephone survey company. In 1991, he set up the St. Joseph County Archives in South Bend, supervising two moves in almost as many years. Jackson worked with a variety of record holders in the area, including St. Mary's College and the St. Joseph County Public Library Genealogy Room. During this time, he received his Archive Certification from the Illinois Historical Society, Chicago. In addition, Jackson taught evening Cultural Anthropology courses as an adjunct at Indiana University South Bend from 1993-1997.
In 1997, Jackson moved to Carson City, Nevada, to continue archival work at the State Archives, becoming the state's first Electronic Records Archivist from July to October of 1999. After working as Archivist and Records Administrator for the city of Henderson, Nevada, from 1999 to the end of 2001, he became State Archivist for the state of Alaska in 2002. Health problems forced a return to Henderson where he continued to free-lace as an editor, consultant, and author for Kalimat Press, as well as a lecturer and consultant to other organizations. He wrote two books on Bahá'í subjects for Kalimat Press: Written in Light: Abdu'L-Baha and the American Bahá'í Community, 1998-1921 (1998) and Studies in Babi and Bahá'í History: Music, Devotions, and Mashriq'L-Adkhar (1988). In 2002, he published a book on Henderson, Nevada, entitled Images of America: Henderson. His work on electronic archives includes Digital Imaging Guidelines for Nevada Libraries and Archives (2003). His writing is considered of importance by many in the archive field who hold him in high regard from Alaska to Amsterdam. Jackson's papers will be housed in three separate archives: the archival work at the National Archives, Washington, D.C.; his writing on Middle Eastern Studies at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies in Ann Arbor, Michigan; and the remainder at Kalimat Press in Los Angeles, California.
He is survived by his two sons; two grandsons, Owen and Albert; and his ex-wife, all of South Bend, Indiana. He is also survived in Northern Ireland by his mother, sister, Rosemary Hunter; two nephews, Richard and David Hunter; a niece, Nicola Ingram; and a brother, Trevor, presently in England.
Jackson was a highly intelligent and creative individual who loved knowledge for its own sake. In his teens, he performed puppet shows for school children, limiting himself to puppets without strings using muppet-like creatures, as well as Chinese and Balinese puppets. After his marriage, he composed a melody to his wife, and, in 1983, a composition of his was performed at the Bahá'í House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois. Reading and writing were his favorite past-times. He enjoyed good conversation, good music, and loved nothing better than to expound on what he learned to a rapt audience. He will be remembered by those who knew and loved him, for his tender heart, his love of learning, and his laughter. May he rest in gentle peace with God.
John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie (October 21, 1917 – January 6, 1993),
Baha'i, Jazz musician, friend to Gays & Lesbians.
‘My music is about absolute love for every man, woman, child, gay, and lesbian on the planet’ and that’s essentially what the Baha’i philosophy is as well,”
-Dizzy Gillespie (Quote offered by Sean January 8, 2010)
Once Baha'i, was an ABM assistant, supportive of gay rights, resigned in 1999.
Letter of resignation preserved on this site.
Alain Leroy Locke (1885 or 1886 to 1954)
American writer, philosopher, patron of the arts, is known informally as the founder, or father, of the Harlem Renaissance. In 1907 he was the first African American to win a Rhodes Scholarship. He was professor of philosophy at Howard University for many years, where he held the position of Chair of the Department of Philosophy until his retirement in 1953, and wrote or edited a number of influential books, including The New Negro, The Negro in America, Frederick Douglass: A Biography of Anti-Slavery, and The Negro and His Music. He was actively gay ("in the life," as they called it in Harlem), and is discussed in Out of the Past - Gay and Lesbian History from 1869 to the Present; Hidden from History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past (an anthology); and Queers in History. He apparently received a tablet from Abdu'l-Baha in response to his declaration of faith as a Baha'i, and he was close to Shoghi Effendi as Guardian. Another Baha'i is preparing a more extensive article on him, and it is expected to be posted on GLBSP at a later date. For further reading, see the recently published Alain L. Locke - The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris and Charles Molesworth. Harris and Molesworth, unlike a number of other writers on Alain Locke, do not avert their eyes from Locke's gay nature. Rather, they consider it integral to his intellectual and personal history, and as having shaped his aesthetic sensibilities. Harris wrote a 2001 essay, "'Outing' Alain L. Locke."