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Mark Tobey (1890-1976),

famous artist, dedicated and devout Baha'i, was gay. His life and work were commemorated.. More

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We tell ourselves stories in order to live.

                          Joan Didion, title essay, The White Album (1979)

A Baha’i Parent’s Epiphany Story Entry:

(An unpublished essay written by a mom, in hopes that our family's experience will be of interest to other Baha'i families with a gay child, in supporting him or her in love and unity:)

May 30, 2012. It was an ordinary day in an ordinary place, when my cell phone rang in the K-Mart parking lot. It was always a pleasure to hear from our 28-year-old son, though on this occasion it was not clear as to what was on his mind. I asked the usual “mom” question to draw him out: “How’s your social life?” (The predictable answer was that he was “talking to a girl,” but that she was not his “type.”)

Today, however, he replied in a voice heavy with resignation: “That’s a story for another day . . . .” For some strange reason, I gently dared to ask: “Alex, are you . . . gay? In the uncomfortable, prolonged silence which followed, I steeled myself for the unexpected reply: “Yes,” he said in a breaking voice. “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to say.” Though my world had just experienced a seismic event, nevertheless my heart immediately went out to our brave, youngest child—ever truthful, even when it was the hardest thing he had ever had to say.

During the remainder of that phone call, I learned everything I did not know about what it meant to be gay, as he patiently answered my many questions. My mental adjustment was almost instantaneous: our beloved son was now our beloved gay son. My emotional adjustment was just beginning.

Over the coming days, I searched my cerebral cortex for subtle clues that would point to homosexuality. Certainly our son was the picture of masculinity. But . . . yes—there was Alex’s lukewarm interest in an internet dating site to which my husband, with the best of intentions, had unwittingly subscribed on his behalf. And yes, there was the hint that most girls weren’t his type. Yes, our son would often insist, enigmatically, that he wasn’t “as good” as I thought he was. . . . And yes, there was Alex’s one gay friend to whom I’d been introduced; that would be Chris—now known to be the love of his life.

It was a revelation, that day in May, that already he and Chris had made sensible plans for a future together. Already they had become legal domestic partners, and Chris’s house would soon be their shared home. . . . The following summer, after the passing in November 2012 of a State referendum permitting same-sex marriage, they would be legally married in a moving and sanctified ceremony. Leave it to Alex to do it with grace and class, and make us proud.

My husband, too, searched for missed clues as to his son’s “natural nature,” and brought to mind a branch on his family tree consisting of aunts, uncles, and cousins who had never married—as was the case with his own bachelor brother. Dad has become a vocal proponent of same-sex marriage in his own circles. To Alex, he cheerfully rationalized that the new state of affairs was “Plan B.”

That our own religion (Baha’i) condemned the very idea of Alex and Chris’s relationship was a bitter pill to swallow. My therapy was to take up the violin. The violin sang sweet midnight songs to soothe my conflicted soul. It intoned simple harmonies to distract from the dissonant clashing of faith and reason, of immutable dogma and evident truth. It wept for all gay youth rejected and disowned for coming out; for those who were forced to live a lie; and for the more devout among them who contemplated in lonely distress the cruel fates which awaited “sinners” with wayward inclinations. Ultimately, I had to choose between allegiance to God’s Will as interpreted by my faith (which requires celibacy on the part of homosexual members)— and supporting the love of two guys who intended to become family. Love won. In the interest of personal integrity, I had no choice but to formally withdraw from the faith to which I had given about 37 years of my life.

Had our son continued to bear his burden of guilt in silence, this family’s story, like others, could have ended badly. Alex’s coming out was the demarcation between darkness and light, for himself and for those whose lives he has touched. As for me, this being my story, his painful revelation in May was the pivotal moment when latent homophobia, bred of ignorance and holy writ, was replaced by compassion and understanding. My epiphany on May 30, 2012 was a blessing. I was blind—but in a dizzying, transformative, lightning flash, I saw.

I'm not gay...

But I am no longer a practicing Baha'i. I declared in 1983. In about 2005 I had a close friend, who has since moved and with whom I have lost touch (sadly), who is a lesbian and the best, most amazing Baha'i I have ever known. She taught me so very much about the Faith — things I had not thought of nor been exposed to previously. But after she wrote, yet again, to the UHJ regarding her homosexuality and was told she could not be a Baha'i, I was done. She begged me to stay active in the Faith so that I could help facilitate change, but I just couldn't. I cannot be a part of something that treats someone as wonderful as she is, someone with a deep, abiding love for the Faith, for people, for justice, for equality, with such utter disregard for those wonderful qualities due to the way she was born. If we believe that God is perfect and does not make mistakes, then how on earth can we believe that people who are born gay are somehow a mistake or spiratiually deficient in any way? It is illogical. One of the main reasons I became a Baha'i was the concept that if science and religion are diametrically opposed, then the fact of the science must replace the belief of the religion. Have we not yet been provided sufficient scientific evidence that homosexuaility is not a choice but is genetic? Not something to be controlled, but something to be accepted, embraced and included. Until and unless the Faith changes it's stance on homosexuality, I will continue to be a non-practicing Baha'i and will tell anyone who asks exactly why. I love the Faith, but the Faith needs to love EVERYONE — again a reason I declared in the first place.

Struggles of a gay ex-bahai.

I was really inspired to write this story because of all the other comforting stories on here. I really hope my story helps someone else. Just as an FYI I am a gay man living in Canada :)

I was raised a Baha'i and taught Baha'i principles ever since I was born, always attending children's classes, feasts and other religious events but not in a strict way. My parents consider themselves Baha'i's but they barely pray, they drink alcohol, they rarely hold a feast in our house but they still go to other Baha'i events mostly because their friends are there. Also it should be noted that my parents never forced the religion on me, if I didn't want to pray or go to an event they wouldn't force me but they did encourage me as they thought it was what's best. Even at age 15 when a Baha'i signs their card and states that they want to “officially” be a Baha'i, my parents said nothing and told me it was completely my decision (I didn't sign my card which i am to this day very glad about lol). I have to say thought that being raised Baha'i was nice as i got to grow up in a community with other children and people, having fun and becoming more socialized so in a way i am grateful for that. it wasn't until I was older that I started feeling alienated.

An early example of this was with my hair. When I was younger I liked having longer hair but in the faith it is taught that men can't have hair longer than their earlobes which is stupid and a double standard. So I was constantly teased by other Baha'i kids. It didn't help that my interests were to things that aren't stereo-typically for boys such as female characters, art and so on. Coming to terms with my sexuality was also difficult, I knew that i was attracted to boys from a very early age but i also knew this was “wrong” so if anyone asked me If I was gay I would always deny it. I didn't think however that the Baha'i faith specifically outlined anything about homosexuality, I just thought it was something no one talks about and it should be kept hidden and to ones self. One year in my junior youth class, I was about 14, my friend asked the leader why it's wrong to be gay in the Baha'i community when the faith talks about unity and acceptance of everyone. The answer given was that a gay person should love Bahá'u'lláh and not someone of the same sex. This broke me, I left and cried all day. I felt so hurt and betrayed that a religion and belief system I was apart of and spent so much time with was saying that I was lesser than my peers because of who i love and am attracted to. It was also a slap in the face that essentially my peers could have their happy ending with their significant lover but I couldn't because it was with someone of the same sex. I kept thinking to myself, why do I have to stay single and lonely forever while people just like me get to live a happy life with the person they love. I felt as if I was being cheated and was having my life and future taken away from me. I somewhat pushed this aside.

In the coming years I tried to push my identity and beliefs together. I wanted to get married but I knew that was not allowed because in the Baha'i faith marriage is between a man and a women. So I told myself that I could have a boyfriend but we just could never get married. I also was interested in sex (like most teenagers) but sex is only for a married couple. I just settled at the fact that I would have to give up sex if I wanted to be a Baha'i and was content with that......for the time being.

In the years after I slowly pulled myself out of Baha'i events, one by one. The only events I would go to were feasts, celebrations and the “fun” events that had no prayers or conversations about religious writings. It wasn't until I went into university that I pulled myself from events altogether. Not only that but I gained the courage to take a stand against all the bullshit that I was being fed from day one. University was a turning point for me, I have become a different person, a stronger person. I was able to tell my parents how wrong they were and how their beliefs are flawed. I fueled all my feelings of isolation and discrimination into strength and motivation. I know that sounds really cliche but it's true hahah. I now tell people who assume i'm Baha'i that i'm not and that I don't support the religion whatsoever.

The only issue I have now is facing the people around me, my family and friends who are made up up mostly Bahai's. It hurts knowing that the people who say they love me still partake in beliefs that say i'm sick and lesser than them. Not many people stand up for me or say that the Baha'i writings on homosexuality are wrong and discriminatory, that includes my parents. It makes me angry that no one will side with me when I have brought so many arguments and evidence to the table to support my case. Is this too much to ask? I don't know since i'm looking at it through my perspective. All I want is some support and acknowledgement. I want people to face their prejudices and educate themselves. It's fascinating that in the Baha'i and Persian culture there is so much emphasis on education! but these same people that preach about how important education is don't want to be educated when it comes to topics such as gender, gender norms and sexual orientations etc.

Moral of the story is live your life for you! we're only going to get one life so stop living it for others. If the people you care about are going to let something like who you love get in the way of your relationship, ditch them. You don't need people like that! even if they are your family. I know that's obviously easier said than done but trust me on this one. You have to make sure that at the end of the day you are truly happy. It breaks my heart to see people in their 90's wishing they lived their lives authentically and regret all the choices they made. One of my favorite quotes comes from Mae West, She says “You only live once, but if you do it right once is enough”.