We tell ourselves stories in order to live.
Joan Didion, title essay, The White Album (1979)
I am one of those people they term late life lesbians. I have been through three marriages. I declared for the Baha'i Faith in 1996. At the time, I did not know I had a same sex orientation. After declaring, I was forced to marry a man I was living with by the local spiritual assembly. I was given a choice to either move out of his apartment (which I couldn't afford to do, or, marry him). We were best friends who were sharing a roof because my finances were shaky and I couldn't afford my own apartment. We were mostly platonic because there was no sexual spark between us. We would try sometimes, because we are taught in this society that men and women can't be just good friends, but, it never went anywhere. I was menopausal so could no longer get pregnant. The only time I have ever had any sexual spark towards a man was when I was able to get pregnant. Every other time I had been with a man, either I had endured our acts of intimacy or had to get drunk to get some minimal enjoyment.
About ten years after I became Baha'i and got married in a Baha'i ceremony I started taking part in a women's sexuality group. It was while I was studying women's sexuality that I realized that I was probably a lesbian. I wanted to know if this was true so I got on one of those internet lesbian dating sites. There I found a beautiful black woman (I am half Anglo half Native American) and we really hit it off. When I became active with her, I realized that I couldn't in good conscience remain a Baha'i. I resigned from the faith. We have been together for almost six years. We are a beautiful inter-racial couple, which is something that is promoted in the Baha'i Faith.
Even though I had resigned from the Faith I kept surreptitiously reading Baha'i I went from being an in-the-closet lesbian to being an in-the-closet Baha'i. It was crazy.
About four months ago I contacted a Baha'i friend and alternative medicine doctor because I have been very sick, and, the regular western doctors have not been very helpful. On that first phone call, she spoke a Baha'i prayer to me. The incense of the prayer was so beautiful that it sent me into tears. In the meantime, I and my partner were having relationship problems. I decided that it was best for me to be chaste because I seem to not be able to be in healthy relationships with either men or women. Thus, I decided to re-enroll in the Baha'i Faith since the impediment of being in an active lesbian relationship was no longer present.
After re-engaging the Faith, I started re-studying the writings on marriage. I fully agree that one shouldn't have sexual relationships outside of marriage. I agree with this law because of my own personal experiences. I re-read the marriage laws in the Kitab-i-Aqdas. There is not a single one I disagree with. I looked at the law against pederasty. I am in full agreement with that law. I, in particular, find great healing in the fact that Baha'u'llah promulgated that law, because I was sexually abused by both men and women as a child. The problem is that the law on pederasty was later broadly interpreted to include homosexual relationships. That is just insane. Pederasty and same sex relationships have nothing in common with each other. I know this because I was sexually abused as a child. And, my desire for women and not men has nothing to do with that childhood abuse. I was born lesbian. I was abused by both men and women. There is no reason why that abuse should have made me prefer to have intimate relations with women over men. To make the argument that men who are sexually abused as boys will grow up to be gay men is equally insane. Wouldn't it be more likely that sexual abuse from man to boy would make a boy grow up to hate same sex relationships? I can testify to that because of my own experience with childhood sexual abuse. As a child, I was raped both orally and anally, not vaginally. When you are a child, and people are putting their private parts in your mouth and anus it hurts like hell, because a child's jaws and anus are too small to handle adult sized private parts. This does not even bring in the emotional wounding that happens.
So, now, I am re-engaged in the Baha'i Faith, as a celibate lesbian. This is fine for me because my own inner wounding from childhood and young adult sexual abuse and rape makes it impossible for me to have healthy relationships with women or men because of the repeated abuse I have suffered most of my young life. I also grew up neglected and so my trust issues and ability to value family relationships is stunted and wounded. It is unfair of me to try to engage in familial and marital relationships when I am this way, and a Baha'i.
The interpreted laws as they stand though are unjust to same sex couples. I know many beautiful same sex couples and families who cannot become Baha'i unless they break up their relationships. This would be extremely cruel and oppressive. It is also extremely cruel and oppressive to prevent young gay men and lesbian women from being able to enter marriage with same sex partners. It is cruel to force them and their potential heterosexual partners into considering heterosexual marriages where intimacy is only possible if it is forced, or results with agreement only when the woman is fertile. I know this from personal experience.
For now, I will stay a member of the Baha'i Faith. I am Baha'i and a lesbian and I know that disengaging from the Faith would be wrong. What is right is for me to work for change within. Thus, I write this letter.
I joined the Baha'i Faith in my early 20s, being attracted to its message of universal peace and justice. But I was repressing my own sexuality and looking to escape into religion. I dropped out a few years later after I overcame the shame of being gay and am now in my 40z happily married to my husband. As long as the Baha'i administration continues to hold retrograde views about homosexuality, it will never grow. People who believe in racial, religious, and gender equality are naturally drawn to accepting homosexuality as s natural form of human diversity. Besides the anti-gay stance, I also had other problems with the faith: 1) Why aren't women allowed on the UHJ? Because patriarchy still rears its ugly head. 2) It has a poor understanding of Hinduism, Buddhism, and other non-Abrahamic religions, often forcing them to fit into its worldview or progressive revelation. 3) It refuses to speak o ut about injustices that don't affect the Baha'i community — a very insular and self-absorbed culture. Specifically, the apartheid-like treatment of Palestinians under the Israeli government. I guess protecting their fancy Mt. Carmel monuments is more important than defending people living under humiliating prison-like conditions. 4) The notion of infallibility-- totally unscientific and creates a sheep-like mindset that discourages questioning, reasoning, and experiential knowledge.
I'm a much happier person now, having come to a place where I am true to myself and my heart. I sometimes go to Unitarian Universalist services and meetings for a spiritual community, and that is enough for me.
Again once again thank you all for this space....
I posted this elsewhere, but thought it might be nice to archive it here as well....
Over 30 years ago, when I lived in Albuquerque, NM (ABQ), finishing grad school... coming out, divorce... it was a tough time. I was really like a lost rowboat on a stormy sea... I even attempted a suicide one or twice on my bike in traffic... dumb, I know.
A professor of mine, Rafael, was one of the first openly gay role models I met. He was a former Jesuit, turned Zen practioner, and let me stay with him and his partner until I could steady myself. I owe a lot to them. Strike that, I owe everything to them... Until then, my only contact with gay people, was, well unsavory and not very well together types. They introduced me to strong, together, professionals and good decent people. Saturdays we went to a Gay men's meditation group, and then we went to brunch. It was there that I first met Gay men who were working on their spiritual sides. At that time, I was still going to feasts and wearing a Bahá'í ring. One morning a very, very odd man came to the group, his energy field was really off, and at brunch he sat next to me. Early on he noticed my ring, and began ranting about the Guardian... come to find out he was a big cheese in the Covenant Breakers near ABQ. Sigh... he began a wacky rant... I remember, turning to him and saying,
"My friend, this is hardly the place for such a discussion, I do not agree with you, and we will not continue this discussion. Period".
He started in again, and as he did, his plate lifted off the table, and dumped into his lap...
The group just stared at him, our Zen teacher and leader turned to Rafael, and said...
"The force is strong in this one" and we all laughed...
Soon after, I took a faculty position in Sacramento, and Rafa, got a job at Stanford... he is since retired, and still a great mentor. I owe him a lot, he taught me that I could be gay and follow a spiritual path, and could ignore all this nutty Bahá'í administrative homophobic community dysfunction. He introduced me to the idea of service and tools that helped me deal with the anger I had with Bahá'í. I volunteered with the Sacramento AIDS project when things began to explode in SMF. Again I met a lot of good, decent, service oriented people. His mentorship planted the seed in me that allowed me to eventually meet the other great people here on Tman.
It is also why I get very, very frustrated with all this Bahá'íness... it doesn't want to look at what works, or adapt. And why I no longer feel the magic with it or have any sense of Sangha in it.
So maybe, just maybe Baha'u'llah was looking out for me after all, and showed me a place where I could be loved, where I was welcome, where I could serve with out fear…
Namskar dear mentor and teacher Rafa!