I might as well be honest. I fibbed to the BAO (Bahá’í Administrative Order), so to some extent I can see why they may not want me to come to feast or share my wealth. I mean, it must be a real test to have to sit next to a gay man at feast, knowing that if you were nice to him, he may come back… with his friends. The horror… but I digress…
You see, about 10 years ago, some very dear elderly Methodist lesbians wanted to have a church wedding (they weren’t as concerned about civil marriage at the time). Their church wasn’t about to let them, the local one would, the larger body had a hissy fit. So they made a big to do about it. They had been together over 50 years, and were tired of playing games.
M and I went to participate in the circle of love. The circle was about 2000 people, holding hands in a circle around the Civic Center, across from the capitol, and where `Abdu'l-Bahá had walked when he visited our city. And of course the nutty, folks from Kansas, decided to show and make a protest. And so it seemed like a good thing to do, and all my buddies went, we had fun. It was great, people singing and praying… and the haters across the street with their despicable posters and “God Hates Fags” signs shouting at us. The auditorium was full, and 90 Methodist ministers showed up, in defiance to their higher ups, to support full inclusion in the church. They could have lost their jobs! And it was something you’d never, ever see in the Bahá’í community. Though apparently they do have files that you cannot read, show up in force to talk about you without you being there, and to remove your rights without you having the right or opportunity to talk to them… I guess that keeps them busy enough, so they just can’t get away to do real work in the community.
A Year later, a few blocks away in the Memorial Auditorium, they had a one year anniversary. The 90 showed. It was the first week of domestic partnerships, and about 100 folks decided to get “domesticated”. We went, and got ourselves certified, and the 90 ministers offered to marry us, in so doing they laid their hands on us… it was very powerful.
Deep down inside of me, I kind of knew it would set the BAO clock ticking. But when you see 90 ministers willing to put their jobs on the line for you and for what is fair and just… what do you do?
Neither of us is willing to be treated any less than any other married couple. Asking a GLBT Bahá’í to be quiet while they politely sip their tea, to not talk about our spouses, or families, or kids, when everyone else is free and open to do so, is no longer an option. Especially when in our case, we are internationally respected researchers and have published multiple articles; given workshops in a number of countries… the closet just didn’t seem like a real place for us to be. It is just absurd, and for awhile we had the protection of an important Continental Counselor… but he disappeared into another level of the BAO, and when I went to Haifa to work at the university, he was unavailable. Odd, as how he gave my former lover and me a lovely picture of the Purest Branch, and hugged and kissed us both. But I digress again…
Both our families were kind of surprised, as mine is a very anti-Bahá’í republican Presbyterian lot, and M’s is a very liberal, open-minded Catholic family. M’s family would only be upset that we had a protestant ceremony (don’t tell mom!) and my family would be upset about the whole thing… and well the Bahá’ís I knew would eventually just send me down the river… so we told them. M’s family was happy, but everyone told us not to say anything about the Methodist part (hilarious!), and my family, well they just deserved to hear the truth. Meanwhile my friends kept asking me why I kept putting up with such a homophobic family and religion. It is hard, because in my case it is about love, of Bahá'u'lláh. M and our son, of course can no longer be even bothered by anything Bahá’í after the treatment they have meted-out.
In my experience, most GLBT folks get the need for some of us to be spiritual, though the majority just ignores religion, as it is far too painful and hypocritical, mostly because religions and organized aspects of them are really un-welcoming to GLBT folks. And not un-like any other cultural group, tend to gravitate towards people, friends, groups, clubs, activities that allow us to be.
So to be honest, I had very little, if anything to do with Bahá’í organized anything for the past 15 years. Despite a hug and photo, the message from the Head Shed in Haifa to the Reno Group’s petition was loud and clear… we are not welcome. I had really planned to hide my Bahá’í-ness under a rock and do my professional work, and raise our son, and not be of any concern to anybody.
Then gay marriage was legalized here in California, and Brazil, as we quickly found out would recognize our marriage, thus allowing me to get a permanent visa there (my husband is Brazilian) and retire there someday. So the great State of California recognized us, our employers recognized us, and a country recognized us… but the Bahá’ís? It was getting difficult to keep under that rock!
So, we did the deed, with my son as our best man, and dear friend from Portland as our “matron” of honor. A groovy local Bahá’í colleague from work made sure to come, in case my parents came thru with permission (they didn’t – yes because of gay marriage, but also because of the Bahá’í Faith). We went to courthouse in August, got the paperwork done, and were pronounced husband and husband. To be honest, being recognized by the civil authorities was as powerful as being recognized by God’s authorities. A shame the said authorities of God weren’t of my own belief system.
We had 40 people over to our home the next day, and as a surprise for M, I asked a Catholic priest colleague to bless us, he couldn’t marry us of course, but we explained that the blessing was fine as M’s mother would be happy! It was a grand party, and my son and friends all produced videos, which we placed online in my blog and on facebook pages (an important but fatal decision Bahá’í-wise). Facebook is not all that hidden of course, and apparently some of those volunteer kids are busy looking for infractions by trouble maker Bahá’ís on the internet.
I guess, I learned something from all this. By being cut loose, I no longer feel the need to keep quiet, and so I won’t. I don’t have anything to be ashamed of.
If my story can encourage other GLBT’s to stand up, and for GLBT positive Bahá’ís to move towards doing what is right… so be it. If not, I still consider myself a Bahá’í, no one, no institution, no authority can take that conviction away from me. And if the community feels better without my presence and that of my friends and family that they have dissuaded from being positively inclined towards the Faith, so be it as well.
I could have helped, but they have rejected me. I will continue to be as the early pioneers were a believer in a very hostile country.