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Monday, November 2, 2009 at 09:29AM
What is it we hope is achieved when someone is raised a Baha'i, as I was? What is the goal of raising a Baha'i child?
Let me give you my answer. The goal is to foster in the soul of that child the desire to be of service to humanity; to work to end poverty, disease, hunger, misery, unhappiness, hatred, war, prejudice and injustice; to bring joy to people encountered each and every day; to treat each and every person with respect and dignity; to cherish all traditions, religions, cultures,ethnicities and beliefs; to help ensure there is access for all to education, health care, nutrition, clothing and housing; to be honest, truthful, reliable and self-reliant; to be charitable and generous; to be kind and loving.
My Baha'i mother and grandmother taught me these things, and I continue to work each day to achieve them.
Oh, and I am also gay with a partner. So I learned I should not go to Baha'i feasts or meetings or even claim to be a Baha'i so I will not embarrass the Faith with my shameful behavior. So now, when people ask me what my religion is, I tell them I was raised a Baha'i but cannot claim to be a good Baha'i because I am gay. I explain to them I became inactive in my religion so I would not tarnish its reputation. I also explain to them that I lived according to every Baha'i law before coming out gay. I abstained from sex before marriage and as a teenager. I married even though it was against my inclination to do so. I had children. After I was divorced I remained celibate. It was only after ten years of counseling with medical experts that I was convinced that for my own health, I needed to recognize that I am gay and live a life in which I stopped loathing myself as despicable in the sight of God.
Indeed, the doctors were right. My health improved and I became a more joyful person after heeding their advice. And I find myself in a much better position as a healthy individual in a healthy loving relationship to work toward achieving all those things my wonderful Bahai mother and grandmother taught me were important when I was growing up.
After many decades, I have resolved the self hatred I had learned from my religion that was so destructive in my life. I remain concerned about other young gay people growing up in homes and religious communities that encourage this type of self hatred which can, in the extreme, lead to suicide. I hope sites like this one can be an encouragement to young people, and people of all ages, who are struggling to accept themselves and love themselves as children of God. Thankfully, American and European society, at least, are beginning to create a more nurturing and accepting environment for gay young people. Discrimination of any kind, no matter how reasonable or justifiable it may seem, can never be sustained. This is the lesson of history that, alas, we appear to learn only slowly and painfully.