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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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Why the Fear?

Has there been any discussion among Baha'is about why straight folk are so fearful of homosexuality? What are some of the emotional triggers for homophobia? Not just as Baha'is but for so many heterosexuals. I ask because it seems to me that there are different strategies for dialogue on the issue. I think one strategy is to try and tease out for straights their homophobia in a way that is not so threatening. What I hear in Baha'i and non-Baha'i defenders of "traditional family values" is that they see themselves as good people who are not hateful. For many Baha'is I have known, I am sure they see themselves as progressive, pro-women, anti-racist, world visionaries, etc. So homosexuality represents something very threatening because the presence of fellow believers who are gay triggers fear, and in some cases actual loathing, because it comes with this millennia long cultural taboo of being "against nature."

For me, homosexuality was something that growing up was a non-existent reality in my cloistered world. When I went to Alaska and was involved in Baha'i work as an 18-year old, I had my first friendship with a gay man. Friendship is perhaps too strong, Frank was the foreman of my work crew, made up mostly of young Baha'is plus some hippies from Arizona and a few Aleut natives. Frank would get drunk and come after the young Baha'i men from time to time--myself included-- and he weighed over 300 lbs, which made him more than just a minor irritant.

But it wasn't until my younger brother came out that I really sat down with myself to examine my emotional reaction to homosexuality. When my brother and his partner told me they were more than just roommates I have to confess that my first reaction was not a good one. I was polite but my internal reaction was very negative, a sense of repulsion. Not something I am proud of but there it was, and I knew I had something to work on. From there it was a gradual evolving of my thinking and my emotions about homosexuality.

My point in all this is that I wonder what ways can be used to try and call on the better angels of someone's nature to help them go through that journey from fear to acceptance. On the whole, culture is moving people along. We have come a very long way very quickly in terms of acceptance of GLBT persons. Homophobic Baha'is are going to feel more and more pressure to reevaluate their beliefs and their psychic baggage as more and more of the straight world comes to see homosexuality as something natural, God-given and not a disease to be cured.

It helps to keep showing that pederasty is not homosexuality and that there are limits to S.E.'s letters on the subject, as our dear friend Peter Khan is now coming to realize!


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