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It is not only about sex

So this is my story. And I write because, having read a bunch of discussions online about the issue of homosexuality in the Bahá’í Faith, I feel that it focuses too much on the sexual aspect of it. So I thought I’d share my journey, and try to raise some other aspects that I find relevant to the debate, from a gay bahá’í’s perspective. I apologize in advance for not being able to quote scripture at this moment. Having been distant from the Faith for the past 15 years, and having moved around so much, I don’t currently have my bahá’í books with me, and I found it hard to find the passages that I might want to quote online. If I do mention any passages though, it will only be to illustrate what my thought process was based on, and where I was coming from, and not to present an argument of any type. I also apologize for the long text, and if I get lost or carried away at some points. This is a very complex matter, and there is a lot I would like to say, but will probably not find the best way to express myself, or say all that I mean to. I also do not presume to assume that this is every homosexual’s experience or point of view. It is just my personal journey.

 

I am a fourth generation Bahá’í. My great-grandfather and grandfather were both pioneers in Brazil, and very devoted to the Faith. My parents raised me according to bahá’í standards and principles, but it was never assumed that I would be a bahá’í myself. That choice was left to me, and I had the freedom to make it. I say this because, even though I was born into a bahá’í family, it was my choice to actually become a bahá’í. A choice I made because I believe in it. I believe in Bahá’u’llah’s Revelation. I believe in the principles and teachings of the Bahá’í Faith. I believe that they are the way through which we will be able to build a new world.

 

So I had the average childhood/teen years that every bahá’í child/teen can expect. I was very active. Participated in various local and national committees, every summer or winter school, conference, congress, teaching campaign… I tried my best to be a better person every day. Tried to focus on the good in people, abstain from backbiting and gossip, stay away from alcohol and other drugs, refrain from engaging in “lewd behavior”. Tried not to judge anyone and understand where they were coming from. Tried not to impose my points of view and beliefs to others, but to listen with interest and try to learn from their experiences. I tried to do good, and help people anytime the opportunity presented itself. This is how I was raised, and the person I strived to become, and still do.

 

Of course I had lots of friends. Male and female. But the way I felt about some of the girls that I met was different. At this point there was no sexual component to this feeling. I just wanted to be best friends with them. Get closer to them. Get to know them better. Build a relationship with them that would be different from the others that I had. I felt a deeper connection to girls. I loved my guy friends as well, but I never felt for a guy, what I felt for so many girls I met. I did not know then that I was gay. And I did not associate this feeling with anything physical at this point yet.

 

As I approached my 20s, it started dawning on me that maybe my lack of interest in deeper relationships with boys, and the excessive interest I had in girls could mean that I was gay. It was a shocking realization, and a difficult one to deal with. My first impulse was to just ignore this tiny detail of myself, and keep on with my life trying to conform to the accepted standard. The ONLY reason I had for that was the view of the Faith on the matter. I never thought gay people I met were lesser in any way, or less deserving of God’s or my love. I never thought what you decide to do with your life, as long as you do not harm others, should be anybody’s business, and much less mine.

 

As time went by, though, I was nowhere closer to winning this struggle. Never having been interested in boys, I had never been in a relationship. And I wanted one. Needed one. Not a sexual relationship. But a romantic one. I was NOT interested in having sex with girls, or anyone else for that matter, but I wanted to be in a relationship that was more than a friendship. I wanted romance, companionship, complicity… I wanted to love and feel loved. I wanted to build something with someone. And I could not, for the life of me, connect on that level to guys.

 

I had to do something. But how do I reconcile this part of me with being a bahá’í? I told myself that nobody’s perfect. I remembered a passage (and this is the reason for my earlier apology) in which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (I think) said that in order for someone to become a perfect bahá’í, all one needs to do is live by the teachings of one of the Hidden Words. And there are no perfect bahá’ís. There are no perfect bahá’ís. There are no perfect men. What this passage told me was that instead of concentrating on trying to be perfect in everything, I could just try to be perfect in one thing. I could continue to try to be a better person in every aspect of my life, and try to do good, and accept that I am flawed in many other aspects. My sexuality being one of them. I also thought of how other aspects of my spiritual and human development seemed more important in the scriptures. How there is only this one tiny passage in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas that might be related to sexual orientation, and how the massive majority of the Sacred Writings focus on other ways to perfect oneself, and get closer to God. That was my reasoning then. Or something in those lines. Of course it was much more complex and nerve-wrecking than that.

 

I started dating women. I started having relationships with women. Not sexual relationships, mind you, but those romantic ones I was craving. And I found myself. That was it. I finally understood what all the talks about marriage and relationships I had attended to in bahá’í events were all about. What all those romantic comedies I liked so much were all about. What it meant to love someone.

 

It still took me a very long time to actually have sex with someone. You see… I was already being bad for getting involved with women. I figured I should try to stray the least possible from the Teachings, so I wasn’t really sure at that point how I would handle the issue of sex. I started distancing myself from the community and my bahá’í friends. I can’t lie. And I didn’t feel comfortable hiding such a big part of who I was to people that meant so much to me. But I didn’t feel comfortable revealing it either. Stepping back felt like the only choice I had. I became a closeted gay when the bahá’ís were concerned, and a closeted bahá’í when the rest of the world was concerned. I didn’t want to “bring the name of the Faith into disrepute”.  I would only talk about it when asked, and make it clear what the reasons were for my estrangement from the Faith.

 

I finally reached a decision on the matter of sex. I couldn’t very well get married, so I would never be able to have sex in a lawful way. But I didn’t and still don’t want to deprive myself of the opportunity of building a relationship with someone. And sex is part of that. So I decided that only when in a long-term, committed relationship with someone that I would consider marrying (if it were possible) and building a family with, would I finally have sex.

 

That is the very short version of my story, but what I would really like to point out, and what I tried to convey, is that yes: sexual orientation has to do with physical attraction and sex, but that is only part of it. Like sex is only part of any relationship. And not even the most important part. Not the lasting part. Everything I learned in all those talks about marriage and love is that a good marriage is built on friendship, companionship, support, understanding, love… Sex sure is a component. But the rest is so much more important. And what we are being robbed of, by being denied the right to marry someone of the same sex that we love, is the opportunity and possibility to experience all those things.

 

I am not promiscuous. I do not engage in perverted sex practices. Homosexuality does not equal promiscuity! Not more than heterosexuality does. What I want is not a license to practice all sorts of perversions with whoever is available. I want to be allowed to be in a loving, monogamous relationship with someone that I actually love! And I have never loved a man. The only reason I might engage in extra-marital relations, is that I don’t have the option to be in a marital relation! But I am, nevertheless monogamous and faithful to my partner, when involved with anyone. Is that really immoral? To be in a loving monogamous relationship? Was it not considered immoral in the past for women not wear a veil? Or for people of different skin colors to engage in such a relationship? Is it still not considered immoral in some places, for people of different social classes to marry each other? Is that right?

 

Neither Bahá’u’lláh nor ‘Abdu’l-Bahá speak clearly of this issue. Bahá’u’lláh clearly states that we are to wash our feet every day during summer, and that the use of opium is forbidden. There are so many writings about the elimination of prejudice and judgment. About the harmony of religion and science. About loving and accepting all peoples, regardless of gender, race, nationality, religion… About so many other much more important topics. But just one passage in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas that was interpreted as referring also to homosexuals, in letters written on behalf of the Guardian, to individual believers… Is it too far a stretch to conceive that maybe, the Guardian was guiding the believers then, according to what was the generally accepted scientific belief that homosexuality was a disease, but didn’t intend to make such a big issue out of it since he never penned those letters himself, and never addressed the institutions when dealing with those topics? There are excellent posts about this and discussions about this in a number of blogs and forums, so I will not go deeper into this, but a couple of links that might be useful are http://justabahai.wordpress.com and http://bahairants.com. None of the people involved in this debate question the authority of the Guardian. But I think there just might be enough well informed and designed arguments to cast reasonable doubt as to what the real position of the Faith is with regards to homosexuality. Seems to me that it may very well be up to the UHJ to legislate on the matter.

 

In case this ruling really never changes, it is still no one’s right to judge how others live their private lives, as long as they aren’t doing harm. For those actions we are not accountable to anyone but God. IF, in the end, homosexuality really is a handicap that I have failed to overcome (and I do not subscribe to that theory), then it is only for God to judge me.


“All religions teach that we should love one another; that we should seek out our own shortcomings before we presume to condemn the faults of others, that we must not consider ourselves superior to our neighbours! We must be careful not to exalt ourselves lest we be humiliated.


Who are we that we should judge? How shall we know who, in the sight of God, is the most upright man? God’s thoughts are not like our thoughts! How many men who have seemed saint-like to their friends have fallen into the greatest humiliation. Think of Judas Iscariot; he began well, but remember his end! On the other hand, Paul, the Apostle, was in his early life an enemy of Christ, whilst later he became His most faithful servant. How then can we flatter ourselves and despise others?


Let us therefore be humble, without prejudices,  preferring others’ good to our own! Let us never say, ‘I am a believer but he is an infidel’, ‘I am near to God, whilst he is an outcast’. We can never know what will be the final judgment! Therefore let us help all who are in need of any kind of assistance.


Let us teach the ignorant, and take care of the young child until he grows to maturity. When we find a person fallen into the depths of misery or sin we must be kind to him, take him by the hand, help him to regain his footing, his strength; we must guide him with love and tenderness, treat him as a friend not as an enemy.


We have no right to look upon any of our fellow-mortals as evil.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá in “Paris Talks”)

 

In this passage, the beloved Master was talking about elimination of prejudice, more specifically, religious prejudice. But does it not apply to the elimination of any prejudice? In the same talk he goes on to talk about the elimination of prejudices of different natures, it is the same spirit. Who are we that we should judge?

 

During those 15 years after I first realized I was gay until now, I came to terms with my sexuality. It became a non-issue for me. It is who I am. Not by choice, but I don’t have any problems with it. I am gay. My skin is light. I have green eyes. I cry at happy endings. Just who I am. I am not sick. I am not a worse or better human being because of any of that.

 

 I never came to terms with being apart from the Faith and the community, though. For years I just believed that I would have to accept that I would never be part of that community again. That I could continue to try to live a bahá’í life independently and on my own, but it would be impossible for me to be accepted as who I am in this community. That thought made me deeply sad. The bahá’í community is supposed to embrace and accept everyone. It is what the whole of human kind needs. Not just straight people. It’s supposed to be free of prejudice and discrimination. Having grown up in that community, I knew bahá’ís could be very accepting of many things, but not of this particular thing.  Note that I do not blame the Faith in any way for that. I believe in the Faith and Its Teachings. I can’t stress that too much.

 

In the recent past I’ve been struggling with the question of whether or not to try to come back to the community. I feel lost, and I’ve been trying to find myself again, and my way back to the Faith. I started doing some research online and came across various blogs and forums debating the issue of homosexuality in the Faith. I found some pretty compelling arguments against the discrimination that we suffer in the community. I am not gonna get into that now, cause this is already a pretty long text as it is, but I was filled with joy and relief that there might be a possibility for this reconciliation. Even if all those arguments are wrong (which is not what I believe), even if homosexuality is indeed a “spiritual handicap” that we must strive to overcome (which, again, is not what I believe), that is still no reason for homosexuals to be discriminated against or shunned in any way.

 

I believe now that this reconciliation is possible. Between who I am and the teachings of the Faith. Even if it isn’t, the reconciliation between who I am and the Bahá’í Community is a no-brainer to me. We must welcome, love and embrace the whole of human kind. Sexuality is no reason not to. There is no conceivable reason not to.

 

I hope, with all my heart, that I can find my way back to the Faith and the community. Me, and all of us who are in the same situation. I am starting here. Thanks for providing this space that welcomes and supports us.

 

Mireille

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