I grew up in the Faith. It was a lovely childhood filled with laughter, many friends, scores of potlucks and beautiful memories of Sunday worship at the Teaneck cabin and trips to Wilmette. My mother was Bahai and it was her deepest wish that my sister and I join the Faith. When I came of age in the late 80s and considered declaring, I simply couldn't because I knew that I was gay and frankly saw no difference in the less than enlightened views against gays or lesbians within the Bahai Faith than the most notoriously conservative Christian denominations. It always struck me as odd that for a Faith that believed in the oneness of humankind and embraced diversity, that GLBT communities and relationships remained outside of that embrace. I have encountered many Bahais as an adult and quite a few have mentioned that being gay should not have been enough of a reason to keep me from the Faith. Would you join a Faith that did not recognize you or your life partner? Probably not. I suspect that many others who grew up in the Faith (as I had) have also moved elsewhere for spiritual guidance rather than deal with the soft bigotry implicit in some of the Faith's teachings. It is particularly profound for me because I am scientist and it is disheartening to see that science and faith are not wings of a dove when it comes to the Faith's Paleozoic (and damaging) teachings on homosexuality.
My mother passed away a few years ago and we held the service in the Bahai temple of my youth. It was wonderful to see many old friends and colleagues, and the Bahai community as a whole were gracious and comforting. For a few days afterward, I reconsidered my decision not to join the Faith; but knew that I had made the right decision. My life had changed too much. I had a wonderful partner (soon to be current husband) and was about to start a job at the White House working for a President who has done more to recognize and institutionalize basic civil liberties for gays and lesbians than any other force in my lifetime. I feel sorry for a gay Bahai in a post on another blog who mentioned that he renounced his membership after being part of the Faith for 35 years. I know now that any person or organization that does not fully accept my humanity might still earn my respect, but will never be worthy of my allegiance. The Faith will evolve. The question is time. Let's hope that it does so before losing others as it had lost me.