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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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« Growing up gay in the Baha'i community | Main | Out Gay Baha'i who loves the Faith »

How I became a Baha'i...

I was raised in a religiously mixed household. My dad’s an Atheist, my mum’s Christian. I don’t have any siblings. My mum has never been very religious or spiritual at all, she just prays from time to time, especially for those she loves. My dad has also never done anything religious. He just attends church if one of his close family members invites him for a special feast or something. My grandma used to take me to church services and wanted me to get in touch with God.

I always had the feeling that God is there and that I can pray to Him all the time. He appeared like a friend to me, a great and lovely brother and a father. So, God has always been like a family to me.

At the time I was around 11 or 12, I slightly realised that I might be different than all the others at my school or my friends. There was like strong feeling of being attracted to all the males around me. I didn’t know how to call it. As I got older, I found a word to describe these feelings: I could call them “gay”. But I didn’t want to be gay. I began to pray to God that He may help changing, altering my feelings. I did this for like 2 years. During this time I got in touch with a girl. We became very close and I thought that I could try to love her. So, I talked myself into falling in love with her. It was weird. We got along very well and became very close. We even went to some dancing lessons together and at my school, people began to spread the news that I was in love with her. I appreciated this as I wanted to become straight. And I also didn’t want my fellow pupils to find that I might be gay. As I realised that I cannot change I had some suicidal thoughts. I was about 14 or 15 years old when I was thinking of putting an end to my life – I was unable to feel love for a woman and I could tell anyone about this. Everybody thought I was sad since I the girlfriend I was “officially” in love with did not want to be in a relationship with me. But, indeed, I actually was depressed and down due to me being gay.

One night, I was praying again – like I had done a lot during the last two years. I was crying and weeping. Then, I asked God to give me a sign: if I am supposed to be gay, give me a sign please. Make me feel it. And, for sure, He did! He gave me a sign. He made me feel better and better from this moment onwards. It was like a revelation to me: God wants me to be gay! (I came out to friends, family, school, and my “home village” (about 1,000 inhabitants) when I was about 16 or 17.)

When I was in 8th grade, I read about the Bahai Faith for the first time in my life. It was just one page in a book on religion in the 21st century. The idea of unity in diversity astonished me.

As soon as I had experienced that I am gay, I felt very unwelcomed in the church. Even though a Protestant church that I belonged to, I felt rather uncomfortable with being a member of the church. This was not only based in my gayness, but also in some other understanding of the nature of Jesus Christ as well as the belief in the trueness of other Faiths and some other things I was thinking about.

I began to study Islam and the Quran and investigated Buddhism. The Kitab-i-Aqdas was the first Bahai Holy Book that I have ever read. Somewhere in between the age of 15 and 21 I read it as well as some secondary literature about the Bahai Faith. During that time, I was an active member of an online forum and had lots of discussions and conversations with Bahais. We also discussed the issue of LGBT people and being Bahai. When I turned 20 I left the church since I could no longer call myself a Christian (at least not in terms of the church’s definition). One year later, I met Bahais for the first time. I realised that I actually are already a Bahai as I believed in the Quran as well as in the Gospel and the Scriptures of Baha’u’llah. I declared after a few weeks and it was – I think – the greatest decision I’ve ever made so far.

Due to some apartment trouble, I moved into a house of a Bahai family for about 3 months. During that time, I came out to my LSA. I wrote a letter to them that I could not have a relationship with a woman as it would have no true basis, no true feelings. I wanted to be truthful and honest – to my community and to myself. I was very involved in an organisation that went to schools to educate about LGBT people. My community and my LSA knew that. As I said that I’m not going to undertake any kind of therapy, they did not talk to me about this issue (I wasn’t interested either).

One night, a friend of mine was staying at my room as he had missed the train back home. The family I was living with told me the other day that it was not a good idea to take gay men to their house. I told them that he wasn’t gay (he wasn’t, indeed) and that he just missed the train etc. Then, they told me the story of a Bahai’s daughter in the community who was lesbian. Then, they said that she was also not allowed to be a Bahai. They told me that as an LGBT individual you cannot become a Bahai. Well, that was a shock. Fortunately, I moved into another flat share closer to Uni. I was really shocked by that. I knew that it must be a hard life for LGBT Bahai, but to state that they are not allowed to accept Baha’u’llah is harsh.

I had a really tough summer after that. I felt that I did not fit into the gay community that I had got to know until then. All gay men I had met so far were very promiscuous. I didn’t want to live a promiscuous lifestyle, I just wanted to find a guy I could be happy with. The words of the Bahai family and also a letter of the NSA which said that I could not serve in children’s classes and youth groups really made my summer. I had lots of trouble. I felt attracted to some guys during that time. I just wanted someone to be loved by. I began to drink alcohol a lot when I was out with friends. One night, I ended up totally intoxicated. In about 30 minutes, I drunk about some alcoholic cocktails, mostly with vodka. I cannot remember properly how many I had been drinking. But I continued to drink as much as possible. I can hardly remember what I did during that night. I can only remember that I went into the toilette and was sitting on the ground in a toilette booth for one or two hours, crying and vomiting and wishing to die. Fortunately, I texted my flat mate who fetched me from the club. I can’t remember properly what had happened that night. I was just so down and felt so horrible. I had those words in my mind that I cannot be a Bahai and love honestly.

Fortunately, I moved into another city because I changed my studies. I got in touch with another Bahai community. There, I met some really awesome people. I came out to some of them after a couple of months and they gave me so much love, appreciation, and respect. None of them told me that I cannot and a Bahai and gay at the same time. I became strengthened and felt welcomed. One of them even wants to write a letter to the NSA to ask for a gathering for discussing the issue of LGBT people and LGBT Bahais. During the Youth Conference a couple of weeks ago, I met some people who have a totally different understanding of sexuality and would welcome LGBT folks into the Faith. The letter of the UHJ from January 2010 shows that something is about to change. I think that the younger generation will make a change in the Bahai community. We just need to reach out to them and explain them our experiences, our feelings, show them our understanding of the teachings.

As long as the Bahai Faith does not welcome LGBT people in their ranks, they will never unite humankind in diversity. They will just become a bigoted group of people who reject a great minority. LGBT people and Bahais can learn so much from one another. LGBT people are the ones that face one of the strongest persecutions and some of the most hateful prejudices day by day. Bahais strive to extinguish all forms of prejudice form the world and their lives. There must be a way of reconciliation. We will come to a deeper understanding of the words of the Blessed Beauty, Who came for all humankind, and the writings of the Master, Who was to show us love, unity, and universal brotherhood. We will gain a better understanding and differentiation of things the Guardian wrote and things his secretaries wrote.

| Say: O servants! Let not the means of order be made the cause of confusion and the instrument of union an occasion for discord. We fain would hope that the people of Bahá may be guided by the blessed words: “Say: all things are of God.” | Bahá’ulláh

N.

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