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« Letter to the UHJ and NSA of the USA | Main | A straight Baha'i experiencing crisis of faith »

I'll Decide if I'm Oppressed

I'm a Baha'i who is bi in physical orientation, and in my own lived experience, I find the letter of the Universal House of Justice tremendously liberating, rather than oppressive. I would like to share an alternative perspective, which is solely my own.

This Guidance affirms that my nature, at is deepest level, is that of a soul, rather than the socially constructed categories of gender, class, etc. To know that gender and sexuality, while beautiful facets of the human experience, are not the totality of my being is emancipatory, in that I am not obligated to self-define according to someone else's socially contructed categories – that my essence transcendes these shifting definitions. I've felt more exclusion in queer communities than I have in spiritual communities, of multiple denominations. There are many ways too many queer communities send subtle messages of non-inclusion: “You're not muscular or fashionable enough, you're not welcome in this gay space. You haven't read enough Foucault, you're not welcome. You don't drink alcohol, this space is not for you. You're dress and music are not punk enough, you don't belong. You don't have the right body type, you're not welcome.” There is a tremendous pressure to conform to right body image, the right politics, the right brands....and this is called liberation. I recall an experience where I was invited as a guest to a Mormon church, and while I did not hide my political views at the time, I received nothing but warmth, hospitality, and welcome. This was a contrast to my University's GSA, which was cliquish and exclusionary.

If you would like you are welcome to share these reflections with your readers, though I would prefer if you did so anonymously – more out of concern for how fellow queer people would respond than the insitutions. I'll share another example – I went to the Transcending Boundaries conference ( a big genderqueer conference) and was frequently sexually propositioned, to the degree that I felt uncomfortable. When I didn't respond to some activist's advances, I was told that I needed to “not be so repressed” – using the rhetoric of queer liberation to rationalize sexual harassment. That has never happend to me in Baha'i spaces, where I feel much safer from harassment than in queer spaces. Furthermore, as a person in recovery, I cannot frequent many queer spaces because drugs and alcohol are too prevalent.

I'd also like to clarify my use of “bi” – I use this term as a shorthand, to define the way my body is wired. However, I don't define as “culturally bi”, because little of the cultural trappings of “bi” as a scene, rather than as an orientation, resonate with me.

In short, if liberation is about self-determination and autonomy, then I will, as an individual, determine whether I feel oppressed in a given situation or not, and in this one I don't. And isn't mandating that someone feel oppressed, when they do not, itself a form of oppression?

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