The Subject of Boys

Baha’i Curious? Religion & Sexuality

Baha’is Believe in the Oneness of God. The Oneness of Humanity. The Oneness of Religion.

What got me was the idea of progressive revelation; in essence, that no one prophet is it, that Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Zoroaster, Buddha, the Bab and Baha’u’llah — who Baha’is believe is the most recent manifestation of God — have come based on the needs of humanity for the era in which they lived.

I’ve visited the Baha’i World Center in Israel twice and I’ve opened my home in New York City for devotionals hundreds of times. I share the ideas of the Baha’i Faith with those who are curious and have been an active member within the community. Aside from my parents, the Baha’i Faith has cultivated and shaped who I’ve become in my life, and it is the most consistent community to which I’ve belonged.

{josquote}That’s why it’s so heart-breaking that I’m considering leaving the Baha’i Faith.{/josquote}

That’s why it’s so heart-breaking that I’m considering leaving the Baha’i Faith.

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A response to a gay Baha'i

{josquote}It seemed to me the same things kept getting discussed, and the same ideas were repeated so often that I became very bored with the whole topic.{/josquote}

Back before the Internet's widespread use, when people were using electronic bulletin boards and e-mail lists to discuss various things, I was often engaged in groups that discussed the Baha'i Faith. Back then, a common topic was the fact that our religion, the Baha'i Faith, teaches that people ought not express love through homosexual behaviors. The sources of that teaching, the actual teaching, how that teaching is interpreted, what was actually intended, how the teaching is implemented in Baha'i community life... all these things were regularly discussed. And then, in the later 1990s more people became involved in internet discussions of these things. It seemed to me the same things kept getting discussed, and the same ideas were repeated so often that I became very bored with the whole topic. It's been over ten years since I've ever posted on this topic, but a recent blog post inspired me to write about it again. I think I offer a few insights that are not often repeated in these discussions.

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Gay Baha'i man withdraws from faith over its anti-LGBT stance

Rich Tarpening, left, and his husband, Sean Rayshel Photo: Courtesy Sean Rayshel

A gay California man who's advocated for LGBTs in the Baha'i faith recently withdrew from the religion over its anti-gay stance.

Sean Rayshel, 36, is a third-generation American Baha'i who founded the LGBT Baha'i Twitter account Gay Baha'is United, is co-administrator of the Facebook group "LGBTQ Baha'is and Allies," and heads LGBT Baha'i online site Gay/Lesbian Baha'i Story Project.

A May 2014 letter that Rayshel believes was circulated by Baha'i leadership says, "To regard a person who has a homosexual orientation with prejudice or disdain is entirely against the spirit of the faith."

However, the letter from the faith's Universal House of Justice's Department of the Secretariat also says, "Marriage is a union between a man and a woman, and sexual relations are only permissible between husband and wife."

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Baha’i Curious: Why Can’t My Religion Accept My Sexuality?

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I’ve been a Baha’i since April 21, 2007.

I came out of the closet November 4, 2010, at age 24.

I’ve been gay, however, since as far back as I can remember.

I first learned about the Baha’i Faith from a Persian classmate at my high school in Auburn, Maine. We’re best of friends 15 years later, still.

{josquote}What concerns me are the contradictions within the guidance of the Baha’i Faith and how that affects what is, in all other respects, the most accepting, loving and global community I’ve ever known.{/josquote}

She invited me over to her family home for a devotional. There, I met friends from around the world from various faiths, races and backgrounds. This diversity was intoxicating in my humble, if not sheltered, hometown of 30,000 people. I was awe-struck by the oneness that I felt at the devotional. There were songs, prayers, food and fellowship. I went back every Thursday after and became a Baha’i seven years later. It has informed, guided and enriched my life in every way imaginable.

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