1990's: Findings of professional mental health associations which conflict with Bahá'í belief:
The Bahá'í faith teaches that persons with a homosexual or bisexual orientation can change become heterosexual through personal effort and therapy. Further, they must try to change.
However, a number of professional organizations concluded during the 1990's that a person's sexual orientation is fixed in adulthood, and that it cannot be changed through therapy or prayer. These groups issued statements; three were:
"There is no published scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of 'reparative therapy' as a treatment to change ones sexual orientation." American Psychiatric Association fact sheet, 1994-SEP. 1
"...scientific evidence does not show that conversion therapy works." American Psychological Association, 1994. 2
"...[reparative therapy] can provoke guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation." American Academy of Pediatrics, 1993. 3
"We have campaigned for some years against conversion or 'reparative' therapy. We believe that it is an ethical offence for one of our members to offer or conduct such therapy. ... conversion therapy in relation to gender identity and sexual orientation is unethical, potentially harmful and is not supported by evidence." UK Council for Psychotherapy, 2018. 10
"Scientific research does not support the efficacy of conversion or reparative therapy ...Conversion or reparative therapy can result in negative outcomes such as distress, anxiety, depression, negative self-image, a feeling of personal failure, difficulty sustaining relationships, and sexual dysfunction ... There is no evidence that the negative effects of conversion or reparative therapy counterbalance any distress caused by the social stigma and prejudice these individuals may experience." Canadian Psychological Association, 2015. 11
2012: Exodus International abandoned reparative therapy:
Exodus International was the main non-profit organization promoting change in sexual orientation through prayer and reparative therapy, worldwide.
After almost four decades devoted to trying to help persons with a homosexual or bisexual orientation to become heterosexual through their own efforts, Alan Chambers of Exodus Internationalacknowledged that reparative therapy simply did not work. He apologized to the LGBT community for the harm that his group had done to individuals, and closed down their organization.
2012 until now: Research has found that epigenetic markers on DNA determine homosexuality before a person's birth:
Human sexuality researchers had long suspected that a person's sexual orientation is determined before birth. and is not caused by a person's choice or upbringing.
One indicator of this was that if one fraternal twin is gay, the chances of the other being gay is about 5%. But, if the twins are identical -- that is, if they have identical DNA) -- then the chances are about 20%. Extensive research was conducted to identify the gene or genes responsible. It was not particularly successful.
A second indicator is that female relatives of male gay persons have a higher birth rate.
The researchers at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) at the University of Tennessee suspected that same-sex attraction may be caused or influenced not by genes themselves, but by epigenetics. This term refers to a layer on top of a person's DNA whose markers make:
"... chemical changes to DNA that affect how genes are expressed, but not the information they contain." 4
NIMBioS defines "homosexuality" to include all same-sex sexual attraction, and thus include the full range of homosexual and bisexual orientations.
A test was later developed that examines three epigenetic markers in the saliva of males. It predicts with excellent accuracy (83%) which males have a homosexual orientation. 5 Over time, the test is expected to be refined so that it becomes even more accurate. These markers are first produced in human embryos, and continue unchanged until birth and beyond. Thus, a person's homosexual orientation is clearly set up before birth, and is not chosen later in life. More details.
2015-MAR: A personal note on Reddit:
A former Bahá'í member, "TheBlackestForest," posted the following moving document:
"... maybe it's possible to be a solitary Baha'i and love Baha'u'llah on my own, but all I can think of is how such a perfect man described the perfect world to us. I've read the Writings, and sexual minorities aren't part of the Plan. We're not part of the perfect world the Baha'is want. They want a world where we don't exist. They want a world where we give the Faith our lives and our passions in service to God, but where we quietly sit in the back and are happy for our place and are aware of our sinful nature like a herd of obedient peasants. They want a world where sexual minorities meekly accept that loving someone of the same gender means they're of the same spiritual condition as a murderer, [or] a wife-beater. They want a world were sexual minorities put their head down and give up hope of personal happiness so they'll be rewarded when they die. What a raw deal. ..."
So we come to why I'm not a Baha'i: I value myself. That's it. Nineteen years of trying to be somewhat I wasn't nearly destroyed me. Ten years of accepting myself has transformed me into a stable, healthy, happy member of society. I am a rational person. I look at results. Valuing my "illness" as a normal expression of human sexuality has benefited me and the people around me. My misery and repression served no one.
I'm so sorry to give up on the perfect world the Baha'is are striving for, because their vision is a lovely one and I wanted it to come true for the longest time... but it's a vision that excludes millions and millions of people. 8 It's not universal. I can't place absolute faith in a man who denies my reality. God gave me a brain. I must use it." 6
The length of the above excerpt is limited here by copyright laws. The full posting is well worth reading and is available online. 7
2016 to 2018: Discussion of homosexuality within the Bahá'í faith's main web site:
The web site of the worldwide Bahá'í community which presents the faith to the general public is at: http://www.bahai.org. On 2016-JAN-12, the web site's internal search facility was used to search for articles on the following words and phrases: gay, lesbian, sexual orientation, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, homosexual, homosexuality, LGBT, GLBT, transgender, transgendered 7 and transsexual.
All of the searches returned zero results. These topics did not appear to be discussed anywhere on the main Bahá'í web site during early 2016.
This was repeated on 2017-NOV-20 with the same results.
However, on 2018-AUG-13, a repeat search found eight references to "homosexual." One is a reference to Yhe Kitáb-i-Aqdas: paragraph 107. It bans sexual activities between men and "boys." The Baha'i Reference Library states:
"The word translated here as 'boys' has, in this context, in the Arabic original, the implication of pederasty. Shoghi Effendi has interpreted this reference as a prohibition on all homosexual relations." 7
Wikipedia states that:
"The commonly accepted reference definitions of pederasty refer to a sexual relationship, or to copulation, between older and younger males. The OED [Oxford English Dictionary] offers: "Homosexual relations between a man and a boy; homosexual anal intercourse, usually with a boy or younger man as the passive partner." 8
This Baha'i Reference Library statement is probably as close as the Bahá'í faith can currently get to declaring that Shoghi Effendi's position on homosexuality is based on his mistranslation, without openly stating that Effendi was wrong on this matter and should to be ignored.
2017: House of Justice's position on homosexuality:
They continue to stress that the only permitted sexual behavior is between one woman and one man who are legally married to each other. Persons who engage in sexual behavior with members of the same sex, and who actively spread knowledge of their activity can have their rights and freedoms within the faith restricted. This policy includes legally married same-sex couples.
Future change will be difficult, because the Shoghi Effendi's interpretation of the Bahá'í sacred texts plainly forbids all same-gender sexual behavior, regardless of age and marital status of the individuals involved. He was the last
authorized interpreter of the Bahá'í Teachings and did not select a successor. There is no way for the Bahá'í religion to alter any of his teachings.
In the future, an increasing percentage of people worldwide accept the beliefs of professional mental health organizations. Current Bahá'í teachings will become increasingly incompatible with scientific findings. Yet one of the main principles of the religion is that established scientific findings overrule religious beliefs. There are no obvious ways to resolve this dilemma quickly. The Bahá'í faith may become increasingly rejected by potential members for its intolerance of sexual minorities.
Four possible paths forward for the Bahá'í Faith to resolve their conflicts over homosexuality:
One possible path would be for them to give progressively less emphasis on this topic. To give three examples, there are passages in the Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a. Old Testament) that:
Discuss men who have married multiple wives. Solomon was the record holder with 700 wives and 300 concubines.
Require brides to be executed if, at their first marriage, they are non-virgin.
Require a female rape victim to marry her rapist.
Many conservative Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe that the Hebrew Scriptures are God's word, inerrant, and unchangeable as they were originally written. Yet they generally ignore these policies which they no longer practice today. Perhaps the Bahá'í faith could follow the same path, and simply ignore their faith's prohibition of all same-gender sexual behavior.
A second possible path might be to regard Baha’u’llah's writing on homosexuality as being valid at the time that they were written, but not necessarily today. Two centuries ago, there were some sexually transmitted infections (STI) that were medically untreatable and potentially fatal. The only way to avoid them at the time was for individuals to remain celibate until marriage and then have no sexual affairs outside of marriage.
Since no country allowed homosexuals to marry when Baha’u’llah was alive, then Bahá'í safey considerations at the time would have permanently precluded all same-gender sexual behavior. However, with modern advances to detect, treat, cure, and prevent the transmission of STI's, the church could decide to consider such same-sex behavior to be acceptable today.
A third path might be to declare Baha’u’llah teachings to no longer be inerrant, at least on the topic of sexual orientation. However, that would be a major step for the faith.
A fourth path might be to declare that Shoghi Effendi's statement on homosexuality refers only to adult males engaging in sexual activities with children. Again, this would be a major step.
A potentionally positive change:
A Canadian group was organized in 1989, called: the Bahá'í Network on AIDS, Sexuality, Addictions and Abuse (BNASAA). Its web site states that:
"BNASAA is a committee appointed by and under the guidance of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’is of Canada."
"... to explore Bahá'í principles and concepts related to AIDS, human sexuality, addictions, abuse and other challenging personal issues, and to consider questions and concerns that arise in the application of these principles to Bahá'í community development."
As of 2018-AUG, both their web site and Facebook group only contain information about the organization's conferences meetings.
The BNASAA home page on their web site has a group of links labeled with some very interesting topics: HIV/AIDS, Sexuality, Addictions, Abuse, Events, Additional Sources, Bahá'í Faith. Unfortunately, none of the links are active. They all return the visitor to the home page.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Christopher Munsey, et al., "Insufficient evidence to support sexual orientation change efforts," American Psychological Association, October 2009 Monitor on Psychology, Vol 40, #9, at: http://www.apa.org/
"Counseling the Gay and Lesbian Client: Treatment Issues and Conversion Therapy," AllPsych, 2003-AUG-12, at: https://allpsych.com/
Sara Reardon, "Epigenetic 'tags' linked to homosexuality in men," Nature magazine, 2015-OCT-08, at: http://www.nature.com/
This estimate is conservative. The world's population was about 7.4 billion humans in 2016. The percentage of adults who have a homosexual orientation is about 5%. That implies that 370 million people around the world have a homosexual orientation. That is roughly the population of the U.S.