In some cases, patients who are diagnosed with severe epilepsy are treated with a surgery that severs the connections between the left and right sides of their brains. In many ways, these individuals have two separate brains that see, hear, and respond to different things.
This division in the brain leads to a body that processes the world as if it were two separate parts, and many fascinating effects can result.
Though I myself have my brain still connected, I can empathize with their position. I find myself in an analogous (if less extreme) situation each day I wake up at Harvard. I grapple with two sides of myself: being gay and being Christian.
I am Two.
I went to Regis High School—an all-boys, Jesuit, Catholic high school in New York City. Despite the Catholic Church’s position that homosexual feelings are an “objective disorder” and homosexual actions are a “moral disorder,” I always felt loved and welcomed. Indeed, Regis exemplified Jesus Christ’s greatest commandment: to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Over the course of my time at Regis, I came out on a religious retreat as gay; an LGBTQ+ Advocacy Club was formed; I became the club’s co-president; and I had numerous conversations with priests, teachers, and friends about the LGBTQ+ community’s relationship with Christian teaching. Some of my closest friends were against gay marriage, but it didn’t matter: We were all equal in the eyes of God. We all loved each other. Even if at times I was at odds with what many believe to be correct Christian teaching, I could loyally dissent and be considered a valued member of the community.
At Harvard, however, I can’t be both Christian and gay. I am forced to choose.
I am Two.
Recently, Harvard College Faith and Action invited speaker Jackie Hill-Perry, noted for being a self-proclaimed ex-gay hip-hop artist, to campus to speak about “Sexuality and Self-Denial.” LGBTQ+ groups and individuals plan to protest the event in order to challenge her “hateful messages.” While I believe that Hill-Perry has good intentions and that her message is not hateful, it is irrefutably harmful: She is saying that my Christianity means I must change my homosexuality.
Given this invitation, HCFA’s claim in an email to their membership that they do not invite speakers who “support gay conversion therapy” is laughable. Hill-Perry has stated in the past that she believes that God can simply change desires. Of course, such a claim is utterly ridiculous, as scientific evidence has strongly indicated a biological origin for homosexuality. More importantly, however, her language is eerily similar to the logic used by those who support conversion therapy.
In this form of pseudoscientific treatment, “therapists” claim to be able to change sexual orientation and same-sex attraction. Not only does this form of therapy not work, it also harms the individuals who undergo it, significantly increasing the risks of suicide, depression, drug use, and STD infection.
Furthermore, HCFA’s lack of a concurrent invitation of someone who either seeks to have a dialogue with the LGBTQ+ community—such as Fr. James J. Martin, SJ, author of “Building A Bridge”—or has different views on how Christians should view homosexuality—such as Daniel A. Helminiak, author of “What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality”—is concerning. Frankly, it seems to demonstrate a desire by HCFA to indoctrinate its members by providing one viewpoint instead of allowing them to, as stated in the aforementioned email, “commune with each other” and “challenge ourselves.”
Nevertheless, though there were many far less controversial and more effective speakers HCFA could have invited, it would be a mistake to un-invite Hill-Perry. In the words of Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis, the best way to combat fallacies and false (even offensive) speech is “more speech, not enforced silence.” Silently protesting the event is a powerful way to engage in this spirit.
Still, it is clear that Christianity at Harvard needs to go to confession. It has forced me and many others to split ourselves in half.
I am the Lorenzo who is out of the closet and proud to be a gay man. The Lorenzo who speaks about the LGBTQ+ community with pride and joy. The Lorenzo who loves his identity and his life.
But I am also the Lorenzo who sits in the pews each Sunday, knowing that he is not welcome the way he is. The Lorenzo who watches as Christian organizations single out what they believe to be his “sin” when we are all sinners. The Lorenzo who hides who he truly is and watches love crumble into the ashes we all will become.
I am Two.
On July 4, 2014, the Macy’s Independence Day Parade played silently in the background, and I could watch in my peripheral vision the balloons gently floating by on the TV.
I tried to say the words, but, no matter how hard I tried, they just wouldn’t come out of my mouth. It was almost as if someone had cupped my mouth. Eventually, I felt as though I couldn’t breathe, and I blurted out the words.
That night, I bawled into oblivion. It was as if a great weight had been lifted. Indeed, it was a religious experience. One that has made me who I am today and put me in the pews each Sunday.
So HCFA, if you really care about us—if you even give an iota of a damn about the struggles we face—then show it. Show that I can be one with who I am.
For the love of God, prove that you care.
Lorenzo F. Manuali ’21, a Crimson Associate Editorial Editor, lives in DeWolfe.
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