adMISSION: HLS

Queer Students Celebrate Spiritual Community at HLS

Jess’s Story

I grew up attending Catholic mass with my parents and siblings at a monastery in Mexico. As the priest made his way to the altar, the copal, frankincense and myrrh mixed in the air. Deep breaths to take it all in were inevitable. A deep sense of peace accompanied my sense of awe and wonder – I belonged. I belonged in that moment and in the universe. After mass, we shared meals prepared by the nuns – the tamales and vanilla raspados were my favorite! These early childhood experiences shaped my sense of responsibility for my community and informed my commitment to social justice issues.

When I came to the U.S. and experienced family separation due to immigration policies and borders, I yearned for that peace and belonging. As a youth leader in my local church, I attended weekly Bible study meetings and planned annual retreats with other youths. Civic engagement was informed by my Catholic faith and was a core aspect of my development as a young leader. When the priest asked youth leaders to choose between their service to the Church and their Queer existence, I knew the Catholic church would not be the space where my queer awe, wonder, community, peace, and belonging could thrive.

I continued my search for such a place throughout my life. When I enrolled at HLS, I sought out the various student-led faith groups and realized it was time to create the space I envisioned that did not yet exist. Meeting Gabe and others as we envision the future for the Queer Spirituality group at HLS has been a breath of fresh air and a relief. We create this space because we are here, we are queer, and we are not alone in our shared need for queer spaces of faith.

Gabe’s Story

When my admissions interviewer asked what I was most excited for at Harvard Law School, the answer came easily: community. As a law student, I knew other students could inspire me to academic success. But as a queer Christian, I believed that community had the power to do so much more.

Growing up as a pastor’s kid, my religious community was like a second family to me. I learned that church was a place where we celebrate, mourn, and navigate the difficulties of life together. Yet in my early twenties, I began privately exploring my queerness and grappling with the realities of Trump-era evangelicalism. The community I once knew and loved began to feel distant, disapproving, and hypocritical.

Finally, the summer before my 1L year began, a church member outed me to my family. I’d never felt more betrayed or isolated, but I clung to my faith. I knew that God loved and accepted me, but that it was time for me to join a community that also affirmed these truths.

Coming to HLS, I searched for that new kind of community. I longed for other LGBTQ+ students who had religious beliefs or were curious about their own spirituality to feel welcomed, accepted, and whole at HLS. That’s why, during our virtual 1L year, I started the “Queer Spirituality” group within Lambda (the school’s LGBTQ+ affinity group). It’s an interfaith group of students who gather not only to celebrate spirituality, but to talk through the tough parts of law school and life as queer soon-to-be lawyers. Since returning to in-person learning, we’ve had regular “coffee house” hours where we eat pastries, drink coffee, and talk with queer Harvard Chaplains of various religious denominations who are there to support and encourage us. We take a break from the hectic parts of law school to be present with one another, a fellowship which I believe is an act of faith.

I hope that one day my own religious denomination will awaken to the reality of God’s love for the queer people God created. Until then, I’m thankful for spaces like HLS’s Queer Spirituality group, where LGBTQ+ folks can celebrate the diverse beauty we bring to our religions.

Queer Spirituality at HLS

Queer Spirituality is a subgroup within Lambda. HLS Lambda is an affinity group which provides social and political community for the 180+ LGBTQ+ students at Harvard Law School. Queer Spirituality is available for queer students of all religions (or none!) who seek to celebrate, explore, or interrogate their spirituality. For more information, please feel free to reach out to us at gcrofford@jd23.law.harvard.edu and jvalenzuelarami@jd23.law.harvard.edu.

Filed in: Student Voices