Coming Out and Coming Back


Wednesday, April 25, 2018 (All day)


1201 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
Rediscovering Hinduism after comping out. Dr. Om Lala, MD, MBA, MPH '12, AB '06, former President of Dharma and Founder of the Harvard Interfaith Council, will begin by discussing his experience of grappling with his Hindu faith after coming out as gay. Treating Dr. Lala's experiences as a case study, we will then ask and discuss broader questions around Hinduism, sexual orientation, and how everyone comes out in some way or another. Refreshments will be served. Location: Lowell Inn 1201 Mass Ave Second Floor. Pluralism Project Summary: Dr. Om Lala, an alum of Harvard University, Harvard Medical School, and Harvard Business school, spoke to Dharma, Harvard’s Hindu Student Association, about his process of coming out as gay and reconciling his sexuality with his Hindu faith. During his time as an undergraduate Dr. Lala was the president of Dharma and founded Harvard’s Interfaith Council. The event was held at Lowell House, and about twenty-five people attended. Most attendees were undergraduates affiliated with Dharma, but a few graduate students were also present. Professor Eck presided over the event as part of her role as faculty dean of Lowell House. The Dharma presidents began the event by stating how excited they were to host a former Dharma president, and how it important it is to them to be proactively inclusive to all of their members. Professor Eck then introduced Dr. Lala. Dr. Lala’s talk essentially followed the arc of his coming out story, with Professor Eck occasionally pushing him to give more details, saying at one point, “Okay let’s get to the good stuff,” which was greeted with an appreciative laugh from the audience. Growing up and throughout college, Dr. Lala was deeply committed to Hinduism. He saw lust and sex as obstacles to liberation and felt that his homosexuality was a challenge to be overcome. In medical school he only experienced people talking about homosexuality in terms of pathology, for instance when speaking about HIV-positive patients. It was only when he went to business school that he began his journey of coming out. The diversity of his classmates and the intimate networking and personal interactions encouraged between students forced him to deal with some of his preconceived stereotypes about the LGBTQ community. He wrote a paper about gayness as a brand for a marketing class, and his professor reached out to him and encouraged him to come out to his classmates. Dr. Lala began to see a therapist who was also trained as a Zen priest. Coming out to his parents was difficult, but ultimately healing. In the past six years since he has come out, Dr. Lala has felt himself drift away from Hinduism, but he is now in the process of reclaiming his faith. After the talk, questions from the audience largely revolved around asking Dr. Lala about his process of coming back to Hinduism, and about how Dharma could be more supportive of its LGBTQ members. This summary was written by a Pluralism Project staff member who attended the event.