Timothy Kurek, A Straight Religious Guy from Tennessee Acts Gay for a Year
Why would anyone want to invite discrimination? Timothy Kurek went undercover to experience what life is like for a LGB person. Prompted by a lesbian acquaintenance who was rejected from her family four years ago, Kurek explained that he initially wanted to convert her.. His first reaction to her was to tell her to repent.
What He Did For a Year
To wrestle his ambivalence about homosexuality, he decided to come out in a big way. He got a job in a gay cafe, hung out in a gay bar, and joined a gay softball league. He was out to everybody: friends, and family. Most of his friends dumped him as a result, and his mother did not take the news well. Said Kurek in http://Timothy Kurek, Straight Christian Man, ‘Comes Out” And Pretends To Be Gay For a Year, Huffpost Gay Voices, 10/13/12, “ I snooped in my mother’s journal one day after I had come out and she’d written, “I rather have found out from a doctor that I had terminal cancer than have a gay son.” But he says she eventually came to terms with his “sexuality” and went from being a very conservative Christian to being an ally to the gay community.”
The Cross in The Closet, Memoir of Kurek’s Experimental Year
Kurek’s Epiphany was that his experience was only temporary, and he could return to his straight life not fraught with discrimination. “What I went through is NOTHING compared to the experience of the average gay and lesbian. They were never able to say ‘only 12 or eight or six more months of this before I get to be me again. So what I consider to be the most eye-opening facet of my year was really only a glimpse of how bad the closet really is.”
Is the Book “a botched social experiment that operates on myths about gay identity…”
Although LGBT homeless youth centers will receive proceeds from the book, there are some critics who find Kurek’s year self-serving and illusory, at best. One critic in http://Timothy Kurek and the Problem of the “Straight Savior’: Thoughts on an Unredeeming Social Experiment, HUFFPOST GAY VOICES, 10/25/12, faults Kurek with “social espionage under a “gay disguise means that he operated with the privilege of sexual and religious identifications often implicated in committing injustices against LGBT people.”
The same critic believes that Kurek’s false undercover was not a firsthand account of being gay. Kurek did not grow up internalizing anti-gay theology and wishing he were straight. He could take off the gay label whenever he wanted. As this story was written by a straight man who became an ally in the end, will the book be perceived as distorting the gay experience?
Reminders of Other Experiments
While reading of Kurek’s social experiment, I’m reminded of the former President of Haverford College (a small Quaker college outside of Philadelphia) Jack Coleman. In the 1970’s, he would take “blue collar sabbaticals” from the college: he worked as a “ditch digger in Atlanta, a garbage collector in Washington, a dishwasher in Boston, and a homeless man on the streets of New York for a week and a half during a frigid winter. Then he wrote about his experiences and returned to his lofty position at Haverford College.
Was this a trivial societal game? Presumptuous on his part? Or did it make him more flexible and generous in the end to the undereducated?
Is it Possible to Walk Around in Someone Else’s Skin?
In To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, the lawyer Atticus Finch tells her daughter “Scout” about why he took the controversial case to defend a Negro. His modus operandi: “you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it…”
Is this possible? Can a white person really know what it’s like for a black person or a straight person for a gay? Post your comment, please.