Ever since Black Like Me was published in 1961 chronicling the experience of a white man posing as black in the segregated South, others have tried similar things. One of the latest is Timothy Kurek who grew up as your stereotypical Bible belt fundamentalist Christian, even to the extent of attending the late Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. He naturally hated homosexuality in all its forms.
But when a Christian friend broke down and tearfully confided to him how her family had ostracized her when they discovered she was a lesbian, he started wondering what it was like to be a gay person in America. He decided to pretend to be gay for a year and ‘come out’ to his family and friends. He records his experience in a book The Cross in the Closet (initially called Jesus in Drag).
In an interview, Kurek says,
For the most part I was accepted, but my family operated off the Christian cliché “love the sinner, hate the sin,” so while they didn’t disown me, it was hard for them to accept me as a gay man. It wasn’t long before I realized that “love the sinner, hate the sin” is almost as insidious as being rejected outright.
Surprisingly the most eye-opening aspect of my year was experiencing just how detrimental the closet is. When I came out as gay, I was going into the closet as a straight man, and the repression and isolation I experienced was crushing. The combination of knowing I had to constantly hide my true attractions and orientation, with the reality that I couldn’t even hope for the possibility having a relationship, was overwhelming. And 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.
Paul Harris has an interesting account of the book and Kurek’s experiences. “Kurek’s account of his year being gay is an emotional, honest and at times hilarious account of a journey that begins with him as a strait-laced yet questioning conservative, and ends up with him reaffirming his faith while also embracing the cause of gay equality.”
It is of course definitely possible to be a certain type of Christian and support equal rights for gays but I doubt that Kurek can remain the kind of Christian he was before and belong to the same kinds of Christian institutions that he belonged to before his experience. It will be interesting to see where he ends up in around ten years.