Pretending to be gay?

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This is one of those stories that I read and just think “What??” Nashville resident Timothy Kurek just came out of the closet (on National Coming Out Day!) by telling his friends and family that he’s…straight? Kurek was raised to believe that homosexuality is a sin. When a friend came out to him as a lesbian, it made him question his belief, so he decided to live as a gay man for a year to see what it was like. Over the last year, he came out to his parents, friends, and community, “got a job in a gay cafe, hung out in a gay bar and joined a gay softball league, all the while maintaining his inner identity as a straight Christian.” Kurek just revealed all this on Thursday when he launched a memoir about his experiences, titled The Cross in the Closet, and he’s had about a bajillion interviews and articles written about him since then.

Okay, I’m super conflicted about this whole thing. On the one hand, you take a homophobic man, add some real life experience, and turn him into an ally and gay activist. That’s fabulous, and I’m all for that! But something about this story just rubs me the wrong way.

I’m pretty sure it’s the privilege. Yeah, that’s what it is. Can you imagine having enough privilege in your life that you felt comfortable running an experiment in which you lied to all your friends and family about a central aspect of your identity for a year? Kurek totally admits that he only experienced a tiny portion of the discrimination that gay people face every day of their lives, and I appreciate that he realizes that. How much harder is it to face discrimination when you actually identify as a gay person? Instead of being an attack on who you’re pretending to be (like in Kurek’s case), it’s an attack on who you actually are.

I feel for the gay community of Nashville, and for every person who trusted Kurek enough to flirt with him, hang out with him, and confide in him about their lives. If I were in that community, I would feel so betrayed right now. The most fucked up part of this story to me is that he recruited a gay friend of his to play his boyfriend so he would have an excuse not to hook up with guys. What’s wrong with saying “No thanks, I’m not interested”? Are gay men just too sex-driven to take no for an answer? As a straight man, does Kurek feel that he needs to have a girlfriend in order to fend off all the crazy women hitting on him all the time? And what about that friend of his? What if he met someone during that year and fell in love with him, but oh whoops! I have to pretend to be this guy’s boyfriend even though he isn’t actually gay. Yikes.

A calmer part of me is really happy that young Christians are becoming more and more accepting of gay people by the day. If this is what gets Kurek to that acceptance, and to advocate for gay people in his church, that’s great, it really is. I guess I’m just annoyed at the rhetoric that suggests he’s some sort of martyr, when really all he did was lie about himself for a year and then write a book about it. That rubs me the wrong way.

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One Comment

  1. Posted October 16, 2012 at 12:23 am | Permalink

    This guy’s actions are totally not alright, at least in my opinion. I totally agree with you that his actions were offensive to the LGBT community, especially in light of the religious undertones in his beliefs. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy reading books that could be framed under the theme of ‘how the other half lives’ such as Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickeled and Dimed” where the author posed as a worker of impoverished jobs (cleaning lady, Wal-Mart, etc.). But this action just seems inherently wrong and deceitful. I think his actions make a good point though, about how ambiguous being gay really can be. What are the visible markers of being gay and how have we construed them to mean more than they really might be, when someone can merely utilize them as a temporary cover and then seamlessly flow back into his easier, straighter, religiously-driven life.

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