In a New Book, a Straight Male Christian Fakes Coming Out as Gay

Fledgling author Timothy Kurek has a new book coming out this fall entitled Jesus In Drag.

The premise? The author (who is straight) came out to his conservative Christian friends and family to see how they would react and he kept the label for a year:

Raised and educated in the heart of the Bible-belt, I didn’t look at certain groups of people as valid or respectable. Liberals, Jews, Muslims, Atheists, I was taught to convert them all. But there was one people group I looked down upon more than any other. For me the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community represented the worst of what sin had to offer, and I treated it and them with extreme prejudice. I was a bully, a bigot, and a modern-day Pharisee.

After an acquaintance came out of the closet, and was kicked out of her home and cut off from her family, something unexpected happened. For the first time in my spiritual life I began to question why I believed what I did about homosexuality. Were the warnings we always got about gays and lesbians based off of theological fact, or conservative, social stereotyping? And the voice inside of me judging my poor friend for coming out, was that “the Spirit” inside of me, or something else entirely?

I had to find out for myself.

I had to learn empathy because sympathy simply wouldn’t be enough to challenge my years of programming.

I needed to see how the label of gay would change how I was viewed by everyone around me, and if people would treat me like a second-class citizen for no other reason than that they believed I was gay.

And I needed to feel the isolation and repression of the closet… as much as I would be able.

Marginalizing book title aside (as I’m sure not all gay men like or want to dress in drag), I find there are still a lot of problems with the motivation behind this book. While I do carry some respect for Tim in that he wanted to change his bias against the LGBTQ community, it bothers me that the author had to masquerade as a gay man in order to do so. Was that the only way to learn what it’s like to be a gay person in a Christian environment? This kind of measure seems awfully extreme, as if there were no actual gay Christians he could’ve spoken with.

The upside to this experiment is that Kurek may be able to do what all those actual oppressed, demonized gay Christians have tried to do for so long: Get conservative Christians to listen to them and understand that to “love the sinner but hate the sin” always seems to come off as hate all around.

About Lauren Lane

Lauren Lane is the co-founder of Skepticon, the Midwest's largest skeptic student-run conference and remains a lead organizer today. She has not one, but TWO fancy art degrees and is not afraid to use them.

  • AxeGrrl

    Why does his masquerading bother you?  Talking to actual gay people is productive, but that wouldn’t give him the depth of empathy and real understanding  that being treated as a gay person would.  I think he learned more this way……

    Hell, I think it would be great if some homophobic people did it too (well, perhaps not for a year! :)

    • Thomathy

      Really?

      No homophobe would do this.  He wanted to examine his beliefs.  That’s a step in the right direction, right there.  His decisions to pretend to be gay?  A good ploy for selling a book and an insult to the actual experiences of gays.

      How patronising do you think it is, as a gay man, who does all those things that gay men does and gets treated in all those ways that gay men do, to have a straight bigot who wants to change his ways superficially pretend to be gay so that he can feel just like me?  It’s highly insulting.

      He does not know at all what it’s like to be gay, for all the superficial pretending he did.  He had not only the security of knowing that he could just end his charade, but that he wasn’t actually gay.  He might have examined his beliefs as well as talking to lots of gays about their treatment instead of putting on a show.

      To think about it from the perspective of a gay man, consider: It is as though this person needed to live my life instead of just listen to me talk about it in order to confirm that any stories I’ve told him about my treatment in life are real.  I don’t need his validation to know how gay people are treated or how they can be treated.  No person needs to be a particular kind of victim in order to listen to them and believe them about their lives.

      I bet he did learn a lot this way, but he went about educating himself
      in the most insulting, patronising way he possibly could and now he’s written a story about it that promotes Christianity as well as describes, in a very privileged way, just how bad it is for the sad, sorry gays.

      • Pseudonym

        Thomathy, I’d be interested if you’d contact this guy, and have an open
        and honest conversation with him to find out a) if your charactersation
        of his motivation is accurate, and b) if you think he’s actually better
        for the experience. Write it up and send it to Hemant.

        The way I read this story was that this guy didn’t primarily do this to
        discover what it’s like coming out. I got that he did it primarily to
        discover something about himself. Listening to the stories of other
        people can only partially help you there.

        I can’t help but compare this to other situations where people seek out experience, like
        travelling. I can read books about some place in the world, and
        travelogues by people who have been there, all day long, but it’s not
        the same as actually going there.

        What proportion of people travel with the primary motivation of seeing
        whether or not if the books about it are accurate? I would wager it’s
        negligible.

        The process of critical thinking (in this case the principle of charity)
        demands that in the absence of further information we interpret his
        words in the best possible light, lest we end up critiquing a straw man.

        I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty ignorant about this guy; I only
        know what’s in the write-up. So I’d like to know more, and you seem like the best-placed person to do it.

        • Thomathy

           You know, if you want to know more about Timothy Kurek, there’s this thing called Google.  You could use Bing or Yahoo if you’re desperate.

          I’m not interested in a conversation with him about his motives.  I’m happy to take him at his word regarding those.  I’m fairly clear, I think, on why his motives don’t matter at all from my perspective; it should be obvious that I’m talking about his actions.  Did you just gloss over the part where I describe his actions as insulting and patronising?  It doesn’t matter what he intended to do, what he has done is use his privilege as a straight white man to tell the story about what it’s like to be treated as a gay person by people who act like he used to.  And he should be believed about the experience because he’s a straight white man and most importantly because he’s Christian.  Well, there are Christian gays out there, millions of them, and their stories are real.

          And what I didn’t even mention is that he is focusing only on a narrow and superficial aspect of being gay -being persecuted by American Christians.  He can never understand internalised homophobia, for instance, by pretending to be gay.  In fact, he would learn lots by listening to the tens of millions of gay people across the world who could tell him what it’s like to e persecuted by the religious, let alone by American Christians.

          I really wish people would stop suggesting that basic human empathy is not enough, that someone has to pretend to be like someone else before they can understand or believe what that person has went through.  That’s insulting, as I said, to the experiences of actual gay people.

          It’s as though you, and people like you, aren’t thinking this through and it is exactly like you just don’t care to listen to an actual gay person with a particular perspective on this man’s actions.  Listen to me and trust me, like Tomothy Kurek doesn’t.  And drop that patronising lecture about what scepticism and critical thinking are, as though I don’t have a clue, in the future, or do your suggestions about making less assumptions not apply to you too when you disagree with someone who has otherwise not shown a propensity toward uncritical thinking?

          • Thomathy

             And what else, it’s insulting to empathy itself, to the real empathy that people feel for others when they listen to them and share their pain and hope or work to alleviate it.  His pretending is not a decent expression of empathy and it shows, I believe, that he was devoid of it and that he expects others are.  That’s reprehensible and, for the love of me, unchristian.

            • LifeInTraffic

              This kind of goes to what I was saying above.  

              While he may have gained some insights he wouldn’t have gotten from just reading or talking, why does it matter? We shouldn’t all need first-hand experience  of something in order to not be bigots and jackasses. Basic human decency and empathy ought to be enough.  

              • Pseudonym

                It is considered a Christian virtue to walk a mile in someone else’s
                shoes. It’s one of the ways that Christians are
                encouraged to empathise.

                We don’t all need first-hand experience to avoid being bigots and jackasses. But it sometimes helps if someone takes one for the team.

                • Camelliagirl101

                  I guess that gays don’t count as “someone.”  And their first-hand experience isn’t enough.

                • Pseudonym

                  That’s not exactly what I meant by taking one for the team.

                  It’d be nice if this sort of thing were unnecessary, but that’s politics for you. What I don’t understand is why people in this thread are going after this guy. It’s the people he’s trying to persuade who are the ones who don’t listen to first-hand experience from homosexual people.

                • Feline256

                  @3352d7b7b661c84c5b888312397efc76:disqus  (I replied up because of text space)

                  I like your point that many people would only listen to him because he’s straight and Christian. That is exactly what he needs to be sure to bring up. People critique this guy because these objections need to be talked about. Because we care enough about changing the minds of his target audience that we want it done /right/ and accurately. In doing this he needs to make it very clear what this experiment cannot teach him, what kinds of things he still does not know, and where a reader could go next to learn about a group from actual group members’ voices. He needs to call his readers out that they didn’t do so in the first place, and question why they thought he would have better things to say about it. (Hint: It’s because he’s straight, male, Christian, white, etc…)

                • Pseudonym

                  I agree with you in principle, but I’d be happy if he was more diplomatic to his audience. There are ways of telling them that they’re bigots without calling them bigots to their face.

          • Pseudonym

            If we’re going to go all tu quoque on each other, I might as well ask you why you’re not listening to his story. But I’m not going to, because that would be a cheap shot.

            To this kind of Christian, homosexuality is completely alien and foreign. It’s like Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. He had to experience it to “get” it. I completely understand this.

            One of my closest friends (and I’m a nerd, so I have a very small group of close friends!) came out within the last year.

            Now I was brought up in an ultra-liberal church. It had an openly gay Moderator of the Synod when I was growing up. I’ve always believed that being gay isn’t wrong, and all that goes with it. I’ve had plenty of gay friends (two of whom were also transgendered, and in a relationship together), and we’ve talked about what it was like coming out. I knew all the stories, and I got it. I really did.

            But this is the first time in my life that I was there during the process of coming out. And I have to say, it was definitely a new experience that changed by life in subtle ways.

            Maybe that’s why, even though I’ve never been a religious homophobe, this story resonates with me. I can’t help but read my own experience into it. I didn’t seek out this experience. And I still can’t say that I know what it is to be gay, to come out and so on. But I think I’m a better person for it nonetheless.

            Final thought:

            I know what Australia is like. I’ve lived there all my life, after all.
            Life is different. We do tend to get a raw deal in international
            relations some times. It’s harder in some respects and easier in others.
            It’s a beautiful place, and we’re all pretty happy here.

            What, you visited Australia once? How could you
            possibly know what life is like in Australia by only
            spending a couple of weeks here? Had you actually
            listened to my description, that should have been
            enough for you! It’s like you don’t even trust my descriptions! How
            insulting!

            Yes, I know there are differences in the analogy. All analogies break if you bend them further than intended. But I think it works here.

  • http://nadiawilliams.wordpress.com/ Nadia Williams

    The movement is not for turning, because anyone who doesn’t sing with the choir is the enemy. That said, I do think it needed a straight person to write this book, to bypass the disregarding of anything said by GLBTQ people with the dismissal that anything coming from them must be wrong because they “live in sin”.  It might reach past the prejudice in some minds that way, you never know.

    • Feline256

       Interesting point. I hope he suggests further readings at the end of his book, or otherwise lets readers know his experience/perspective is just the tip of the iceberg. That big rainbow lgbtqia iceberg.

  • http://www.helensotiriadis.com/ helen sotiriadis

    it sounds like a twist on the 1961 book,  ‘black like me’.

    • TheAnalogKid

      Just what I was thinking.

    • Bob Becker

      Or the 1947 movie “Gentleman’s Agreement”.

    • jdm8

      Thanks, I was trying to remember the name.

    • http://www.cstdbill.com/ Bill

       I, too, immediately thought of Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin.

  • Michael

    A few people will listen. That’s worth something.

  • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

    That sounds like something to check out.

    ” it bothers me that the author had to masquerade as a gay man in order
    to do so. Was that the only way to learn what it’s like to be a gay
    person in a Christian environment?”

    It’s not the only way, but it’s probably the best way.  Sure he could have interviewed a bunch of actual gay people, but this way he has first-hand experience of how his peers treat gay people.  He’ll also have a far more graphic understanding of how his own previous beliefs and behavior harmed gay people.  

    • Feline256

      I question why it is “probably the best way” when he in fact is not experiencing what it is like to be gay in a conservative Christian environment. He is experiencing what it’s like for *others to think he is gay* in a conservative Christian environment. There is a significant difference there.

      If one wants first hand experience on what it’s like to be someone they can never be… sorry, they’ll have to stick with listening to the actual people. Even if on a subconscious level they probably think our word isn’t very credible. (Cultural biases instill subconscious biases.)

      • Camelliagirl101

        “he is not experiencing what it is like to be gay in a conservative Christian environment.”

        quoted for truth

  • http://www.facebook.com/jasonrtemple Jason Temple

    I don’t get why you’re so down on someone doing an
    experiment to broaden their world-view. 
    Perhaps it is sad that this is necessary, but that’s the way it is.  Kudos to the author for having the courage to
    do what he knew would be difficult.  I
    wish you had read the book, so you could summarize his findings for us.  Did this help?  Is he more tolerant because of his
    experiences?

    • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

      The book hasn’t been released yet it looks like, so he couldn’t have read it.

  • Brown Consult Ric

    The writer must have played the part well.The book is probably an interesting read. It will make for a good discussion group.It is going to be interesting to find out which Flock he is part of.’end human bankruptcy”an idea whose time has come.

  • Guest

    I don’t understand what’s wrong with “hate the sin” are you saying that Christians are reading the bible wrong or that they should reject their bible and stop being Christians? If so just say that otherwise it makes good sense for people who adhere to a message to actually follow it..

    • Glasofruix

      The message also says to kill disobeying children, that women should STFU and that’s it’s ok to be a rapist as long as you marry your victim.

    • schmavery

      Because it’s a bullshit excuse Christians use to weasel out of any accountability for their bigotry. ‘I like you as a person, just not enough to consider you worthy of equal rights!’

      • Feline256

        ^This

        Also, “I like you as a person. Except for the part of your identity I think is evil and disgusting and should be fixed.”

        Or, “I like you as a person, so I’m going to condescendingly offer you kind sounding words in the hopes of converting you back.”

    • Stev84

      First off, that BS phrase is nowhere in the Bible. Second, being gay is a not behavior. It’s an integral part of someone’s self. Not the most central part maybe, but not something that can be turned on and off at will. You can’t claim to “love” someone and then condemn an intrinsic part of the personality and deny them any and all rights.

    • jdm8

       Another problem with “hate the sin” is the “love the sinner” part is often ignored.  If you really do love someone, you don’t treat them like a second class citizen, period.

    • L.R.

      Guest-
       Well, since Jesus neither wrote the bible nor specifically said anything whatsoever about homosexuality, one would not “stop being Christian” if one tossed aside the bible but continued to worship Jesus.  I also don’t see anyone spearheading a movement against polyester, so it is safe to say that homophobes are cherry picking their issues based on their own ingrained prejudices, and hiding behind their religion in order to justify their thoughts and actions.  YES!  Toss your bible aside!  It is an archaic text filled with violence, bigotry, and misogyny.  Love your neighbor.  Unconditionally.  Like Jesus did.  You might just end up being a better Christian for it.

    • Salty

      It’s just a terrible cop-out.  Like saying, I guess it’s okay if you’re gay on the inside, we’ll tolerate that, but just don’t BE gay or ACT gay or fall in love or hold hands with anyone of your sex and don’t DO any DIRTY GAY STUFF around us… ’cause we love you so much, ya filthy sinner.       Yes, please reject your bible.   You’ll be a better person for it.

      • Natalie Sutton

         Agreed. Which is why, although I’m glad he seems happy and loves his wife and children, this man ( http://www.joshweed.com/2012/06/club-unicorn-in-which-i-come-out-of.html?spref=fb ) still doesn’t accept his being gay as truly okay thing. He says that impulse or attraction to be gay is not a sin but no where does he say it is not a sin to act on that attraction. He still believes what the Mormon church taught him, marriage is only for men and women and he can’t really get anywhere in the church without that heterosexual marriage and family. While it’s great that he wants his fellow mormon’s to be nice to gay people and not throw their gay children out of the house and ostracize them he still views it as wrong in the eyes of the bible. Plus most of the comments on the post show that many are like “Yay! See gay, people, you can just marry an opposite sex partner and everything will go hunky-dory! as if it’s the new solution for all the LGBTQ people everywhere.

    • HughInAz

      “Hate the sin, love the sinner” is a crock. Right off the bat you are presuming to stand in judgement over the other person, labeling them a sinner, and claiming to hold the moral high ground over them. That’s not love, it’s condescension.

    • Baby_Raptor

      You can’t love someone while openly advocating for them to be treated badly. If you love someone, you welcome them as they are, get to know them, walk a mile in their shoes.

      You don’t say they should be killed, or deny them rights, or judge/bully them, then say “God said how you are is wrong, and all these actions are because I love you.” That doesn’t work. 

    • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

       “Hate the sin” isn’t in the Bible.  It’s just one of the ways certain Christians justify hating people while pretending to be loving and righteous. 

    • cipher

      In addition to what everyone else has said here in repsonse to you, I’ll add that I wouldn’t mind so much if you could manage to disapprove of someone else’s behavior without believing they deserve to be tormented for all of eternity.

    • Anri

       Try this: “Love the black person, hate their skin color”.
      Does that show a lack of bigotry, or is it an excuse to indulge in bigotry?

      Would you accept the argument “I don’t dislike black people, it just pisses my off when they, you know, act black!  They should quit acting black around me, and I’d have no problem with them at all!”, or would you see that as total bilge?

    • Camelliagirl101

      The bible never actually says “hate the sin, love the sinner.”  That’s a Mahatma Gandhi quote.

  • CelticWhisper

    I wonder if this impacted his (widely-held christian) belief about whether being LGBT is a “lifestyle choice” vs something you’re born with.

  • I_Claudia

    it bothers me that the author had to masquerade as a gay man in order to do so. Was that the only way to learn what it’s like to be a gay person in a Christian environment?

    It’s not the only way, but it sure as hell is a braver and more raw way than merely reading about it. You can read about the poverty in Africa, or you can live amongst its people for a year, trying to survive the way they do. It’s not dishonest to read about it, but the person experiencing it will have a much more visceral understanding of the suffering.

    This aspect of things doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Though I may disagree with him in many ways, I commend his bravery and his willingness to voluntarily go from the position of bully to the position of bullied in order to gain a true understanding of how that feels. Of course I’m sure much of the religious language would drive me  up the wall, but I suspect the book is not for us. If this book, presented by a white, Christian, heterosexual male with a conservative background can get other people from that community to question their stance on homosexuality, I say amen.

    • Thomathy

       It is not bloody brave to pretend to be gay!  This is just plain insulting.  He also did certainly not gain a true understanding of what gays face in their lives.  He was pretending and had an escape should he need it.  There is no escape from the life of a gay man. 

      If he had instead decided to take the stories of gays at face value and have some empathy, he would have learned just as much.  Instead, from his privileged position as a straight man, he considered the only way to validate the experiences of gays was to pretend to be one so that he could sort-of know what it’s like for himself?  That’s insulting and patronising.

      It’s also insulting to think that people consider a bigot who has chosen to examine his beliefs and try to change as brave for pretending to be gay.  He has been the kind of person that makes being gay dangerous at all; the kind of person who perpetrated and perpetuated a culture of hatred against a significantly diverse group of people based only on who they had sex with.  He’s not brave.  Gays are brave for living in his world open and proud.  What he is is a misguided straight man who couldn’t just believe what gays would have willingly told him about the realities of living in the world he, for so long, perpetuated.

      He doesn’t get cookies for pretending to be like me and he certainly doesn’t get to be called brave.  I’ll give him a cookie for no longer being bigoted, but I, and gays, shouldn’t have to applaud people for being decent, empathetic human beings.

      • Deadlights1980

        I’m gay and I don’t find it insulting at all.  And what isn’t brave about voluntarily labeling yourself with something that is going to put you in danger? Now he can relate his experiences and help educate people from a unique point of view. I don’t give a shit about his “privilege” 

        • Thomathy

          I’m gay too …

          I explained at length why I don’t think it’s brave.  I don’t doubt that he can relate his experience to educate people.  He certainly intends to do that with his book.

          His privilege (why the scare quotes?), is that he is a straight white male and he could go back to that after pretending.  His privilege is what allowed him to believe that his exercise in faking gay was the only way he could believe gays about what they face in their lives.  I care about that; I give a shit about it.

          You know, the people he’s going to be educating with this book can totally believe him about what it’s like to be gay because he is a straight man.  He couldn’t believe gays until he faked being one and now he thinks he’s in a better position than gays to describe what it’s like being gays because of who he really is.

          That’s insulting.

          Consider him brave all you want.  And withhold shit about his privilege too.  I won’t.

  • Cass Morrison

    This sounds very interesting, nothing like actually walking in someone else’s shoes to gain understanding. More effective than anything he could have been told. The part I wonder about (and I’ll have to try to read the book) if he faked relationships or he was an abstaining homosexual – just because that would affect the partner..

  • Artor

    You haven’t said anything about the conclusions he drew from his experience. If he actually learned something about the real lives of LGBT people and the bullying & discrimination they experience, and that Xtian hatred is wrong and anti-Xtian, then I think his stunt is awesome. He really walked a mile in the shoes of people he was taught to despise, and nothing teaches better than personal experience.

  • The Captain

    Another interesting little tidbit was his mention of  “I didn’t look at certain groups of people as valid or respectable. Liberals, Jews, Muslims, Atheists” Leaving aside the three different groups divided by religious beliefs, why was “liberals” on that list? 

    Oh yea, because in the US many forms of christianity are in fact nothing but right wing political movements that molds the theological part to fit the politics rather than letting the politics flow from the religion.

    • Tangent

      My sister, a very liberal Christian, was told by a right wingnut that it is not possible to be liberal and Christian (because no real Christian would support gay rights, for example). So she went on FB and related that, asking her friends if it is possible. One person said yes (and apparently began signing his post “Bob Smith, liberal christian). Nobody else replied at all.

      • Baby_Raptor

        A lot of “Christians” I know believe that it’s simply impossible to be a follower of Jesus and vote Democrat. It’s like the bible said somewhere that you can only vote Republican. 

        • Kaydenpat

          Black Christians have no problems voting for Democrats at the tune of over 90%.

          • cipher

            Yes, but you know how that goes: “They aren’t REAL Christians.”

        • Pseudonym

          That was a Regan-era invention, by the way. Prior to the SBC fundamentalist takeover in the late 1970s, conservative evangelical Christians were encouraged not to vote.

          Check out The Power of Nightmares if you haven’t seen it before.

  • http://twitter.com/TominousTone Thomas Lawson

    He could have easily chosen to pretend to be an atheist. Just ask one of the former pastors we’ve heard from in the last couple of months. But he chose to “fake” being gay. Did he take the easier option?

    • honestabe

      Really?

  • Patterrssonn

    Lauren’s is right I think to find his project a little dubious. There is something more than a little reprehensible about the whole idea of being a tourist in someone else’s misfortune. After all there’s a big difference between pretending to be poor or gay for a year when you know at any moment you can stop the experiment and go back to your life of privilege. Also not having the experience of growing up poor or gay can make you oblivious to a lot of oppressivion and discrimination as you would see this behaviour as normal, and miss the cues.

    At least Tim can be credited with some awareness of this issue as his stated aim was to find out how he would be treated if he claimed to be gay. He didn’t make the more risible claim that he actually experienced what it was to be gay. However there is the danger that by writing a book about his experience he is contributing to the marginalization of gay voices.

    • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

      Or he could have just shrugged, turned on his friend, and never tried to understand. Would that be better for you and the OP?

      • Patterrssonn

        Was that the only other option?

        • honestabe

          Can you think of a better option for Tim than the one you’re criticizing? Do you think he could have learned as much about himself, about his community, about his friends and family, or about empathy from a mere interview? If not… suggestions?

          Of course pretending you’re gay for a year, with the knowledge that you can tell everyone it was a lie once that year is up, is not the same as actually being gay for your entire life. That knowledge, however, still didn’t change the way people treated him during that year, nor did it diminish the potential lessons to be learned from this experience about the way his community treats gay people. 

          • Patterrssonn

            Well perhaps just confronting the homophobia head on with the members and heirarchy of his church. Reaching out to gay members of his church. Agitating for change within his church.

            These might have been better approaches I don’t know. It would be good to get some feedback from gays once the book does come out. Perhaps what he did was a really good thing, but who knows how the nut job homophobes in the church will spin this. But then again maybe it won’t matter hos they spin it maybe young Christians will read his book and be less homophobic as a result.

            But I do believe one thing, he definitely would have learned as much if not more about how it feels to be a gay man coming out in the church by talking to gay men who have had that experience. Their stories would have been just as powerful an experience.

            So at the moment I think it’s more than a little ambiguous but it will be interesting to see how this plays out. Also I’m not knocking Tim’s courage in any way, just wondering if this was the best way to express it.

            • LifeInTraffic

              I don’t think for one minute that I, a white female, have any clue about how a black female experiences racism, despite interaction with black females and much reading on the topic.  

              I’ve never given birth, so despite much reading on the topic and interaction with mothers who discuss it freely, I don’t presume that I “know” what it’s like to give birth. Or, to have a child die. Or to have an abortion. Or a thousand other things with which I have no direct experience. 

              I get these things on an academic level. I can feel empathy and sympathy. But I can’t truly feel what those who’ve experienced these things feel about them.  The presumption that I can gain their feelings via books and talking is belittling to all of these things.   

              Knowing, intellectually is not the same as knowing emotionally and psychologically from experience. 

              • Patterrssonn

                I’m sorry I don’t get your post. Gioing by your statements you seem to be agreeing with me but theyre presented as if you’re arguing with me. Did I misinterpret you?

                • LifeInTraffic

                  I was disagreeing with you. Sort of. 

                  I disagree that anyone can fully understand many kinds of life experiences without having those experiences themselves. Reading and talking only go so far. So, I disagree that ”
                  he definitely would have learned as much if not more about how it feels to be a gay man coming out in the church by talking to gay men who have had that experience. Their stories would have been just as powerful an experience.” I don’t think, however, that we all *need* that depth of understanding to be decent human beings. So, on that level, I don’t disagree with you. I don’t have to experience the discrimination a black woman might experience to know that it’s wrong to discriminate based on gender or race, for example. There’s no reason he should have had to pretend he was gay to become a decent person and stop being a bigot. 

            • Pseudonym

              I’m led to understand that personal testimony gets a lot of airtime in conservative Christian communities. They tend to listen quite intently to People Like Us(tm) who have Been There(tm).

              I can easily imagine how something like this would make him more likely to be listened to.

              • jemiller226

                This is exactly the case, having personally Been There and Done That in a conservative Christian community, one I’m thankfully removed from.

  • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

    You take issue with his experiment and feel he should have just talked to people? Did you even read your own excerpts from the author? You can have sympathy, but to truly get it, one must walk in another’s shoes. Maybe someday you’ll finally get the whole “research before you write” concept.

    • Feline256

       He is not walking in a gay person’s shoes.
      He is not gay.

      • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

        No, but he purposely put himself on the tracks and dealt with the train of hate colliding with him. I never said he knows what it’s like completely. I said he’s walked a mile. Most of us walk more than a mile in our lives, the fact that he even bothered to walk that small stretch is much more than most would be willing to do to understand. Sorry if you can’t grasp the distinction.

        • Feline256

           “You can have sympathy, but to truly get it, one must walk in another’s shoes.” It would appear then that we must have different ideas of what the phrase truly getting it means. Either that or your first comment is different from the second.

          I would advise against assuming what others can and cannot grasp. Doing so sounds very jerky.

          • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

             Oh, I’m sorry!  I wasn’t aware that responding to snarky remarks in kind was jerky, but posting a snarky response in the first place isn’t.  Well, I’m certainly glad I had you here to set me straight.

            • Feline256

               “He is not walking in a gay person’s shoes.
              He is not gay” was sincerely short and sweet fact, not snark. Pretty much the distilled version of what Camelliagirl101 later said so well. Glad we could clear this up.

        • Camelliagirl101

          The problem is that he HASN’T walked a mile in a gay person’s shoes, and the fact that he THINKS he has will make him smug.  There is so much he hasn’t dealt with–internalized homophobia, for instance, the terrible doubts that you can be a good person at all.

          And the fact is, while he may or may not have any kind of useful experience on what it’s like to be gay in a Christian world, his book is an utterly useless hijacking of QUILTBAG stories.  Because the fact is that while there can be argument that “walking in someone’s shoes” in this fake, contrived way is better than actually listening to their stories, there is NO ARGUMENT that reading a book about the gay experience by someone who’s pretended to be gay is better than reading one by someone who actually is gay.

  • Lanestl

    For a whole year? I want a list of everything he’s learned…I mean a list of everything he now accepts…

  • rjligier

     Admirable position, but he could’ve just as well befriended homosexuals/bisexuals who were hostile to straight people and joined them on public outings. I’ve pretended to  be gay/bisexual to extract information to confirm or piece together information that one would not find in psychology texts. That’s how you get information.

    • http://twitter.com/m_ethaniel Mistletoe Ethaniel

      When he talks about walking a mile in the proverbial shoes, he does it to gain a deeper understanding and learn not just about those around him, but himself.

      When you talk about it, it comes off sounding like you have an agenda.  And not a good one.  In fact it kind of makes you sound like an asshole.

    • Feline256

       “I’ve pretended to  be gay/bisexual to extract information to confirm or
      piece together information that one would not find in psychology texts.”
      Lying and manipulation in order to benefit yourself? What a shitty thing to do.

  • Kaydenpat

    Sounds like “Black Like Me”.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Like_Me

  • guest

    I’m gay, and I’d be curious to read the book. I suppose knowing that it is just an experiment really wouldn’t give him a true sense of how actual gay people feel. Still, it would be interesting to see what he has to say about his experiences.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, orphan

    i’m turned off by the fact that he’s asking for money to publish this book. i’m a writer too, and this seems a lot like a ploy or a canard to raise money, a sort of gimmick. and frankly, well, i won’t even go there. it just doesn’t strike me as a legit project. 

    • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

      “Kickstarter” style projects are becoming more popular, so I wouldn’t see that as an automatic red flag.

  • amycas
  • http://twitter.com/TychaBrahe TychaBrahe

    There’s an amazing book called Prometheus Rising, by Robert Anton Wilson.  Wilson describes all of the boxes that people put themselves into and provides exercises for escaping them.  

    Those of us who are straight have grown up in a society that is organized around straight people.  The default position is that everyone is straight, and that people recognize at some point in their lives that they might be gay or lesbian.  

    Some of us have an inkling of what it is like because we are atheists in a Christian-dominated society.  But for most of us, the fact that we aren’t Christian isn’t readily apparent.  You go to an outdoor concert with your spouse and sit with your arms around each other.  It would not be immediately apparent were you atheist, but it would be immediately apparent were you gay.  Atheists can marry in all 50 states and in every nation in the world.  Atheists can adopt children in all 50 states.  No one ever questions the right of an atheist to bring an atheist date to the prom.  No one cuts off the Jumbotron feed when two atheists celebrate a home run with a kiss.  And so on and so forth.  

    Several people have mentioned the book Black Like Me.  I think this is an important comparison.  Many Blacks wrote books about the Black experience prior to its publication, but no other book could speak as strongly to Whites.  To be able to say, “I felt like this when I was part of the norm, and I felt this different way when I was no longer part of the norm,” is a powerful message, and one that needs to be heard.  

    Blacks didn’t gain full civil rights because they became the majority and voted themselves the rights they had been denied.  Blacks enlisted the help of members in the majority to grant them the rights they should have had all along.  Similarly, if gays were the only ones who cared about gay rights, they would never change the laws that restrict them.  Gays are a small minority of the population.  Fortunately, the straights who support gay rights are slowly becoming the majority.  If this book helps that, it’s a good thing.

  • Cicada

    PZ recently made a post about this book, and his commentors reacted extremely negatively. In fact there seems to be a lot of dislike there directed towards Hement’s blog and the people who comment here. Maybe it’s not surprising, they’re half the reason that I migrated from there to here a while ago.

    • Matt Penfold

       No one even noticed you had gone. So you are not much of a loss are you ?

      And what is wrong with reacting negatively ? There seems to be very little that is positive to say about this book. It is not as though real gay people have not being telling us about the discrimination they face within Christianity.

      It would seem to the type of book that will be read by those who do not like the idea of reading something written by one of those nasty genuine gays. Are you one of those people ?

      • Cicada

        Why open and close your post by being a jerk? It makes you seem like an unkind person, and probably not prepared to take a response seriously anyway.
        I never posted there, I was just a regular reader.
        There’s nothing wrong with having negative feelings about it and I never said that there was. Personally I think it’s a fine idea for a book – that’s not to say it would end up being a good book, but if done well by a clever person and good writer it could provide an interesting perspective, especially once he reveals the lie. It would also not take anything away from accounts written by people who are in fact gay and come out, or don’t. I do think the degree of the negativity shown by a lot of commentators on PZ’s blog can be over the top, as tend to be their reactions to many things they don’t completely agree with (especially on issues of gender). There’s much more viciousness there than here – but you’re not helping that.

        • Matt Penfold

          So you complain I am being jerk, but see nothing wrong in being a jerk yourself.

          The first comment was snarky I admit. The last was not. It is entirely possible you have a thing against gays.

          However you are also missing the point. Someone who is only pretending to be gay will never know what it is like to be gay.

          Now I suggest you admit you were rather stupid and move on.

      • jemiller226


        It would seem to the type of book that will be read by those who do not like the idea of reading something written by one of those nasty genuine gays. Are you one of those people ?”

        In fact, I’d say that’s precisely the *point* of the book. He’s not talking to those of us who already support gay rights. He’s directing this at the people who won’t listen to gay people exactly because they’re gay.

        Unfortunately, those people probably won’t read this, either.

  • TheOblivionMachine

    Wow, the failtrain is huge right from the get-go;  no, gay /= trans* .
    This does not bode well for the ‘learning-experience’ of the author.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/XF7EAMZECSNDHCU7H6AOIRQF64 Hexi

    let’s see, a Christian who lies.  What a “suprise”.   He’s still a bully, a bigot and a modern day Pharisee.  How much do you want to bet he was a pathetic charicature of a gay man, seeing that he ignorantly thinks all gay men wear drag? 

  • Arakasi

    Is anyone else more interested in Kurek’s friend’s story than his?

    I will grant that his experience may gain him a better understanding of one aspect of being gay that he couldn’t get second hand through his friend’s experience, but all we can get from his book is a second hand account of his experience, which we know is atypical.  I’m stuck asking “Why does his book even exist?  What is it offering that I can’t find in a thousand other books”  and in that light, Kurek’s experience seems to be more a gimmick than a way for me to gain anything from reading it.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X