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.