Thursday 21 September 2017

Why man pretended to be gay for a year

Paul Harris in New York

Timothy Kurek grew up hating homosexuality. As a conservative Christian in America's "Bible belt", he had been taught that being gay was an abomination before God.

But when a Christian friend told him how her family had kicked her out when she revealed she was a lesbian, Mr Kurek began to question profoundly his beliefs and religious teaching. Amazingly, the 26-year-old decided to "walk in the shoes" of a gay person in America by pretending to be homosexual.

For a year Mr Kurek lived "under cover" as a gay man in his home town of Nashville. He told his family he was gay, as well as his friends and his church. Only two pals and an aunt -- used to keep an eye on how his mother coped with the news -- knew his secret. One friend, a gay man called Shawn -- whom Kurek describes as a "big black burly teddy bear" -- pretended to be his boyfriend. Kurek got a job in a gay cafe, hung out in gay bar and joined a gay softball league, all the while maintaining his inner identity as a straight Christian.

The result was a remarkable book called The Cross in the Closet, which follows on the tradition of other works such as Black Like Me, by a white man in the Sixties deep south passing as a black American, and 2006's Self-Made Man, by Norah Vincent, who details her time spent in disguise living as a man.

"In order to walk in their shoes, I had to have the experience of being gay. I had to come out to my friends and family and the world as a gay man," Mr Kurek said.

But it was not a straightforward journey. Early on Mr Kurek visited a gay nightclub. He soon found himself dragged on to the dance floor by a shirtless muscular man covered in baby oil and glitter. As the pair danced, the man pretended to ride Mr Kurek like a horse. It was too much, too soon. "I want to vomit. I need a cigarette. I feel like beating the hell out of him," Kurek writes.

But soon things got better. Kurek explored gay culture and found it to be as diverse and interesting as any other slice of American life. "I found gay Christians more devout than me," Mr Kurek says.

Finally Mr Kurek "came out" again, but this time as a straight Christian. "Being gay for a year saved my faith," he says.

© Observer

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