I recently read about Timothy Kurek, an evangelical Christian from Nashville, Tennessee, who lived a full year of his life as a gay man. His decision to do this came after a friend came out to him about being a lesbian and how her admission resulted in being shunned by her family. He stated that his first reaction was to try to convert her, a thought that disgusted him. His disgust at his feelings was so strong that in 2009, he made the decision to step into her shoes and live a year of his life as a homosexual. He came out to his family, secured a job as a barista in a gay cafe, and convinced a friend to act as his boyfriend in public.
The experience, which is documented in Kurek’s book The Cross In The Closet, changed his views on religion and faith while teaching him “what it meant to be a second class citizen in this country.” His church, like many, condemns homosexuality and opposes gay marriage; it is a sin for a man to lay with a man and for a woman to love a woman. Kurek states he was taught to believe that gays were all HIV positive perverts who he should fear and avoid. This twisted type of education results in closed minds and irrational fear that keeps a massive group of wonderful people from having the same rights the rest of us are afforded.
Kurek stated that his mother would rather be diagnosed with cancer than have a gay son. I can recall my own mother having similar thoughts while I was growing up. Neither my brother or myself are gay or showed any signs of being gay, but she would always make comments about what her reaction would be if we were. She would be horrified and embarrassed, she would get us therapy, she would rather us have a disease, and she wouldn’t accept what she called a decision, not something we were born with. I can understand a parent being afraid, as homosexuality is still looked down upon by many and can result in violent discrimination, but to say you would rather have cancer is just terrible.
Kurek’s experiment was very extreme and something that most of us wouldn’t ever dream of doing. It was a drastic way of educating himself and thankfully it seems to have paid off, as he has a new understanding of homosexuals, of religion, and of himself. His choice is not being well received by everyone though; Emily Timbol published an article on Huffington Post discussing how Kurek was wrong in his choice. Her main issue with what he did is that he lied to everyone in order to learn what life is like for a gay man. She went through something similar when her friend came out to her, but rather than pretend to be gay, she decided to educate herself without compromising her identity. She states:
“My experiences changed me. They also changed my family, who have since decried the discriminatory attitude many Christians hold toward gay people. It wasn’t easy, and like Timothy, we lost some friends along the way. The difference is that those friendships were not lost over a lie. They were lost because some people couldn’t handle the fact that I was straight Christian who grew to love the gay community. That never changed. While Mr. Kurek might say the same, his love was never based on honesty. The importance lies in the sincerity. Every interaction I had was real, because I was me, and my gay friends were being themselves. No pretend.”
I respect Timbol’s opinion, but I also disagree. Yes, he lied about his sexuality, but the relationships he developed and the experiences he went through were not lies. They are something he will carry with him for the rest of his life and they are things that will hopefully help others understand and become more open themselves. It’s great that Timbol was able to change her mind by educating herself and attending events such as Pride parades, but that isn’t enough for everyone. Each of us is different and each of us has built up different barriers when it comes to the gay community. What works for one will not work for another.
It’s not realistic or logical to expect every person who views homosexuality as a sin to pretend to be gay in order to gain an understanding of what life is like for a homosexual and why the discrimination makes no sense, but it made sense for Kurek. As a religious person, it must have been near impossible to become what he was taught is a sinner and to be that sinner for a full year. I’ve seen people who are fully accepting of the gay community become uncomfortable when two men display affection or when they find themselves in a gay karaoke bar, so I have no doubt it was an incredible challenge for Kurek. His experience changed his views and will hopefully change the views of many others.
Gay isn’t going anywhere. It’s ignorant to expect a gay man to ignore who he is and love a woman, just as it is ignorant to expect a straight woman to ignore her love for a man and seek out a woman for a romantic relationship. I applaud Kurek for seeing that what he was taught about homosexuals was incorrect and for taking steps to correct his beliefs and outlook. Everyone who still holds onto the belief that homosexuality is wrong should take a step in the directions Kurek and Timbol did. It doesn’t have to be something extreme that would jeopardize who you are and who people see you as, it just has to be something that will shock your system and force you to learn and open your eyes and mind.
Hate and fear comes from ignorance, and we cannot be ignorant if we are educated. Just about every downtown area of any city has a district that is classified as gay, so why not take a trip down there with friends and grab a drink or a bite to eat? Expose yourself to a new community and see that they are no danger, that a gay man isn’t out to hit on every man he sees, that women won’t grope you in the restroom, and that there is no real difference between you and them. No one should be judged on the gender they fall in love with; gay or straight doesn’t make a person good or bad. If your belief system states it is a sin and you are unwilling to compromise, that’s fine, but be content in silently praying for people instead of shunning them and hating them for it.
We are all cut from the same cloth. Regardless of whether you believe we are here because God made us or if you believe we slowly evolved over time, we all come from the same place and are all made of the same material. Our judgment should be left for those who are cheating on their spouses, abusing their children, injuring and murdering others, and engaging in activities that are honestly harmful and repulsive. When it comes to the homosexual community, our time should be spent learning, understanding, and accepting. No more time needs to be wasted in hatred and discrimination. It’s time to stop.
Posted on December 3, 2012, in Fear, Life, Love, News and tagged christian, coming out, emily timbol, equal rights, gay, gay marriage, gay pride, homosexual, religion, timothy kurek. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.