In search of ac­cep­tance

Straight au­thor plays gay to un­der­stand ho­mo­pho­bia

GA Voice - - A+E -

What hap­pens when a les­bian breaks down out­side of a karaoke club and comes out to her fun­da­men­tal evan­gel­i­cal friend, telling him how she was thrown out of her church and home?

In “The Cross in the Closet,” au­thor Ti­mothy Kurek de­scribes his jour­ney from con­demn­ing his friend to be­com­ing ac­cept­ing of all LGBT peo­ple. The process in­cluded his “be­com­ing gay” for a year (or rather pre­tend­ing to be gay) and really coming out to his fam­ily, friends and church.

Since “The Cross in the Closet” was pub­lished ear­lier this month, Kurek’s ex­per­i­ment has gar­nered in­ter­views on CNN, MSNBC, ABC’s “The View,” Fox News Ra­dio and more.

GA Voice: Tell us about how this ex­per­i­ment be­gan.

Kurek:

A friend of mine used to go to karaoke with me in Nashville ev­ery week. She said, “I just came out to my fam­ily who is saved and they com­pletely re­jected me.” She got kicked out of her home, ex­com­mu­ni­cated from her church, was forced to move out and then, with no fi­nan­cial sup­port, had to drop out of col­lege. …

I re­al­ized that my in­stinct was to preach to her and change her in­stead of just lov­ing her in that moment of sor­row. That voice telling me to preach to her wasn’t God. It was my spir­i­tual pro­gram­ming.

I started to won­der how I could get rid of that pro­gram­ming and really feel her pain. I knew it wasn’t enough to have sym­pa­thy: I had to have em­pa­thy. To un­der­stand what she went through, I would have to do what Je­sus did and be­come some­thing I wasn’t and walk a mile in her shoes.

I had al­ways been taught to fol­low Je­sus. Up un­til then, fol­low­ing Je­sus just meant go­ing to a le­gal­is­tic church, lis­ten­ing to Rush Lim­baugh and vot­ing Repub­li­can. I knew I had to get away from those things and just see what it was like to live like a gay man.

What was it like to come out to your par­ents?

I hated ly­ing to them but what other way could I pos­si­bly un­der­stand how it feels to have the fear of re­jec­tion un­less I did?

But you knew you would tell them even­tu­ally that you weren’t gay and they’d love you again so was there really a fear?

If they had re­jected me, I would have known for­ever that their love was con­di­tional so it was a real fear. It was ter­ri­fy­ing.

I adopted the la­bel of “gay” – I’m straight so I can’t be gay. I could only im­merse my­self in gay cul­ture. I didn’t want things to be scripted so I just hung out in the gay­bor­hood. When some­one asked me to play on the gay soft­ball team, I said yes. When some­one asked me to go to New York to protest with Soul­Force, I said yes. I let ev­ery­thing hap­pen the way it would have nat­u­rally hap­pened if I really were gay.

I did have a pre­tend boyfriend be­cause the first time I went to a gay club, I re­al­ized I was in way over my head. I pulled my one gay friend from karaoke in and asked him to help. He agreed to be my boyfriend so it kept me from hav­ing to flirt and gave me an ex­cuse if a man asked me out.

I did let him kiss me one time for the ex­pe­ri­ence. We also held hands and I was very com­fort­able with him but I didn’t do any­thing sex­ual what­so­ever.

What was the big­gest sur­prise that you learned about the gay com­mu­nity?

In my up­bring­ing, there was a list of gay stereo­types like al­co­holics, drug ad­dicts, pro­mis­cu­ous… all of the neg­a­tive ad­jec­tives. When I started liv­ing with them, about 99 per­cent of those stereo­types evap­o­rated. …

There was a se­ries of th­ese break­ing down stereo­types mo­ments that moved me along but I think the moment the scales fell off my eyes — I wrote about it in the chap­ter I called “Je­sus in Drag” — it was when I was at the [LGBT] café.

I heard a fa­mil­iar song coming from the com­mu­nity cen­ter next door. It was karaoke ‘The Cross in the Closet’ by Ti­mothy Kurek 352 pages, BlueHead Pub­lish­ing (Oct. 11, 2012) www.tim­o­th­ykurek.com night and I walked in, there was a drag queen on stage singing “Our God is an Awe­some God” and ev­ery­body in the room had their arms up, eyes closed and just prais­ing God.

It was the most in­tense wor­ship ex­pe­ri­ences of my life. It was also the moment that I felt ashamed of how stupid I had been to think that you couldn’t be gay and be a Chris­tian.

What was the big­gest sur­prise that you learned about the Chris­tian com­mu­nity?

I had a few friends openly re­ject me. But more shock­ing was how iso­lat­ing and de­bil­i­tat­ing it was when I re­al­ized when my church and ev­ery­one in it cut me off with­out a word.

It ended up be­ing a bless­ing to find out who my real friends were. I was root­ing for them to come and be like Je­sus to me so that I could break some of the stereo­types about Chris­tians. It was really con­vict­ing that when I walked into the gay com­mu­nity in Nashville, I was in­stantly wel­comed, loved and ac­cepted like Je­sus would have done. I never felt that level of love or com­mu­nity in any church.

If the church could em­u­late the LGBT com­mu­nity in terms of their abil­ity to ac­cept and love each other, I don’t think the world would be the same.

‘Up un­til then, fol­low­ing Je­sus just meant go­ing to a le­gal­is­tic church, lis­ten­ing to Rush Lim­baugh and vot­ing Repub­li­can. I knew I had to get away from those things and just see what it was like to live like a gay man.’ — ‘The Cross in the Closet’ au­thor Ti­mothy Kurek, who is straight, on his de­ci­sion to live as a gay man to find out about the re­al­i­ties of ho­mo­pho­bia. (Photo via Face­book)

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