Evangelical Christian lives as a gay man for a year

Thought this was an Interesting story!

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/12/02/christians-year-of-living-gay-leads-to-dramatic-change-sparks-controversy/?hpt=hp_c1

mothy Kurek's motivation to spend a year pretending to be gay can be boiled down to a simple conviction: it takes drastic change to alter deeply held religious beliefs.

The experiment began after a lesbian friend opened up to Kurek about being excommunicated by her family. All Kurek, an avowed evangelical Christian, could think about, he says, "was trying to convert her."

He was quickly disgusted by his own feelings, more pious than humane.

In fact, Kurek was so disgusted by his response to his friend that he decided to do something drastic. Living in Nashville, Tennessee, he would pretend to be gay for a year. The experiment began on the first day of 2009; Kurek came out to his family, got a job as a barista at a gay café and enlisted the help of a friend to act as his boyfriend in public.

The experience - which stopped short of Kurek getting physically intimate with other men - is documented in Kurek's recent book "The Cross in the Closet," which has received international attention, landed him on ABC's "The View" and elicited some biting criticism.

I don't think theres anyway I could do what this guy did. Pretended to be Christian and or a gay man for a year just to see what its like.

For years, Kurek says, the only life he had was "his church life." Being an evangelical Christian was his identity.

He was home-schooled until seventh grade, almost all of his friends were from church and his social life was a nightly string of faith-based events, from church sports to a Christian Cub Scout troop. "It was the only thing I was used to doing," said Kurek, who attended Liberty University, the largest evangelical university in the world, before dropping out after freshman year.

Kurek grew up in an "independent Baptist church." "We were evangelical," he said, "but we were more conservative than evangelical, too."

His churchy lifestyle led to some deeply held views about homosexuality. Most evangelical churches condemn homosexuality as sinful. Many rail against certain gay rights, like gay marriage.

So Escapist what you think of this story? Could you put yourselves in the shoes of someone else to get a better understand of what they go through in daily life? Do you think this guy's book is a sign of a changing in religion dogma and the church becoming more accepting of gays? Or was this just a freak occurrence?

All and all even if you have no strong opinion(I really don't) I always find these kind of stories interesting.

I think he's a brave man to have challenged his own preconceptions in that manner. I also think he's in for a lot of grief from those he once called kin and is unlikely to change the minds of others.

That may be taking the walking a mile in the other man's shoes thing a bit to far. But okay then...

I like to think I'm an understanding person. So all this wouldn't be needed. I don't think this can be taken that churches are starting to turn around on the gay issue. It's mostly this one guy having a personal turn around. If you think homosexuality is evil, well, you're likely dead set on it. The people most likely swayed by the book are ones that didn't have to much of a problem with gays in the first place.

Shadowstar38:
That may be taking the walking a mile in the other man's shoes thing a bit to far. But okay then...

I like to think I'm an understanding person. So all this wouldn't be needed. I don't think this can be taken that churches are starting to turn around on the gay issue. It's mostly this one guy having a personal turn around. If you think homosexuality is evil, well, you're likely dead set on it. The people most likely swayed by the book are ones that didn't have to much of a problem with gays in the first place.

If they can be swayed to both sides, better they be swayed to the right one <_<

thats one brave individual.

takes alot of guts to try something like this. its amazing ow its completely changed his opinion of things. i couldnt get over his own mother said she wished he had cancer than being gay

I don't think it can be broadly applied to his specific church. As mentioned, he was largely abandoned and remains shunned from his Nashville evangelical community.

If anything, it points to the rather unsurprising fact that people who personally know gay people are more tolerant of them.

wombat_of_war:
thats one brave individual.

takes alot of guts to try something like this. its amazing ow its completely changed his opinion of things. i couldnt get over his own mother said she wished he had cancer than being gay

She wished she had cancer rather than having a gay son. Slightly less terrible.

Eh, this again.

Yeah, might look like a good idea, but doesn't really work.

He's not gay. Pretending to have a boyfriend does not make him gay. Whenever the fuck he wants he can stop it and go back to what he was doing before. All the homophobia aimed at him isn't actually aimed at him.

Not to mention, he's presumably going round lying to actual gay people so he can use them in his experiemtn.

thaluikhain:
Eh, this again.

Yeah, might look like a good idea, but doesn't really work.

He's not gay. Pretending to have a boyfriend does not make him gay. Whenever the fuck he wants he can stop it and go back to what he was doing before. All the homophobia aimed at him isn't actually aimed at him.

Not to mention, he's presumably going round lying to actual gay people so he can use them in his experiemtn.

I get the impression that the point was for him to experience the prejudices gay people suffer, so it makes no difference whether he's gay or not, if people treat him like he is, it allows him to understand.

DJjaffacake:

thaluikhain:
Eh, this again.

Yeah, might look like a good idea, but doesn't really work.

He's not gay. Pretending to have a boyfriend does not make him gay. Whenever the fuck he wants he can stop it and go back to what he was doing before. All the homophobia aimed at him isn't actually aimed at him.

Not to mention, he's presumably going round lying to actual gay people so he can use them in his experiemtn.

I get the impression that the point was for him to experience the prejudices gay people suffer, so it makes no difference whether he's gay or not, if people treat him like he is, it allows him to understand.

It's not the same if he knows he can quit whenever he wants, if he's not had to deal with it his whole life, and that it doesn't really apply to him as he isn't actually gay.

thaluikhain:

DJjaffacake:

thaluikhain:
Eh, this again.

Yeah, might look like a good idea, but doesn't really work.

He's not gay. Pretending to have a boyfriend does not make him gay. Whenever the fuck he wants he can stop it and go back to what he was doing before. All the homophobia aimed at him isn't actually aimed at him.

Not to mention, he's presumably going round lying to actual gay people so he can use them in his experiemtn.

I get the impression that the point was for him to experience the prejudices gay people suffer, so it makes no difference whether he's gay or not, if people treat him like he is, it allows him to understand.

It's not the same if he knows he can quit whenever he wants, if he's not had to deal with it his whole life, and that it doesn't really apply to him as he isn't actually gay.

True, but short of somehow hypnotising himself into believing he really is gay, there's not much more he could have done.

Not saying it's true, but is there a chance he just came out of the closet and then pussied out?

Shadowstar38:
That may be taking the walking a mile in the other man's shoes thing a bit to far. But okay then...

For all that he says he immersed himself completely, I note that he never went so far as actually having any sexual contact with other men. That would be taking the "walking a mile" thing a bit too far, especially when whichever poor bloke he ended up shagging discovered it had all been part of an experiment...

thaluikhain:
Not to mention, he's presumably going round lying to actual gay people so he can use them in his experiemtn.

Yeah, if you read the article it links to a couple of gay blogs/articles about how he essentially "betrayed the trust of every gay person who confided in him during that year"

I imagine his gay friends are as pissed with him now as his conservative friends were when he came out - he's spent a whole year lying to every one of them, and then he's managed to wrangle it into a multi-book deal. I'd feel pretty damn betrayed too.

Moderated:
Not saying it's true, but is there a chance he just came out of the closet and then pussied out?

Incredibly unlikely - he says he never had any sexual contact with other men, and persuaded a friend to act as his boyfriend. If he really were gay why would he come out, deal with all the bad shit that comes with being gay, and then never do any of the fun stuff?

--

Willingly taking on a label that you know is gonna be thoroughly hated by your own community is a pretty heavy thing to do! Gonna tkae more than that to really change a lot of minds, one of the biggest things he's done is probably change how others look at him, but it's still a pretty interesting story.

Genuine Evil:
That wasn't the point of his book

It may not be the point, but it's a legitimate criticism.

He didn't just come out to his family and church to see how they reacted, he went and tried to "understand" gay people by living among them. There was an anthropological objective on his part to understand a group he's not really part of. He did this by lying to them, by pretending to be in a position he wasn't and encouraging people to react to him in a particular way when it wasn't really who he was at all.

Now, I'm not saying that's necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, deception is the only way to learn anything about a particular group or community, and that kind of undercover participant observation is not uncommon in academia and journalism. But in this case, there are many gay people who come from evangelical backgrounds, all of whom could have written a book about their experience and the kind of discrimination they face.. but I can guarantee if they did so the book wouldn't sell, and this is where it starts to get a bit dodgy for me.

Kurek's goal here is to draw attention to the plight of LGBT people in America, particularly from evangelical backgrounds. That's a noble goal, and I particularly love that he's forgoing the personal profits of it. But still, he's a straight man telling the world about what he has come to understand about gay people in full knowledge that he will be listened to when actual gay people, people who have been through the kind of experiences he only pretended to have, would not be listened to, and would not be able to publish books about their experiences because noone would listen to them.

To a certain extent he's talking over actual gay people because he can. He's doing it for good reasons and with a sincere motivations to do right for the people he's talking about, and he'll probably end up doing a lot of good because of that, but I think he's wrong. He's not even capable of talking about "label" of being gay, because it never actually applied to him. He could always shrug that label off any time he wanted.

He's talking about how pretending that said label did apply to him changed his beliefs, and I think that's useful and encouraging but it's not what he's claiming it is.

Good for him.

You'd have thought that mere thought would be enough to change his mind, but I guess some people need to physically do something, then write a book about it, to provide them with a clear dividing line. Though I guess if the reaction from the local gay community is: "We feel so betrayed, you can never truly understand us!", he shouldn't have bothered at all. Some people just want to be victims.

--

Genuine Evil:
I hate arguments that start with the words " speaking as a ...". being a part of a group does not ( or should not) give your words any more power than if they were said by anyone else.

But it blatantly does. He's only able to get this book published because he's not actually gay. That's the only reason any of his opinions will have any weight.

If a gay person made any of the points he is making, do you think they'd get a book deal out of it? Is that because all gay people just suck at writing?

--

evilthecat:

Genuine Evil:
I hate arguments that start with the words " speaking as a ...". being a part of a group does not ( or should not) give your words any more power than if they were said by anyone else.

But it blatantly does. He's only able to get this book published because he's not actually gay. That's the only reason any of his opinions will have any weight.

If a gay person made any of the points he is making, do you think they'd get a book deal out of it? Is that because all gay people just suck at writing?

http://www.amazon.com/Self-Made-Man-Womans-Year-Disguised/dp/0143038702

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5171860

So what is your opinion on something like this?

If the points had been made by a man, would anyone care? I found it very interesting personally. Should we dismiss everything she says because she's doing the exact same thing?

After all, if the points he makes are valid...how much does it matter how it's done?

evilthecat:

Genuine Evil:
That wasn't the point of his book

It may not be the point, but it's a legitimate criticism.

He didn't just come out to his family and church to see how they reacted, he went and tried to "understand" gay people by living among them. There was an anthropological objective on his part to understand a group he's not really part of. He did this by lying to them, by pretending to be in a position he wasn't and encouraging people to react to him in a particular way when it wasn't really who he was at all.

Now, I'm not saying that's necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, deception is the only way to learn anything about a particular group or community, and that kind of undercover participant observation is not uncommon in academia and journalism. But in this case, there are many gay people who come from evangelical backgrounds, all of whom could have written a book about their experience and the kind of discrimination they face.. but I can guarantee if they did so the book wouldn't sell, and this is where it starts to get a bit dodgy for me.

Kurek's goal here is to draw attention to the plight of LGBT people in America, particularly from evangelical backgrounds. That's a noble goal, and I particularly love that he's forgoing the personal profits of it. But still, he's a straight man telling the world about what he has come to understand about gay people in full knowledge that he will be listened to when actual gay people, people who have been through the kind of experiences he only pretended to have, would not be listened to, and would not be able to publish books about their experiences because noone would listen to them.

To a certain extent he's talking over actual gay people because he can. He's doing it for good reasons and with a sincere motivations to do right for the people he's talking about, and he'll probably end up doing a lot of good because of that, but I think he's wrong. He's not even capable of talking about "label" of being gay, because it never actually applied to him. He could always shrug that label off any time he wanted.

He's talking about how pretending that said label did apply to him changed his beliefs, and I think that's useful and encouraging but it's not what he's claiming it is.

Brilliant. "His motivations were right, his actions are entirely justifiable in context, and the result will likely be positive....but he's still wrong!". Frankly, I think you're actually doing more harm than good when you make homosexuality out to be a completely independent, unfathomable state of being which "normals" can never hope to even understand on a basic level.

Human beings learn through experience, our actions and beliefs are shaped by it, by definition experiencing what happens to a person when they "come out" in such a hostile environment means it does, actually, apply to him, and your bitterness over the fact that we sadly still live in a world where a similar publication written by a genuinely gay person wouldn't get as much attention is not sufficient basis for you to condemn someone who intended, attempted, and likely succeeded in helping progress gay rights.

I am not African, and I have never been starving, are you saying that if I went to Africa, and lived among a group of starving Africans, sharing in their plight for a straight year, the fact that at the end of that year I can return to my old life makes that entire experience invalid? And further, that using that experience to bring attention and ideally positive action to bear on those people's plight would actually make me more wrong, somehow? Because that is the result of your argument when you apply it to anywhere else; you are saying that people who are not a thing can never hope to understand or comprehend that thing, and that privileged groups are actually wrong to use their privileged status to try and aid the underprivileged and to eventually eradicate their own privileged status.

Bentusi16:
If the points had been made by a man, would anyone care?

Yeah.

There are countless books written by men purporting to explain "what men are like" and which come to similar conclusions. Go to the self-help section of your local library, you'll find loads.

What is probably quite unique about this book, and what my point actually is, is that this is probably one of a very small number of those books actively written to be read by women.

Likewise, there is a huge amount of experiential literature about being gay, but the issue with those books (and the many more stories and ideas which didn't make it to print at all) is that heterosexuals have demonstrated little interest in reading about them.

I'm not saying "the findings in this book are worthless because Kurik isn't gay." For all you or I know he actually is gay and is merely pretending to be straight to sell books. The issue is why it would matter? Why it is that people who have probably heard about the problems gay people face in America all their lives don't acknowledge it until it comes from someone whose opinion is seemingly "untainted" by their own homosexuality?

And more importantly, can you challenge the institutional oppression of gay people when the only reason people will read your book and be affected by it is because they find you more credible than someone who is actually gay.

Genuine Evil:
I'm not saying it didn't help but you are acting as if there are no books on the subject of homosexuality from the prospective of a gay person.

..this applies to you as well.

Magichead:
Frankly, I think you're actually doing more harm than good when you make homosexuality out to be a completely independent, unfathomable state of being which "normals" can never hope to even understand on a basic level.

..and if you think that's what I'm doing or saying, then you are free to believe that, because it has absolutely no bearing on me and I don't give a shit.

Genuine Evil:

evilthecat:

Genuine Evil:
I hate arguments that start with the words " speaking as a ...". being a part of a group does not ( or should not) give your words any more power than if they were said by anyone else.

But it blatantly does. He's only able to get this book published because he's not actually gay. That's the only reason any of his opinions will have any weight.

If a gay person made any of the points he is making, do you think they'd get a book deal out of it? Is that because all gay people just suck at writing?

How do you know that's the only reason his book got published ? im not saying it didn't help but you are acting as if there are no books on the subject of homosexuality from the prospective of a gay person .

EDIT :

here are 2 examples:

On Being Gay: Thoughts on Family, Faith, and Love - The New York Times Best Seller
Becoming Gay: The Journey to Self-Acceptance - The New York Times Best Seller

"What this is about is the label of gay and how that label affected me personally." Such a book could only be written by someone faking to be gay

I don't think it would change whether it got published or not, but it'd be like if a black person wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin. Had a black person written it, there would be significantly less weight behind the text, because everyone would just ignore it, because it was just a slave, and they weren't really people. But if a white person is able to show them as a person, there's a bit more gravity to the situation.

I'm sure most fundies won't read it because they'll just pass it off as a brother lost to sin, but it's more likely that even one would read it if written by a former Evangelical than just by a regular gay person. At least with what the writer was trying to get across anyway.

A good man. I hope he learned something through his experience. I have often tried to understand the world from others points of view. I guess this would be a logical extreme.

evilthecat:

Why it is that people who have probably heard about the problems gay people face in America all their lives don't acknowledge it until it comes from someone whose opinion is seemingly "untainted" by their own homosexuality?

...because some people are close-minded? Some people may only be able to be reached by someone "like them". It's not ideal, but it's better than the alternative of shutting out a gay author with "fuck you gay homos, I won't listen to any of yer commie bullshit!" Which I'm sure some will still say to this guy, but not as many.

And more importantly, can you challenge the institutional oppression of gay people when the only reason people will read your book and be affected by it is because they find you more credible than someone who is actually gay.

Yes. One step at a time, grasshopper. Social change doesn't happen overnight. Unless you're the Supreme Court.

LetalisK:
Some people may only be able to be reached by someone "like them". It's not ideal, but it's better than the alternative of shutting out a gay author with "fuck you gay homos, I won't listen to any of yer commie bullshit!" Which I'm sure some will still say to this guy, but not as many.

I don't think the people who would say that would read this book. I hope they do, but I'm not that optimistic. I certainly don't think those people are responsible for what I'm describing.

If you picked up a book called The Cross in the Closet, it's probably because you're already interested. Sure, maybe some insane fuckhead pastor will read it in order to better understand the "gay agenda", but that's not going to be a significant sales demographic.

There's a much more subtle kind of exclusion here whereby people who probably think that homosexuality is perfectly "normal" and who have absolutely no problem with gay people will nonetheless consider a straight person more qualified to tell them the truth about gay people than an actual gay person.

..and to a certain extent, that's okay. I mean, we do need to be able to discuss this as a society, we do need to develop ways for straight people to understand and relate to "gay stuff" or it's always going to be marginal. The issue for me, and I'm not clear where exactly the line is here so I might break for a bit and go and think about this before I dig myself any more of a hole, is how we do that. Whether we do it by allowing gay people to exist in that public space, to be unmarked by the taint of "well you would say that, you're gay" and just to be normal people saying normal things.. or whether the conversation over gay rights should simply be a conversation about gay people for the sake of straight people's principles and consciences.

Sure, the former may be impossible but the latter is not good enough. I don't see how we're going to harm anything worth preserving by pointing that out.

 

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