Timothy Kurek grew up hating homosexuality. As a conservative Christian deep in America’s Bible belt, he had been taught that being gay was an abomination before God. He went to his right-wing church, saw himself as a soldier for Christ and attended Liberty University, the “evangelical West Point”.
But when a Christian friend in a karaoke bar told him how her family had kicked her out when she revealed she was a lesbian, Kurek began to question profoundly his beliefs and religious teaching. Amazingly, the 26-year-old decided to “walk in the shoes” of a gay man in America by pretending to be homosexual.
For an entire year Kurek lived “under cover” as a homosexual 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 a 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 1960s deep south passing as a black American, and 2006’sSelf-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,” he told the Observer.
Read on at The Guardian.