Wednesday, December 5, 2012

In the Straight Closet

Can you find the straight man in this picture?  According to Tim Kurek (center), the gayborhood of Nashville couldn't.  For a year.

Kurek was raised in an evangelical household, spent a year at Liberty University (Jerry Falwell's pride and joy) and like most of those around him believed that homosexuality was an abomination.  During a Soul Force demonstration at Liberty University, Kurek argued with a protestor from the pro-gay evangelical group, founded by Falwell's former closeted aid, Mel White.  Shortly after that Kurek left Liberty and during the course a few years started to question the talking points about gay people with which he had grown up.

His plan was to go into the closet as a straight man and come out to his family and friends as gay.  He wanted to walk a mile in the shoes of a gay man. So for one year he lived among the homosexuals.  The LGBT community around Church Street in Nashville became his friends and, as to his family... Sorry I will keep spoilers to a minimum.

Kurek's decision took a lot of criticism. Many LGBT activists said he was making light of the situation by imagining that he could really "get it" in just one year and with the knowledge that he could walk away whenever he wanted. Kurek takes this criticism on honestly.  He never wanted or expected to find out what it was like to be gay.  He did want to challenge his prejudices and clearly in a very big way.  He wanted to find out what the LGBT community was like and not just as a casual observer.  His "experiment," as he calls, accomplished this.  It's really a must read for anyone, gay or straight.  Period.

I read this book on the recommendation of a straight friend.  Our discussions about the book revealed how our different points of view informed our reading.  My friend was more interested in his changed perspectives.  I found that his experience of living in his own closet was more powerful.

The friends he makes and the people he meets really are quite a broad spectrum of the community.

Several things about the book were of concern to me.  I bought this as an e-book and was quite distracted by the number of misspellings and typographical errors.  The center part of the book does become repetitive and well, a bit preachy.  Kurek gave himself away as open-minded too soon in the book for my liking.  I found it harder to believe early on that he would have shouted down the protestors in Soul Force than that he would following through with the experiment.  But hidden later in the book are perspectives that make his epiphanies seem more believable.  Kurek makes contact with folks from the Westboro Baptist Church family.  I found that interesting.  The reaction of his new community when he revealed that he had been lying to them for a year kept me reading at a pretty good clip.

Every gay Christian should read this book.  Every Christian should read this book, but I fear that will not happen. I will be recommending this to my church's book club.

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