I'm not going to say much about this piece from Sunday's Observer. I'm just flagging it up here because I think it's one of those things that's in a nice middle-class newspaper as a nice middle-class sermon on tolerance and open-mindedness. And it makes me sick.
Essentially, Timothy Kurek was homophobic as hell until one of his friends tugged at his cankerous, rusty heartstrings with her story about being kicked out of her home when she came out as lesbian. For some reason, his best response to this (admittedly devastating, but sadly all too common) tale was to pretend to be gay for a year in an attempt to "walk in the shoes of a gay man".
Pretty much anyone reading this knows why it's hugely problematic, right? I mean, good for you, dude, you're all accepting and shit. It shouldn't have taken you a year to get there, but whatever, you've made it, have a cookie. And give one to your mum, too.
However, Timothy Kurek doesn't actually have to live with the consequences of his decision. What his mum said about him was devastating, yes. But now he can tell her the good news, which is that he's not an abomination after all, and they can go back to cosy family life. It's quite possible that the same is not true for any of the gay people Kurek befriended during his year "undercover".
And what of the gay man that Kurek recruited to be his pretend boyfriend in order to avoid unwanted sexual advances? Did Shawn just put his life on hold for a year? What's his life like now? Are his friends accepting of his part in Kurek's experiment? In the (admittedly short) article I read, there's little mention of Shawn. There's little mention of any of the "new gay friends" that Kurek apparently now has. It's just Kurek patting himself (and his mum) on the back for learning to be so accepting. His mum is now "an ally in the gay community", so that's nice, I guess. Again, it would be nice if these people could have just had some empathy before this ridiculous charade, but hey, allies are good; non-homophobes are good; people who have learnt the error of their ways are better than people who never do.
The worst part of this story is Kurek's grotesque statement that "being gay for a year saved my faith". You weren't gay for a year, you pretended to be gay for a year. There's a whole world of difference. When you were "first called [f*ggot] for real", you were not "violated by that word." You don't know the meaning of the word violated. You don't know the meaning of slurs. You are the most protected example of humanity in the Western world, and as a cis white straight educated Christian American man, you will never understand how it feels to be addressed by a slur. Slurs don't exist for you, that's how protected you are. I can't tell you how insulted I was when I read how Kurek "had to be restrained from confronting the man, and then broke down in tears at the shock." How the other half lives, right? Kurek seems to think that he now understands what it's like for a gay man to be called a f*ggot, which I'm sure we can all tell him is garbage.
To add insult to injury, Kurek is making money from this. In addition to deceiving the gay community, treating gay people like laboratory animals, and having the gall to think that he's somehow done something brave and admirable, Timothy Kurek is selling his book, The Cross in the Closet. I literally can't think of anything so repulsively appropriative as to lie to gay people, invade their spaces, nobly overcome your desire to "vomit" when a gay man comes onto you, and then steal their voices in order to make money from your revolting experiment. If Kurek was actually gay, do you think anyone would read his book about it? Hell no they wouldn't.
If this is a nice middle-class idea of a journey towards open-mindedness, I'll do without, thanks.