The Cross in the Closet chronicles the year that heterosexual Christian Timothy Kurek spent living as a gay man. He “came out” to his family and friends to learn firsthand what it’s like to be alienated and discriminated against for being gay.
Kurek chose today, National Coming Out Day, to officially launch The Cross in the Closet and has pledged to give some of the book’s proceeds to a charity helping homeless LGBT youth.
Though his parents never taught him to shun or hate gay people – and had themselves struggled with their church’s stance on homosexuality – Kurek nevertheless grew up believing homosexuality was a sin.
“You learned to be very afraid of God,” Kurek told ABC’s Good Morning America. “The loving thing to do is to tell my friend who is gay, ‘Hey, listen, you are an abomination and you need to repent to go to heaven.’ I absolutely believed in that lock, stock and barrel.”
But after a closeted lesbian friend broke down in his arms one night over her parents disowning her, Kurek felt conflicted that his thoughts were more concerned with converting her than helping her.
So in 2009, he began planning his year-long “spiritual espionage.”
For six month Kurek plotted but the project truly began in earnest while he was nonchalantly reading a gay-themed book at a café in his native Nashville.
“A guy came up to me when he saw the cover and said, ‘You know that is fundamentally false — you can’t be gay and Christian.” Kurek responded, “I am gay and I love God.”
Coming out to his parents, who were divorced, was the hardest part for Kurek, as it is for many LGBT people.
“I snooped in my mother’s journal one day after I had come out and she’d written, ‘I’d rather have found out from a doctor that I had terminal cancer than have a gay son.'”
Kurek also found himself divested of friends after his announcement, saying the thing that struck him most was the isolation.
“Before I came out as gay, I had a very busy social life. After I came out, I didn’t hear from 95 percent of my friends.”
Only three people were in on the experiment: his best friend, his aunt – who acted like a spy in the house of Kurek should his mother go “off the deep end” – and a new gay friend, Shawn, who became his beard, if you will.
Kurek credits Shawn for teaching him not to be afraid and as the “first gay person that I let into my heart.” They held hands and embraced, eventually leading to Kurek’s initial “revulsion” to dissipate.
“Early on if a guy pinched my ass,” he admitted, “I would have punched someone in the face.”
Kurek hopes The Cross in the Closet will change minds in and help bridge the gap between the Christian and LGBT communities, as the process has done for both he and his mother, who is now supportive of gay rights.
“In the end it was a book about prejudice,” he said, “not a book about being gay.”