Gay Like Me

Homophobic Straight Man Pretends To Be Gay For A Year

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Timothy Kurek used to be a raging homophobe with a strictly religious upbringing. But he was shocked when a good friend of his was flat out disowned by her parents when she came out as a lesbian. Kurek had a come-to-Jesus moment and decided to take an unorthodox approach to understanding what it’s like to be gay.

He posed as a gay man for one year.

MSNBC‘s gay anchor Tom Roberts interviewed Kurek , who is also writing an as-of-yet untitled book on his experience. First he “came out” to his surprisingly accepting family. Then he immersed himself in Nashville’s Gayborhood–at the bars, clubs, and bookstores. The brief interview doesn’t go into detail, but the question is raised how just hanging out at gay places could possibly give heterosexual Kurek an honest sense what it’s like to actually struggle with an unchangeable internal reality.

Kurek responds:

I will be the first one to say that my experience is severely limited. There is no way I could possibly understand what it’s like to actually be gay. And the book itself is not at all about what it is like to be gay, but only about how the label of gay impacted my external life and how those things kind of altered my faith and challenged my beliefs… I was doing everything I could to understand and going as far as I could, but being I’m straight was obviously very limited in what I was able to do.

Some folks may cry foul, or be insulted by someone using deception to gain access. But if Kurek came out of his experiment with empathy, understanding, and unity with the gay cause, as he claims, then great for him. Everyone has their own road to learning acceptance of all human beings, and Kurek found a method that worked for him, and he became the better for it. The old saying never fades about walking in another man’s shoes.

However, we do have a few unanswered questions:

What did he do when guys flirted with him?
Did he avoid getting intimate with other men?
How did his family and friends react when he came back out as straight?
Liza or Gaga?

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  • Erastes

    If he truly did it as an empathic device, then good for him. But one question I’d ask would be – where are the profits going? I hope, to LGBTQ causes. Not to his pocket.

  • lankyguy

    “Liza or Gaga?” Really?

  • Timothy Kurek

    A friend just showed this to me…

    All of the questions will be answered in the book, but I had to say on that last one…


    Much love to all of you and thank you for being fair to me when so many, including myself,
    have been unfair to you.

  • Tony

    REALLY!?!? I would tell you here & now this is a total lie. No way would he or most anyone be able to completely live a deceptive life of ones sexuality on every level needed to pull of such a “stunt” in search for empathy . I don’t have to pretend to be an amputee to empathize w/ a war vet etc. I believe he is search of something but empathy is not the name. I hope no buys his BS.

  • Rob

    If I were in his family I probabky wouldnt beleive he was straight and faked being gay.

  • paul berman

    Profit. Stunt. Do not buy this garbage

  • Belize

    I haven’t read the book. But based on the premise (that being this article alone) I’d go so far as to say that this is far better than what most people within the “strictly-religious, come-to-Jesus crowd” could offer. Could it be a marketing tool for people to buy the book? Absolutely. Could he be lying about actually immersing himself? Sure. Does he deserve the benefit of the doubt? Unless you’re some Dinosaur Queen who still thinks that there is a “war” between all LGBTs and straights, then the answer would be yes.

    @Tony: “I don’t have to pretend to be an amputee to empathize w/ a war vet etc.”

    That won’t change the fact that your level of empathy will vary if you do become an amputy.

    “No way would he or most anyone be able to completely live a deceptive life of ones sexuality on every level needed to pull of such a “stunt” in search for empathy.”

    So basically, what you’re saying is that you know him personally so as to give that kind of judgement? Lol.

    And also, assuming that you are of the LGBT, did ALL of the the people who have judged/attacked/criticized you for being of the LGBT see you in the sexual act that merits your inclusion in the LGBT? If the answer is “no” then that pretty much negates your comment. If the answer is “yes” or if you have NEVER been judged/attacked/criticized, then your point is completely invalid to begin with. Either way, your point has been overturned. The end.

  • StudioTodd

    Timothey…you’re welcome. I am amazed that any christian would care enough to challenge their own beliefs. You are not typical.

    Tony & Paul…STFU. You cynical, jaded, hateful assholes.

  • Elion

    @Tony: REALLY!?!? I would tell you here & now this is a total lie. No way would he or most anyone be able to completely live a deceptive life of ones sexuality on every level needed to pull of such a “stunt” in search for empathy .

    Um…tell that to someone who lived a closeted life. Empathy may not be high on the list of reasons why someone would do something like this, but I believe someone can give themselves a label and use it to live very easily. It doesn’t say how ‘gay’ he acted. He could have been more or less the same dude, just going to gay bars and such. Also, your example with an amputee has been done before. It’s really easy to forget to check privilege, and what this guy did was, in a lot of ways, admirable. I don’t think he’s a superhero or anything, but he put himself out there and put his neck on the line, and that’s pretty cool.

  • Timmmeeeyyy

    “No way would he or most anyone be able to completely live a deceptive life of ones sexuality on every level needed to pull of such a “stunt” in search for empathy .”

    Isn’t that exactly what many gay folks do?

    I doubt that his target audience for this book is gay folks. It’s for straight folks who are wondering what it might mean to be gay. Sometimes writing about a culture as an outsider is more effective because the writer has some of the same preconceptions that other outsiders have. It’s very reminiscent of the book “Black Like Me” where a white writer stained his skin and passed as a black man in the early 1960s. Is he going to make money off of it? Well, that’s what writers hope to do, it’s called a career. Given what most conservative Christian writers have to write about homosexuality, this book is a welcome addition.

  • Alexi3

    If the reasons he puts forth for why he went on this journey are true then I applaude him loudly. From personal knowlege and experience I know that most people on the Religious Right would never even think of trying something so extreme to try and gain some understanding of what it is like to walk in another person’s shoes. Despite Christ’s injuction that they do just that, by “Loving their neighbors as themselves”. I don’t find it hard to believe that his friend’s family disowning her could have precipitated a crisis of faith, and, if true, the journey he undertook to resolve the conflict is admirable and it sounds like he came out the other side all the better for it. Better for him, better for us and better for anyone who wants to approach the subject with an open mind.

  • 1equalityUSA

    Marcus Bachmann must be acting straight in order to write a book.

  • Eric in Chicago

    It’s GAY LIKE ME

  • jason

    The worse thing that any gay man could do would be to immerse oneself in the gay neighborhood. It’s a recipe for disaster. While it might seem fun and accepting at first, it inevitably becomes a routine of one-night stands and queeny dance music set to a drug-induced stupor.

    There’s also a strong element of ageism and appearance fascism in the gay community. I would highly recommend that the gay scene be avoided.

    There are so many ordinary, decent and non-segregationist places out there to enjoy yourself. Avoid the gay scene is what I say.

  • Bellerophon69

    At least he tried to see what we go through on a day to day basis, even though it wasn’t the “Full Monty” we should give him some credit. And don’t be so pissy just because he’s writing a book about it and he’s not really gay, it might push straights who are sitting on the fence about LGBT issues over to our side. Wait, I know, there’ll always be someone getting their panties in a bunch because it wasn’t a gay person who actually did it.

  • James

    I will read this book.

  • Stupid

    I call bullshit on this book. And “Black Like Me.” And Tyra Banks in a fatsuit. If this was the writer’s only path to empathy, then … OK, well, good for him. But honestly, I think it’s a pretty narrow mind that can’t find its way to empathy simply on the basis of shared humanity.

    If he wanted to know how the label “gay” affects a person’s life, the writer could’ve chosen from thousands of modern gay writers who have real experience to share — there was no need to create this engineered reality-TV-esque experience. And there are plenty of nice straight men who’ve been on the receiving end of gay slurs and assumptions, so this “experiment” is redundant. I think the notion that a straight person can offer any insight into what it’s like to be gay — without the central experience of being gay (romantic attachments to someone of your own gender) — downright insulting.

  • Carl 1

    @Timothy Kurek: I think it’s a brave man who recognises his prejudices and, to help overcome them, places himself in his former victims position. Most people would just be content with surface platitudes and not really ever addressing the core issues – or the impact those beliefs have upon others. I say bravo to you.

    Ignore the jaded, cynical individuals – they can’t help themselves. We (as a community) are just so accustomed to being crapped on from a great height, that many inevitably see everything in the worst possible light. It’s unfortunate, but that’s what discrimination leads to, as I’m sure you’ve probably come to realise. And I’m also sorry about your friend – sometimes, the friends we make are better family than the one we are born into.

  • roger

    he could have done this very easily. sometimes people hate things till they have to confront it in someone they care about. ive known too many thrown out and disowned. when i was being discriminated against for being gay it was always the last person i expected to stand by my side who showed up and the ones i thought would be there were nowhere to be found. i did a scene in a movie, there were about 30 of us who were playing the part of gay school teachers. half of us were acutally gay and the rest were straight. the gayest of all was actually a straight guy. he could have passed

  • Rockery

    OOPS! I commented on that Beiber cut out story prematurely, THIS is beyond stupid

  • Kev C

    I’ll wait for the Reader’s Digest condensed version.

  • Jerred

    Wasn’t their a woman who lived as a man for year and wrote a book about it? I think she was a feminist who wanted to see what it was like to live like the other half. Sounds very similar. But I admit it is an intriguing idea.

  • MisterTwister

    @Stupid: YESS!! *snap*… Loved it.

  • Flick

    This is an interesting experiment. I am glad that he had a change of heart. I wish every homophobe would experience this. Good for him.

  • Chris

    @jason: Excellent! We are thrilled not to have you as part of our neighborhood, self hate brings down the property values.

  • Bob

    He went to bookstores??? I assume he means ‘Adult’ bookstores. So what did he do there; stand around and watch guys going in and out of booths doing each other? I think this still happens in the few remaining dinosaurs called ‘Adult’ bookstores. I wonder if he gave it a try to get the whole picture?

  • Bob

    @Fodolodo: I was under the impression that the article meant ‘Adult’ bookstores’. You are aware of them…right? Some still do exist. The ones that have a few ancient, what we used to call dirty books and DVDs on the shelves and make all their money in the booths in the back of the store. Maybe I misinterpreted it, but I don’t think so.

  • dvlaries

    >>Liza or Gaga?<<
    Where does that put me? I'm Garbo and Norma Shearer.

  • Hillers

    And we’ll see ya at Thighbearnation 2013, Timmy.

  • Murray

    From what I could see of this dude he really didn’t have to worry about getting hit on. May be a nice guy and all that but really a zero in the chemistry department.

  • ErganeFlood

    I’m sorry… I kinda just wanna punch him in his smug little face.

  • Nina

    @Timothy Kurek:

    I’m not sure I agree with your methods (I’m a lesbian and I’ve never needed to pretend to be straight to empathize with my straight girlfriends’ boy troubles), but I just want to tell you there are gay folks out there shaking their heads at some of these folks saying you’re wrong. We all get to acceptance of others (and of ourselves–I know a few gay/bi people who don’t have tortured inner-conflict stories about coming out, but they’re in the minority) by different paths, and as long as those paths caused no harm, I don’t think we should judge.

  • Michael

    GYRL PLEASE~! you don’t PRETEND to make out with a guy for a year and then say….no thanks……his eyes must be brown….cause I think he’s full of SHYTE~!

    It’s all about the book he’s going to sell and the eventual movie rights…..and I, as a gay man….think it was a pointless exercise on his part……

  • Nina

    @Michael: You’re making the assumption, though, that he had a long-term partner during that year (or even a short term, just-hooking-up partner). Who’s to say he didn’t take part in gay culture without hooking up? Out of five and a half years of being out of the closet, I’ve dated for a grand total of five months. Does that make me any less of a gay person?

    And, erm, just sayin’ . . . . before I came out, I kissed guys (although making out was another animal entirely because UGH, facial hair). It is possible to go along to get along with a gender you’re not attracted to.

  • Carl 1

    @Nina: Oh hush Nina, using common sense like that. How dare you ;-)

    Seriously, I agree with you. He’s hurt no one and has come to not only accept but sympathise with LGBT people and our struggles. I fail to see how this is a bad thing. We have one less hater and one more ally now – and even better, he’s going to tell the whole world how he changed his opinion, what he saw from ‘the other side’.

  • Nina

    @Carl 1: Exactly this, Carl.

    And, you know, to all the people who are saying “haha, it’s because he was really gay all along,” okay, then–GROW UP AND CELEBRATE! You know what we call people who tease and chide gay teens who come out? Bullies. Monsters. In some cases, killers. So he spent a lot of his life in a fundamentalist background (from here on out we’re going to be taking “he’s really gay” as a given), internalized, became homophobic, and then decided to take a leap and go for it–and the response? A bunch of cynicism. Boy, am I glad none of you were around when I came out, because I would have fled right back into the closet. If he’s not really gay, you’re showing yourselves to be a bunch of assholes who don’t actually care that he tried to reach out. If he IS really gay . . . . well, gee, then . . . you’ve attacked him for taking baby steps toward self-acceptance. Smooth.

  • Paul F

    As a child I read the book “Black like me” where a white man in the 60’s colored his skin with dye to sucessfully pass as black for a year (?) to experience first hand the hatred they dealt with (and still do) on a daily basis. Is this any different where being gay is the “new black” of the 21st century? What was normal accepted lawful behaviour then, is now (or should be) unlawful today. The accepted gay bashing of the right wing is in the same place now as black bashing was then. While there are still racist a-holes today, they can’t be so blatent about it as it was in back in the day. There will still be gay haters when we finaly receive equal rights, because a certain percentage of peoples’ brains are just wired that way. While hatred IS taught, some people take to it like a fish to water because they are BORN THAT WAY. I commend what he did, and if it opens the eyes of a conservative, he has won, as that book did too.

  • Alexi3

    @Chris: Great comment on Jason and property values.

  • Dinodogstar

    Let me tell ya,he was very, very good at pretending; he blew me like a seasoned pro…

  • Wendykahn

    This is just bullshit. Anything to make money.

  • Rupert

    @Tony: Let’s see, I led a complete lie about my life pretending to be straight for a far longer period of time, I still do for many people in my life. To say that it’s impossible is ridiculous, it does require willpower and mental fortitude yes. I won’t say what he did was completely necessary however I do think that if it changed how he thought about gay people then that’s fantastic.

  • Jean

    Sounds similar to the plot of the 1950’s movie Gentlemen’s Agreement where a reporter pretended to be Jewish to see how people treated him differently, I’d like to see a gay version of that movie!

  • shannon


  • Liam

    1.) I think what he has done was in good faith.
    2.) I applaud him for changing his attitude about gay people.
    3.) What about all the lies he had to tell to innocent gay people?
    4.) Does his end justify the means?
    5.) Let’s wait and read the book.
    6.) What do his friends and family think about him now, having lived a lie, told lies, in order to write a book—and earn profits while posing as a person who wants change?
    7.) Will he donate proceeds of this book to LGBTQA causes?
    Conclusion: What has really bothered me was that he lied to people in order to learn about a culture he did not belong. He affected and effected so many gay lives! Every action we go has ripples that connect with other people and more people through those people etc. What are the ramifications of his lies? We may never know. BUT, he will earn money from those lies and (innocent?) dubious acts while playing the impostor. I hope he did more good than bad.

  • Ross H. Smith

    The book IS titled, it’s called “Jesus in Drag”. Theres a big story in the Huffington Post about it. The story actually answers just about all of the questions in the comments above.

  • abel

    I look forward to reading this. I’ll take him at his word till proven otherwise.

  • Tammie

    I think it is a beautiful and courageous thing that Timothy did, we all know the hell we go through living in the closet and then coming out. He subjected himself to this hell when he did not have to, except that, he took a look at his own prejudices and confronted them head on, going above what most in his position with his background will ever do. We have parents, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, friends and coworkers who have turned on us…Timothy subjected himself to this ridicule with purpose, and came out as a better person for it.

    Please don’t judge others harshly …especially if you do not know the whole story and I do not see anything wrong with him making money from writing this book.

    For some of you wondering about the lies…he told guys that he had a boyfriend so things would not get complicated

    As far as friends and family he said in the interview, that he has had no contact with them after coming out as straight. He still hangs with gay friends….way cool!

  • Tammie

    @Carl 1: I agree completely

Comments are closed.