NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As the LGBT community marked “National Coming Out Day” this week, there is one story that stands out in its uniqueness.
Nashville resident Timothy Kurek said he was brought up to believe that homosexuality was a sin.
“You learned to be very afraid of God,” reflected Kurek. According to the preachings of his church, “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.”
Kurek said that he had so perfected his “life-in-Christ” that others went to him for guidance and inspiration.
But it was during a period around four years ago, he said, when a friend, a lesbian, came to him shattered after her parents disowned her when she came out.
“I feel God really kicked me in the gut,” he said. “She was crying in my arms and instead of being there for her, I was thinking about all the arguments to convert her.”
Kurek’s reaction to her heartache and distress bothered him to the point he says that he wondered what it felt like to be gay and so alone.
Although he is heterosexual, he decided that he would explore that what it would be like to be a gay man for a year. “It finally clicked,” he said. “I needed to empathize and understand.”
By 2009, the idea to go undercover, as a way of documenting and learning about homophobia, was born. For six months he plotted and planned. “I had to make sure the timing was right,” he said.
But one day, sitting in a café in a part of Nashville where the gay bars and Christian hang-outs intersect, Kurek had his first confrontation. While reading a gay-themed book, he became aware of the “snickers and sneers.”
“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,'” said Kurek, who responded, “I am gay and I love God.”
The project to become gay had begun for real.
Kurek wrote about his journey — one that included hanging out in gay bars and facing the disappointment of his family and rejection of his friends — in his memoir, “The Cross in the Closet,” which was released Thursday.
During that year, 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.
“In the end it was a book about prejudice, not a book about being gay,” said Kurek, who added that he chose National Coming Out Day and LGBT National History Month to launch his book, and that he will donate a portion of the proceeds to a charity that helps homeless LGBT youth.
“I want this seen as a people issue,” he said. “When we are shunning people, we are shunning Fred and John and Liz and Mary. These are human people.”