You know what my least favorite part of Coming Out Day is? The straight people who appropriate it.
And never has that feeling flared up so strongly as yesterday when ABC News published an article about Timothy Kurek, a 26-year-old straight Christian man who lived for a year as a gay in order to understand the gay plight. Also: his memoir about the experience and his subsequently acquired empathy, Cross in the Closet, came out on Coming Out Day. Maybe I’m just grumpy and jaded. But this guy spends one year undercover in the gloomy, dismal underground world of homosexual heathens, and then he and his new-found compassion return to straight male privilege with the added bonus of a book deal, and all I can think is HOW NICE FOR HIM, as my eyes roll back into my head.
Kurek grew up as a religious Christian in Nashville, where he was told that homosexuality is a sin by his church. He drank the Kool Aid so eagerly, in fact, that he not only became That Guy who would tell his gay friends that they were abominations — his friends’ parents would call him to “set their kids straight.” But then, something magical happened: one of his friends came out to her parents and was disowned by them. As she cried in his arms about it, Kurek had a sudden spark of self-doubt, and it occurred to him that maybe he was wrong.
But it seems this thought was more of a hypothesis that needed testing. Rather than developing a sense of empathy from listening to the stories of marginalized people, Kurek needed to actually pretend to be one. For a year.
For the sake of this espionage mission, Kurek “came out” to everyone in his life except for his aunt and two friends, one of whom pretended to be his boyfriend for the year, so that he could have an excuse not to actually have gay sexual experiences. But by giving himself a guaranteed safety net, Kurek made sure that his queer year couldn’t actually ruin his life. It was, after all, an experiment.
This safety net was made up of people who supported the experiment, and who applauded his efforts; witnesses to his brave self-sacrifice. So instead of letting himself experience the full-on shame from those he “came out to,” Kurek made sure he didn’t lose the privilege of approval. Though he claims to have felt isolated, he never actually was.
Safety net aside, is it even possible to experience being gay without actually being gay? It’s one thing to do as Kurek did and claim gayness, to hold hands and embrace with someone of the same gender, to occupy queer spaces; but what does all that matter if you don’t actually feel the attraction? If you know that whenever you want, you can return to your Real Life, shedding the stigma as quickly as you gained it? I don’t doubt that he felt ostracized by his community and his family — his mother even wrote in her diary (he snooped it) that she’d rather have terminal cancer than a gay son. But since he’s not really gay, could he read that and actually experience shame? At most, the prejudices of his mother were revealed to him. But since her homophobia wasn’t actually about him, Kurek didn’t have to take it to heart. He didn’t have to feel the self-loathing that reaction would have inspired in a real gay person — he only had to feel disappointment in his mother for her reaction. It was literally just fodder for the memoir.
And how many memoirs by actual queer people got turned down so that this one could be published? Queers have so many stories to tell: stories of shame, isolation, strength, community, bravery — stories with real consequences, with lives on the line, where getting shunned by everyone you know because you’re gay is a devastating, life-altering possibility, so much bigger than a lesson learned about prejudice. There are infinitely more queer stories than their are published queer memoirs.
As a person with gay people in his life, Kurek could have asked them questions, could have listened to their stories and taken them to heart. He could have been a supportive and respectful ally. Maybe he even could have put together an anthology of their stories, writing an appropriately respectful introduction about the importance of the voices of marginalized people. But he just couldn’t take other people’s word for it. It seems the rest of the world can’t, either — does it really take a straight man to get our stories told and validated?
What’s more, by publishing and promoting his memoir on Coming Out Day, a day that is supposed to be ours for telling our stories and giving other members of our community the space to come out, Kurek is occupying space that doesn’t belong to him. Can’t we have anything nice? I don’t want to read a story about a straight man who walked in our shoes, only to take them off at the end of the day and make some money off of the simple lessons he learned. I think it’s great that his mind was changed, that he no longer thinks that gay people should rot in hell. But I find the lengths he had to go to to get to that conclusion deeply disturbing. People can develop empathy just from listening to others. Why was he above that?
The people whose minds will be swayed with this book probably would not read a memoir by an actual queer person, so in that sense, Kurek is doing somewhat of a service. And it’s true that he’s donating part of the proceeds to a charity that helps homeless LGBTQ youth. But by nominating himself to “bridge the gap” between the queer community and people who think we are abominations, Kurek is making a very strong statement about what voices count, and whose voices have the power to create change. It seems that as long as straight memoirs get priority over queer ones, privilege is going to maintain its structure, and queers will remain a subject to be discussed, rather than a group of people to listen to.
Thank you so much for writing this. This story really bothers me, but everyone else has been praising him for being such a wonderful person.
This story is not a unique one. Lots of conservative anti-gay Christians end up coming out and having to deal with family reactions and even with their own prejudices (I know I still had some homophobic thoughts even after I knew I was gay). But because he goes back to being straight at the end, people are interested in what he has to say. That’s messed up.
I actually found this to be less inflammatory as the rest of you. It is true that he gets to go back to his life of privilege and non discrimination, but then again, he did not choose to be born straight either, and this is the closest he will ever get to being gay. I also think it’s a good thing he pretended to already have a boyfriend than have sexual relations in which he didn’t mean or consent to because that would only hurt both parties.
I froze the screen when it showed some of what he was writing and it really doesn’t appear exploitative. Both the writing and his video sound like them come from a genuine place. It looks like the experiences really opened his eyes. It’s too bad a straight person’s voice is heard over a lgbt one, but if this helps to progress acceptance for us further, I’m good with it. As long as he doesn’t begin acting like a hero, martyr, or designated voice of the gays and just as a respectful witness or guest, I am okay.
The majority of my reply can be found on my blog: http://statik-media.com/Ness/?p=109
But here is a summary:
I’ve heard comments such as “Why did he have to make it All About Him?” and “He could have compiled a bunch of stories from queers and used that” and “He’s taking a holiday in my identity as a means of getting a book deal” etc etc bitch bitch moan.
(To quickly clear those points up)
1) The book is All About Him because it is about his personal experiences. You wouldn’t write a book on your experiences as a gay person from the point of view of someone else would you?
2) I’ve answered this, in detail. People learn from their peer groups. Straight people aren’t going to read something written from the point of view of a queer person – not because they’re a bigot – but because they won’t fully understand what’s happening because they themselves are not queer.
3) The book deal was a happy bonus. Now angry queers like to try to point out that there aren’t many queer books around (ever been to a queer bookstore?) but this one got published. OMG QUEER DISCRIMINATION YOU GUYS! Well no it isn’t. Book publishers publish stuff that is going to sell and sell big. Why would a book publisher publish yet another queer erotic novel that only a niche market (For example: 2,500 people will buy in a city) when they can publish a book that 250,000 people will buy in a city? It has nothing to do with discrimination and everything to do with making a profit. A book with a premise like “Cross in the Closet” hasn’t been seen since “Black Like Me” so of course it’s going to sell. Also Tim marketed his arse off on Indiegogo to crowdsource money to print a manuscript and generate interest as a proof of concept so he’d have better chance at securing a publisher.
Now I find it rather hypocritical that the queers jumping up and down the loudest, putting in their two cents because they think it matters – most of them probably haven’t read the book. How does a person expect to make fully informed decisions if they don’t research what they are getting angry over? Queers spend so much time bitching about oppression from the non-queer community yet they forget about their own. The oppression, fighting and internal discrimination that runs rampant within the queer community as a whole AND within the individual subcommunities is mindblowing.
From what I can see straight people are never going to win with these types of queers. If straight people don’t do anything to help with the so-called queer struggle and they are labeled arseholes and bigots, yet if straight people try to change themselves for the better and become proactive in the community to help – they are silenced because according to some queers – why should we take help from those who have oppressed us?
Fuck this guy.
Hm. I do understand your irritation to some extent, but I don’t really feel as upset by this as you do. I wish more straight homophobes would try out being pretend-gay for a year, have their minds changed, and get other straight homophobes who wouldn’t otherwise give a damn to listen to them.
I also don’t really agree that Coming Out Day “belongs” to the gays. Straight people coming out as allies is incredibly valuable too. It’s not like there’s some time or space limitation on how many people can participate. There’s room for all of us!
Coming Out Day does belong to us. No one deserves a cookie for being a decent human being who respects others despite their choice of sexual partner, and I find the concept of “coming out as an ally” alternately laughable and nauseating.
Whoa, you get cookies for coming out? Where the hell was mine?
Seriously, though, this kind of attitude just seems unnecessarily divisive to me. But we’re all entitled to our own opinions etc.
would you congratulate someone on not being racist? same thing. you don’t get anything special for giving me my basic human respects.
So don’t praise them with cookies then… Don’t give them anything special for giving basic human rights.
Some people live in places where letting people know (and you can’t always tell each person individually for obvious reasons) can help. I’m sure some idiots do it for praise, so ignore those people and stop going on about (not you but people in general) about “cookies” in every post re.allies, because of a lot of the time it is totally irrelevant!
I wouldn’t expect praise for not being racist no, but if I was in a school where the vast majority was racist and I mentioned that I was anti-that, well I wouldn’t expect a cookie OR expect people to assume I was saying it because I wanted a cookie.
I get that being an ally actually is the ‘in’ thing now, with celebrities especially (which at least in one sense is positive however much someone may hate the ally-movement in general) but that doesn’t mean that everyone who is an ally isn’t genuine.
I even saw a post of a prominent internet gay blogger who said they thought there hypothetically could be a decent ally but had never known of one. Yup! Those PFLAG BASTARDS. Marching JUST for the cookies! >.>
Unless they meant the term ‘ally’ itself. Is that what people are mad about? Because it seems slightly cringey to me (Brit), but for any genuinely ally, it is just semantics. I don’t see ally week as celebrating allies, and ‘coming out’ as allies is just semantics too (though I can see why it would irritate) to ‘fit’ the theme. Again, I’m not saying some people aren’t after cookies/cookie week, but I see it more as a reminder/catalyst to focus on anti-homophobia. Imo this does not mean people are lazy the rest of the time, the reason Prop8 was SUCH a big deal and gave such a push to our movement is because it took AWAY rights (this is relevant, bear with me).
The trouble with gay rights is that as bad as homphobia and inequal laws are, they are always there, in the foreground for some queer/straight people, and the background for some queer/straight people. This doesn’t mean they’re not important but pretty much nobody, however gay/gay supportive is going to wake up and be like ‘OH MY GOD, GAYS CAN’T GET MARRIED?!’ in one momentous catalyst of activism, because it isn’t a negative thing which happened at once and which gay people ever had. Ally week is similar. People may always be allies, but ally month gives that a focus. You may disagree with there being such a focus ofc, but to imply that all allies who ‘come out’ during this week are doing so to ‘celebrate’ their ‘ally-ness’ is disingenuous. It may be true for some idiots, but officially isn’t ally week a time when students are encouraged to sign a pledge not to use slurs? And which simply lets students know that people aren’t homophobic when they might have thought otherwise (schools can be nasty places so makes sense if you don’t live in a ‘gay’ area) and so reduce the incidences of a school which actually has many non-homophobic students but where a gay student is too scared to come out because they don’t actually KNOW this and assume otherwise? And yes, try and change people who are anti-gay specifically because of their own insecurities, which is sad but this is a genuine cause of bullying and so I don’t know that I can criticise ally week for giving attention to that.
An yes, OF COURSE allies should be allies all the time, Ally week is not a contradiction of that! Are gay people only gay during pride month?! It’s just a focus on being anti-homophobic like other ‘themed’ (for want of a better term) months/weeks.
I can see why it would be annoying that it overlaps with coming out day though, could have done it separately. Doesn’t annoy me personally but could see why it would others for whom coming out is a bigger deal and who used the day to do so.
-oh great, this was going to be a short little post
“are mad about” is probably not the best words to use, I mean it because I’m writing fast and casually and not to be inflammatory. I mean “what irritates people”.
Didn’t actually realise you can’t edit posts here… I’m so used to writing fast, ‘checking’ (failing) and then noticing errors right after posting.
“stop going on about “cookies” in every post re.allies, because of a lot of the time it is totally irrelevant!”
Yes, thank you. This is the point I was trying to make that I apparently didn’t make clearly enough. No, I don’t give cookies to people who are against racism. Nor to allies. But I also don’t try to exclude them from participating in events whose very purpose is to raise visibility about marginalized groups, since their participation in said events does in fact help to raise said visibility, so excluding them seems pretty self-defeating if not totally insane.
i’m not at all anti-ally. nor am i anti-awareness, activism, etc. but i do think there is something to be said for not patting someone on the head just because they don’t hate me, you know? like, good job. you’re treating me like a human.
i think what’s important is encouraging allies to promote awareness in healthy, safe, and respectful ways. remember the “queer bloggers” who turned out to be het men? i see this as very similar. there are tons of queer stories waiting to be told, and this story comes across (to someone who admittedly has not read it!) as somewhat disingenuous. there are tons of ways to promote awareness, but this seems very topical, i guess? a straight person who wants to tell the queer story. it’s always going to be through the lens of a hetero perspective. and therefore not a queer story.
Also he gets to make money out of other people’s real stories that they have to live AND to go back to being privileged.
The one thing that DOES bother me about this whole deal is that he could have taken the opportunity to share the stories and perspectives of the actual LGBT folk he met instead of his own. Fair enough.
But I personally would LOVE to see other straight people deciding to walk down the street holding hands with someone of the same sex, even for a day, to get a sense of what it’s really like. Especially those who think we’ve got it made (as many here in Canada seem to think we do) and have nothing to complain about anymore.
i think the thing is that there’s a difference between wanting to walk down the street holding hands with a same-sex partner to better understand the plight of your fellow human beings, and walking across the street holding hands with a same-sex partner and, when you reach the other side, screaming “WASN’T THAT AWESOME OF ME?”, getting handed a check and then partaking in world’s largest pizza party
I don’t disagree with any of this.
To elaborate on this: I don’t know this guy. I don’t know what his motivations were for doing what he did. Given that, I’m not willing to judge him.
Maybe he did this out of a genuine desire to understand what things can be like for gay people. Maybe he did it for the accolades and a book deal. Probably it was some combination of the two. Most of us have some selfish motivations behind most of the things we do. And I did acknowledge way back in my very first comment that the latter is understandably irritating.
Granted, his approach was clumsy and misguided to a certain extent. But since I don’t know this individual and I don’t know his reasons for his actions, I personally am choosing not to rush to judgement, no matter how many people decide to jump on that bandwagon.
Knowing that these things are being said by a person who hates who I am and doesn’t want me to be able to hold hands with a woman is a lot scarier than when I could just laugh these things off as stupid comments from close-minded people who believe in stereotypes.
I’ve had random strangers yelling homophobic things at me since well before I identified as gay, including one time when I was walking down a main street with a shaved head and my arm slung around my best friend, but those slurs never really stung until I identified as gay.
I hate to cite an anecdote as evidence, but based on my experience (and the reasons given in this article) I don’t think this author has any clue what it’s like to be gay.
I have actually talked to Tim a fair amount. He hopes to make writing about this very subject his career in hopes he actually can help the cause. A lot of the profits from his book sales have in fact gone to LGBT organizations in hopes of spreading awareness and acceptance. How are we to get the hetero masses to understand what our struggles are like if they cannot relate to us? The point is that as a straight man they CAN relate to him. They have one of their own saying “Guys, we need to take a second look at this because we were VERY wrong.” Why are we picking apart ANYTHING that is aimed at HELPING us right now?
Seriously, though, what does it even mean to “come out as an ally”? I mean, you are an ally if you speak up for gay people, not if you, in your own mind, consider yourself free of prejudice. If you can’t find the courage to speak up more than one day a year, you’re not a very good ally.
There are parts of the world, and even parts of the U.S., where openly stating that you support gay rights will cause you to be ostracized, ridiculed and possibly even physically attacked. Of course it isn’t AS difficult or dangerous as coming out as LGBT, but dismissing people who do find it challenging, but then who find the courage to speak up anyway, is in my opinion divisive and unfair.
And who said anything about only speaking up one day a year? Coming Out Day is not about getting kudos for being brave, it’s about visibility. Why on Earth shouldn’t straight allies make a meaningful contribution to promoting this visibility? This kind of “it’s our sandbox, you can’t play here” mentality makes no sense to me at all.
“There are parts of the world, and even parts of the U.S., where openly stating that you support gay rights will cause you to be ostracized, ridiculed and possibly even physically attacked.”
…this is what happens when you /are/ gay. Not when you are an ally. Being an ally on the other hand is more of a political stance than an embodiment of the identity. You seem to be confused.. being an ally is not a bad stance to take because the individuals have that knowledge that they are on the right side of history. They do not get discriminated against, the ones that have to live it every day are the ones discriminated against. I think it’s condescending and invalidating to act as if the lives of Allies are just as hard as the lives of LGBT people.
No its not the same but in some places it is still difficult to even be an ally. I would be afraid to even be an ally somewhere like Uganda.
No, I am not confused. You don’t think a person who lives in a closed-minded conservative town surrounded by homophobes might be threatened or ostracized for saying they support gay rights? You might have the privilege of living in a liberal area where this is not likely to happen, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen elsewhere.
And I very specifically made a point of saying that I do not think it is equally as difficult as being gay. Please read my post accurately before criticizing my words.
Chandra, I just want to say that you are awesome and I agree with everything you have been saying.
My mother was physically threatened in a grocery store for having the audacity to contradict a guy on his homophobic comments. She’s lost more friends than I can count because she supports me. It happens. No, she doesn’t get as much crap as I do on a daily basis, but I won’t pretend that it’s not difficult to be an actual ally, especially where I live.
Wow, how patronising. If anybody is “confused” it is you. Chandra is factually correct.
“There are parts of the world, and even parts of the U.S., where openly stating that you support gay rights will cause you to be ostracized, ridiculed and possibly even physically attacked.” Is a fact. “This is what happens when you /are/ gay. Not when you are an ally.” Is factually incorrect, sorry, it is as simple as that. Being an ally may be less bad but if you want to make a point I would avoid sweeping statements which are very easy to disprove.
Uganda instantly springs to mind. I can’t remember the exact laws off the top of my head but wasn’t there recent legislation which nearly passed (and which is not definitely gone) which meant family or friends of someone gay could be sent to jail if they didn’t freaking hand them over to police? That isn’t just anti-ally, that is anti-anybody who is even neutral or does not want blood on their hands. I think it is is not actual law yet/hopefully ever but obviously in some places it IS a huge sacrifice.
Obviously this is not the case everywhere, I think it is a big reason as to why the words ally is not used here in the UK, in some places it would seem ridiculous to say you’re an ally, because duh, and yes you would not be ostracised here; but pure and simple you are wrong to say that ostracizion ONLY happens when you are gay, that is ridiculous, in Uganda it happens, in places less severe than Uganda is happens.
Now my comments here are not about this guy in particular, I have not watched the video nor read any of the book, they are about comments on allies in particular. Of course there are allies who say stupid things or expect to be praised and of course criticise them as much as you can, but this uppity obsession with not giving allies “cookies” and assuming that anybody who mentions that they are supportive during this week MUST be searching for praise, is stupid. I have seen it said countless times when there was no reason to believe so, even saw someone say that sure, they believe in the concept of good allies existing but they’d personally never seen an example. Yeah, sure, I’m sure all of the parents in PFLAG are doing that JUST for the sought after COOKIES. >.> Sorry, when somebody is that synical then I really don’t believe they are viewing things clearly. Yes NOBODY deserves praise simply for not being racist, homophobic etc but that doesnt mean that mentioning that they will be accepting, if they live somewhere which generally isn’t won’t help people, and there is no reason (unless they clearly are fishing) to assume they’re doing it for praise.
Another annoying thing is when people say that somebody cannot understand being gay without being gay. Oh really? I believe I know people who I think understand it perfectly, I would say that some people in the public eye do to, for example Melissa Harris Lacewell (although I don’t watch her show often so bear in mind if she has ever said anything bad, I might not have seen it) but she is just an example. Can anybody actually name something about being gay which somebody straight can’t understand? And be clear here, I mean something which is true to every gay person, or multiple things which mean that in the grand Venn diagram of things, every gay person must be covered by at least one thing. Why? Because I think for some people being gay is irrelevant. Some people are lucky enough to live in a non-homophobic area with people who aren’t anti-gay and where the laws if anti-gay are discriminatory in a way which is obvious for a sensible straight person to understand (ie most anti-gay laws). So in what way is every one of those people so different to a straight person that they couldn’t understand it?
I am not downplaying how horrible discrimination is at all, but by saying that there is some internal hatred, or discrimination or any of the reasons given, you are saying that that is an INTEGRAL part to being gay. NO. It may be integral to your, and many people’s being gay but that is to do with society and not to do with being gay itself. How the hell are gay people ever going to be truly happy and equal if we have people saying that these negative things are, and always will be integral to every gay person’s identity?!!
As to other aspects of being gay such as a smaller dating pool and not being able to have kids which are genetically both people’s child, well I don’t think most sensible straight people would have much trouble understanding that so is irrelevant to this point. You may very well think someone straight does not understand your personal gayness, and that’s fine, but who are you to ‘own’ gayness and say that somebody straight can’t understand gay people in general (meaning not one gay person), that’s not your place and some of the anti-ally posts are so uppity and one worded e.g. NO, acting like they own gayness (as ridiculous as that sounds).
You only have to watch one ‘It gets better’ video from someone straight and read the comments to know that they have helped a LOT of people. It is fine to criticise straight people making a video but understand that a pompous “NO” as your only response to them is inflammatory because who are you to say that these people shouldn’t have been helped? Yes even if you disagree with ally week w/e, how hard is it just to say “imo NO” or something which doesn’t imply that you think you know better than any gay person who disagrees, or who felt better when somebody they looked up to did a video in which they genuinely wanted to help people/not a “cookie”. I can see it is annoying that these straight celebs get more coverage than gay non-celebs in these videos but it is a fact of life that people do look up to someone on TV, etc and it can make a difference if that person says confidence building, anti-homophobia things–everybody is not you–and is allowed to feel better watching these videos and not made to feel bad/like a bad gay for the sake of your snarkiness. I wouldn’t say that simply writing “NO” is never funny/valid but for something where a lot of people are being helped it just seems so “I know better than all other gay people who disagree with me”.
It is also annoying to come across an anti-ally post annoyedly saying that it should not get angry responses because there is an unfollow button. NEWSFLASH. If you put something on Twitter and Tumblr it has become public and is people might read it and get angry who don’t follow you or even have a Twitter/Tumblr account!
As much as there is bad ally stuff, even that is getting twisted. Like the SBNN. They word stuff TERRIBLY, don’t get me wrong, I agree with those posts because SBNN say stuff like “I’m straight and I’m here to say I’m ok with gay people”. Obviously this is terribly worded, but nobody in their right minds would think that is directed AT gay people to say “hey, gay people, we ALLOW you to be gay, go ahead you have our permission” which is what a lot of people seem to be implying that they’re implying. I don’t know if they are doing it for cookies or to make a difference but whether you think it’s bad or not, it’s pretty obviously aimed at the insecure straight guys who are homophobic because they think straight guys have to be, rather than a video giving gay people “permission” to be gay. By all means be angry at their terrible wording and even at the campaign message itself, but if you twist something bad into a lie which sounds worse then you are just crying wolf. Surely if their campaign is so bad then you don’t need to twist it into something it isn’t to make it look bad?
The sad thing is, people ARE homophobic for the reasons SBNN is campaigning against and their campaign might actually reduce this. This doesn’t mean gay people NEED a straight voice to lead us but I personally don’t mind straight voices (although I’d prefer Melissa Harris-Lacewell over cringey badly-worded SBNN), I don’t see why it’s bad to have help, and you know what, SOME straight homophobic people will be better reached by straight people whether you like it or not and unless you can protect every gay person yourself (you can’t) then I don’t see what right you have to demand straight people stop helping, when it could result in a slower move to equality and less bullying. It isn’t weakness, especially when, look, there are a ton more straight people than queer.
I honestly wasn’t sure how I felt about ally week at first, or the anti-ally week stuff. I still don’t know how I feel about ally week but sadly a lot of (not all) of the anti-ally stuff is so ridiculous that I’ve essentially ended sticking up for ally-week when I still don’t know how I feel about it, which is ridiculous! I’m not even pro-ally week and I’ve written this huge essay which sounds like I am! That is what being negative about non-negative things does to some people who read it!
I know this post is super angry/annoyed seeming, more than any I’ve ever done, but so is a lot of anti-ally stuff and really, I expect bad things from the homophobes, it’s more annoying when somebody who claims (and some do) to speak for gay people generally says stupid things.
-note I use the word gay in this post because the person I was replying to originally used it (and not lgtbq) most of my points relate to both but probably not all as the issues can be different
– I know that I am lucky to live somewhere liberal and nice and I understand that the worse the discrimination you have faced, the angrier various ally things (might) make you, but my points are still true to me, so I made them.
Not sure if I will check back because tbh I am scared of confrontation, it makes me scared to do anything for ages and that is why I did not reply for ages, but I just thought I’d get that off my chest because as ridiculous as some of the ally stuff is, much of the anti-stuff is also bad. It’s like crying wolf and the genuine good arguments about ridic ally stuff gets lost.
(I think I’ve only posted once before so my uber-long post makes up for some of my lurking I guess!)
“Another annoying thing is when people say that somebody cannot understand being gay without being gay. Oh really?”
Are you serious with this? No, they cannot understand it. They cannot understand the feelings, the global persecution. They will never understand this and yes these are things that gay people have an in common.
A man will never understand what it is like to be a woman because women share the suffering from living under patriarchal systems.
A white person will never understand what it is like to be a GSM person because GSM people share things. GSM people share racial oppression.
I am not even going to bother with the rest of your post since this just completely pissed me off.
I wish I had something intelligent to say, but really this just makes me feel queasy. I’m going to guess the sense of betrayal some of his new ‘friends’ must have felt when he announced he was totally just kidding guys!!! doesn’t get a mention in the book. I’d be livid.
I second this.
Then you obviously haven’t read the book because he most certainly DOES cover having to come out again to his gay friends at the end of the year and how they reacted to it.
‘But by nominating himself to “bridge the gap” between the queer community and people who think we are abominations, Kurek is making a very strong statement about what voices count, and whose voices have the power to create change.’
This. So much this. Sure, it’s neat that a straight guy’s experiencing and talking about this stuff, but why is that worthy of a news report and a book when all of us queers are experiencing and talking about this stuff for real every day of our lives?
I know this isn’t the point, but all I could think of when watching that video was how much I hate neck beards.
A thousand upvotes.
it is literally impossible to experience being gay unless you are gay! it’s something that happens on the inside first, and then the outside. a huge aspect of the gay experience is being attracted to people society doesn’t think you should be attracted to. you can’t fake that, and i resent his implication that you can.
he should’ve spent a year as a straight ally, instead, i think.
I completely agree. The hardest part of being queer, for me, was the incredible shame I felt *all the time.* Sure it was awful to come out and deal with some of the resulting bullshit and disappointment, but all that was nothing compared to the inner self-loathing I felt and the nauseating feeling of being different.
YES. No one can “pretend” to be gay and experience it truly and authentically at the same time. This whole thing about “pretending” just makes me think of those who think being gay is a choice.
It’s a shame that this is what is news, instead of legitimate coming out stories from our queer community on such a huge day.
Nah, forget that – he should’ve spent a lifetime as a straight ally! :)
I think this article is also applicable to the issue of an outsider appropriating part of an experience (even with the best of intentions), ID’ing themselves as an ally and then speaking out on that subject as though they actually know what it feels like and fully expecting props for doing so. Yes, there is a lot of smugness and privilege contained therein.
And I wonder if some cis-bodied queer people who make pronouncements (or write articles and books or make films) on trans issues can understand that this is exactly why many trans people don’t always seem appreciative of such efforts, even if they’re done in the name of being an ally.
I don’t know. I mean, someone said that to The L Word actors once. “How can you understand gay if you’re not gay?” And Rose Rollins said that that’s like asking someone “How can you win an Academy Award for a role about losing your child if you’ve never lost a child?” and said it was an ignorant way to think.
If anything, that only proves it. Just because you get a golden statuette doesn’t mean you actually comprehend what it is like losing a child.
“something happens on the inside first” – exactly. And given he hasn’t experienced what that is, his becomes a faulty incomplete experiment in my opinion.
he had to read his mother’s comments about him (had to? i’m not even going to touch what a betrayal of trust it is to read his mother’s journal, let alone to lie to everyone in this way) but at the end of the year he was still her straight son. my grandma told me being gay was an abomination, so. her words. not mine.
I concur. Queerness can a part of all aspects of life. Just holding hands with a platonic friend and reading your mother’s journal are not queer life, at least not all of it. There’s self acceptance involved, among other things.
Of for crying out loud! Read the book! It wasn’t about him “Being Gay” it was about how he was “Treated” for being gay! Which damnit all! We can all relate to! It was about how his family, fiends and Church and pastors treated him for coming out as Gay. He experienced the same things I experienced when I came out to my friends in Church. To A T!
Ah, oh god. He compares himself to Jesus in that video. No, no, no. Now sit and wait for the day when my very religious roommate presents this to me as a positive thing and I have to lay down some truth. Sorry in advance Al!
Yeah omg wtf? Jesus didn’t ever pretend to be an oppressed group he wasn’t. I’m pretty sure Jews in the Roman empire were already an oppressed class.
I was wondering about that too… Do you think the “oppressed group” that he mentioned was in reference to him being human for a while? I find that idea really silly
It’s frustrating because as much as he annoys me, in this social/political landscape, I think people like him are necessary. But it’s annoying because I’d much rather hear about his friend who was actually gay and actually disowned. I’m sure she needs the money from the book deal way more than he does. Plus, her voice is actually authentic cause as you say, “what does all that matter if you don’t actually feel the attraction? If you know that whenever you want, you can return to your Real Life, shedding the stigma as quickly as you gained it?”
I don’t know that I completely agree with you. I don’t think this is the same the ads with straight people talking about how ok they are with gay marriage (because I reluctantly see that as a necessary evil). I think what this guy did was exploitative, patronising and took advantage of queer people who accepted him into their community. And how he’s profiting from pretending to have been marginalised? Ugh. I think it is very very different to filming a PSA saying you didn’t realise homophobia was a horrible thing until your daughter came out.
Privileged people have a grand tradition of slumming it (yeah even the term for it betrays the class privilege required to play pretend). Whatshername got plaudits for pretending to be a man for a year and writing a book about it. At least she ended up in the psych ward for her trouble–going through life pretending to be a gender you’re not is psychologically traumatizing!–WHO KNEW?! Oh yeah, all the trans people who kill themselves over it instead of getting book deals. Fuck her and fuck this guy and fuck everyone else who appropriates oppression for their little “authentic experiences.”
But she wasn’t pretending to be trans? She was pretending to be a cis man. It was a rare book about someone passing as a member of a more privileged group in order to understand them. Which can be dissected on its own terms, but it’s really not the same as this.
No, Norah Vincent’s book isn’t the same. But a very large part of her book is about ‘passing,’ her concerns about being outed and how she was perceived as male which is completely applicable to the trans experience (and not applicable to a cis male’s). So, while the intention of the book was to somehow give a sneaky inside view of while it’s like inside ‘men’s space’ being perceived as male (and I can assure you, as a trans woman, that she did a pretty shallow job of it), it ultimately said much more about trans people IMO. I’ve heard her say that much of the reason she attempted the project was her reaction, as a butch woman, to those formerly ID’d as butch who later transitioned and some of her own unresolved feelings. Btw, the other thing it had in common with this person is that Vincent was big time transphobe (and shot off her mouth about those views) before ever doing her project, which is one reason why so many trans people had a bad reaction to her ‘project.’
this guy is hilarious! jesus in drag! omg >< lol
“Do have trouble getting your point across to a majority (of the majority) room full of people because you are marginalized/a minority?
Have you ever had this happen to you multiple times?
Marginalized/minority person: Hey I have a great Idea! OR I have something to say!
Room of the majority: What? I don’t understand.
Marginalized/minority person: These are some example of micro aggressions I feel that causes me stress.
Room of the majority: What? I don’t understand
Well that won’t happen anymore with the SJ Cisgendered Heterosexual White Male Translator! Where he will say/appropriate everything you say/do as a marginalized/minority person repeat it from his cisgendered heterosexual white male lips and BAM! it all makes sense to the majority!
Act now and purchase him will all the ally decent human being cookies!”
Guys I have like 3 for every intersection of my marginalized/minority being. One for being a person of color when I talk about racism I sometimes use him to say anti-racist/blackness things and then everyone (usually other white people) understand my point! I also have a different one for being a woman and one for being queer the results on using him to talk to straight people are just AMAZING!!!
Granted my voice is being silenced and my oppression again centers around how the majority feels, it is still progress right? RIGHT!?!
I am white but your comment is the perfect clarification for all white people who don’t get it why we should listen to POC rather than, let’s say try to compare experiences that aren’t by any chance comparable.
slow clap. slow. fucking. clap.
This could surely be a handy smartphone app?
It could repeat everything you say in a robotic, heteronormative male voice.
less siri, more “sir”
He could never EVER understand the overwhelming isolation, confusion, fear and self-loathing that so many of us experience before we’re even ready to come out to ourselves, much less our friends and family.
As someone with a social science research background, I do believe that immersion is important to understanding another group/culture. But there are things like ETHICS and not speaking for marginalized people or falsely appropriating their identities that Kurek does not seem to know exist. Immersion is not making a half-assed attempt at undercover gayness while (I’m assuming and have not read his book) forming friendships with queer people under false pretenses – which is a complete abuse of confidence and trust.
What he did is very different from immersive, ethical social science or undercover journalism that infiltrates spaces of power to expose corruption, prejudice etc. He came into our marginalized, supposed-to-be-safe spaces and reported back that we’re actually human beings and we made him an even better one. Seriously?
If he actually wants to take on the role of cultural translator to help change the minds of certain religious people, then he needs to: 1) simmer down with the self-aggrandizing and 2) offer to connect our voices with his religious audience 3) in a manner determined collaboratively with the queers he is supposedly now friends with, but 4) always take a back seat to what they deem productive/helpful/harmful, etc.
I’m saying all this without having read his book because I can’t bring myself to tacitly condone his approach by buying his book even though I’m curious and I have an unhealthy addiction to reading things that upset me.
There has to be a word for that addiction. It might be some kind of intellectual and emotional masochism. I have it so bad that I’ve almost bookmarked the websites of Cathy Brennan and NOM. (But I’m not posting the links because I’d rather not pollute this space with… that. Google is your enabler if you’re interested).
Wow. I’m so glad a straight guy wrote a book about what it’s like to be gay after barely pretending to be one for a year. His experience is SO much more valid than the millions of people who actually are gay and deal with real prejudice.
What an ass. He’s “gay” for a year then gets to go back to his life with a book deal to boot.
This makes me want to vomit.
This is so much bullshit. Also, and I know this is going to be a totally moot point for the people who would probably read this book but like, I lost respect for him just from the fact that he felt he needed to do this experience to figure out if the gays around him were telling the truth about how shitty homophobia was and how they needed equal rights. See, I always thought this was a pretty easy concept to grasp. At the very least, it really just should have taken him listening to his gay friends.
“I lost respect for him just from the fact that he felt he needed to do this experience to figure out if the gays around him were telling the truth about how shitty homophobia was and how they needed equal rights.”
Yes, so much this.
On another note, churches teaching 7-8 year olds about Sodom and Gomorrah in Sunday school gives me so many bad feelings. Really, churches teaching anyone that homosexuality is the “ultimate abomination”, and using S&G as an example is just blatant misrepresentation and mistranslation. But I guess that’s the name of the game with bible verse picking, anti-gay religous groups.
The church teaching’s dishonest, isn’t it? Blatant hypocrisy, and counter to the teachings they claim to follow. Urgh. If all the Christians followed Christ, this world would be significantly better (and similar could probably be said of a number of other religions :( )
I could barely read the article without feeling sick to my stomach. What that man did was so… appropriating. How can you claim to know what being gay is like by pretending to be gay for a year? It’s like a Christian claiming that he knows what it’s like to be Jewish because he went to a Bar Mitzvah once, or that he knows what it’s like to be Muslim because he’s been in a mosque.
Newsflash: You can’t know what being anything is like without /actually being/ that thing.
like tyra’s “body experiment”, it’s easy and insulting to think that the queer experience can be understood in a year.
When I first read this story, something about it really bothered me. Thank you for articulating what I was feeling. He has no idea what the internal process feels like and how spending years hiding yourself can be. There’s just so much more than people’s reactions.
I appreciate that he had empathy for his friend but he just doesn’t get it.
No. Just no.
As several people have already said, this guy can’t possibly understand the inner turmoil/ self-hatred so many of us have experienced. Sure, he may have gone through some uncomfortable situations, but I’d be willing to bet that he’s never wondered if he was irretrievably insane, or felt the same terrifying loneliness, or felt like he’d rather be dead than such a disappointment. And he also probably hasn’t felt the way people’s offhand comments about say, a hairstyle, feel more like an attack on who he is. Because at the end of the day, no matter what anyone said or did to him, he could get in bed with the knowledge that all of it was directed at someone other than him.
Also, is anyone else really sick of these narratives of “I used to be a judgmental jerk, but then I walked a mile in the other guy’s shoes and realized he’s just like me?” It’s such a bullshit, easy conclusion. The entire notion of “We should love and respect other people because deep down they’re just like us” is ridiculous. What that essentially saying is that we should have the license to hate people who are different. And that’s ridiculous.
So I’m sorry Mr. Kurek. I know you feel you’ve grown as a person, and maybe you even have. But I call shenanigans.
I’m imagining this guy realizing in a few years that he actually is gay and trying to come out and having not a single person believe him. Oh the irony. I’ll bet he didn’t factor that into his decision to do this. Not very bright, I must say.
There’s a LOT more stuff in my head but I can’t find the right words and I don’t want to think about this guy anymore right now because it makes my brain hurt. I need to go watch that video of Ellen and Rachel again to make myself feel better.
The Gay Who Cried Wolf
(I’m bad at these things)
I kept thinking about that too! It just seems like you wouldn’t think to try out living in the gay community if you were just passingly curious about it, right? Or maybe he’s just an asshole.
I just saw this story when it showed up in my newsfeed, and I had so many feelings that I couldn’t even think in words. So of course I came to Autostraddle, and this is exactly what my queasy frustration looks like in letters.
(***Hey, just letting you know how i’m looking at stuff- Humanities major right here.)
I agree with you (Gabrielle). I think we do deserve “our space, for ourselves”. And I think he will make it more difficult for people who are curious about their sexual orientation- understanding your sexual orientation (especially with being gay) is already hard as it is and very, very draining at times. Even though everyone’s (gay, bi, pan, trans, etc.) coming out process is different, everyone has a battle. And in a lot of respects, this individual is mocking this.
However in contrary to what i just said, this idea of changing rolls (eg. straight pretending to be gay) is not new. This idea has been around since at least the African American Civil Rights in the 1960’s. I forget who, but a white journalist actually did do something similar, by changing his skin color (from what I heard he used shoe shine- that’s what i heard, ‘ don’t fully take my word). I don’t feel like going into depth because then my post would be outrageously long (like it isn’t already), I just wanted to get the jist of the situation written.
Overall, I think people need to respect those who are out and open, have come out or wrestle with sexual orientation or gender. So,I can relate to this (“…respect those who…”) on multiple levels (being gay and)being from a tight knit community (ita.-amer.). 1.) don’t mock me for being italian. not cool bro, not cool. not cool when you try to act like a frikkin mob job. thank you for being obsessed with my culture but don’t step on the line, same goes with being gay.
I’m not going to defend the guy from Black Like Me, but I think (saying this as a white person, natch) that one of the areas in which racism and homophobia are different is that racism is often a lot more about perception, so an experiment like this with race makes at least SOME more sense than doing this with sexual orientation, where I think it’s more about your inner identity and your feelings. Like, for example, it’s not like people need to “come out” as a particular race, people judge you as a certain race just by looking at you (which is why POC who “look white” can sometimes experience “passing privilege”).
It’s still appropriation, true, but I dunno… I think some white people could PERSONALLY benefit from taking some time to walk in the shoes of POC, and men in the shoes of women. I don’t see how this would work in the same way, though. And either way, nobody should be getting a book deal to talk over the lived experiences of the people who are ACTUALLY members of those groups.
The part that’s so ironic is that being homosexual is fundamentally about sex. Which he isn’t having. How is he supposed to write a book about being gay when he doesn’t have the basic building blocks. Homosexual relationships are completely different than the relationships he has. I bet no has told their kids to stay away from him because he was holding his girlfriends hand in the grocery store.
Is being homosexual fundamentally about sex? There’s lots of heterosexual people who have homosexual sex and vice versa, so I’m hesitant to define it as such.
Honestly, I hate our societal drive to define and pigeonhole people, but I’d think that being homosexual’s more about who you fall in love with than who you have sex with.
Regardless, I do agree with the basic point – old mate’s not falling in love with any men either, so he isn’t actually at risk of transgressing societal norms except in statement.
I strongly disagree that being a homosexual is fundamentally about sex. I am a lesbian. I have never had sex. That does not make me any less gay.
This guy was not having the real experience of being gay because he wasn’t in a real relationship, not because he wasn’t having sex with his fake boyfriend.
I think the sexuality piece of the of being a homosexual is that I’m more [sexually] attracted to persons of my sex.
I have to agree that homosexual relationships aren’t all about the sex, it’s just a piece for some people. Asexual homoromanitcs can have meaningful homosexual relationships without sex.
I’m rambling, sorry.
I pretended to be straight for 26 years. Where’s my book deal?
write it and sell it.
While he – possibly – experienced some public form of rejection and shame, he did not have to deal with any of the internal questioning, the self-doubts, the inner shame and confusion.
And I would feel much more comfortable with this book if it was proper investigative journalism instead of mere self-celebratory crap. (Though I have to say, I am strangely intrigued to check out the book, it’s the same kind of weird curiosity that makes me read gossip magazines in waiting rooms or at the hair dresser…)
I read about this on some news site quite a while ago, felt kind of uncomfortable for a while, and promptly forgot about it. While I absolutely agree with everything that’s been said here as far as his experience being fundamentally flawed because it wasn’t authentic, etc, I would also like to say that immersing yourself in queer spaces for a year and putting that label on yourself will inevitably lead to some amount of education on queer people and politics. While I very strongly disagree with how he went about it, and the fact that he’s now cashing in with his book deal, it does seem like he learned a lot about it. Yesterday I stumbled across an article on Coming Out Day that was written by him, and it was incredibly sincere and made good points. The only bad thing in the article was when he talked about his “coming out, albeit as a social experiment.”
So basically I think he’s minimizing actual queer people’s experiences by experiencing a privileged, watered-down version where he makes a profit instead of loses family/friends, but he does seem to have sincerely gained a new perspective so I guess I’m glad that there’s one less bigot around even though it was still a shitty thing to do.
I definitely understand where everyone is coming from on this, but I can’t help but wonder if someone who we couldn’t have reached from our queer bubble will pick up this book and have their heart and mind changed. If it happens to even one person, I am glad. Not gonna lie, I just bought the book ($2.99!!!) to see what he has to say. Should I report back, good or bad?
This guy is either in the middle of the most elaborate actual coming out process ever, or he’s a self-righteous d-bag. Take yer pick.
This is exactly what I thought when I read this story. This must be some twisted way of checking out the gay scene! It MUST be!
Yeah I agree… I think he’s gay.
And while I’m at it – seriously, this is someone from a privileged position attempting to tell the stories of the oppressed. It’s one thing–a crucial thing–for folks like this guy to be open to those stories, to build empathy and understanding, and to fight like hell to support the rights of the oppressed–it’s another thing entirely to think you can represent those voices yourself.
You can’t. You’re not supposed to.
I mean, would anyone be praising this guy if he’s put on black face and “lived as a black man” for a year and then wrote a book about the Very Important Lessons He Learned? I sure as hell hope not.
Maybe he’s not a d-bag, but he’s seriously misguided.
Someone has done it before, “Black Like Me.”
Well, this just shows that pretending to be a lesbian like Gay Girl in Damascus and Lez Get Real is so last year….
this is some fucked up shit, gay isn’t a costume
LOL, ‘Fag Like Me’
I understand everyone’s outrage at this, and I am pissed that he can walk back into his privileged life as well. Releasing his story on Coming Out Day is a little insulting. However, this reminds me of those talk shows in the 90s that would dress up someone in a fat suit, or get made over to look black, go out into the world and see how society treated them. There’s no way this person could ever get the full story, and there’s no way they could ever walk in a minority person’s shoes and truly grasp their reality. But a certain audience watched these shows and gathered something, and there is an audience that is going to make a connection here – even if it is completely basic and lacking the bigger picture. I don’t want to have that conversation with a bigot on why I matter, and if someone from the bigot group can bring back something to their friends that says, maybe our ideas about gay people are wrong from listening to this guy’s experiment… then I think there is some small hope there. A positive idea is presented to them in a non-threatening matter, from someone they “know.” I don’t agree it’s the right way to present it, but it has to count for something.
Honestly, (and here I am, a heterosexual individual, commenting on something to do with homosexuality), I believe that the competitive victimhood that comes out over this limits societal growth. It reminds me of what I read in “Professing Feminism” where they talk about male and even heterosexual cisgendered female students in a Women’s Studies class getting told that they have nothing to contribute because they “are the patriarchy” or “buy into the patriarchy.” These are the same types of people who say that Freud has nothing to teach women because he was sexist, etc. Yes, the writer of this book is limited, his coming out story is not the same as a “typical” coming-out story (as if any coming out story is more typical and informative than any other, or less real than any other), yet as long as he does not pretend that it is, it leads to a positive outcome (it is a story about a method of self-discovery and recreating his idea of what is right and wrong) and it has something to teach and improve others.
If we silence everyone from other groups who want to talk about our experiences (and by “our” I am referring to the universal “our” speaking on behalf of all groups) we limit our audience, and we lose a unique perspective that has meaning in its own right. As long as he is not claiming that he experienced it “as bad as it gets” he is not harming but helping.
Once we pull that away, all that is left to be upset about is that he wrote a book and is making money off of it. I think the fact that there was money for him to make is most informative of the effect that his unique perspective can have. If you think about it, even a strongly Christian and homophobic individual, who had no internal need to challenge his beliefs, and even with a watered-down experience, was able to see that something was wrong, and to spread that lesson to others. Also, let us not forget that while he has not sacrificed the most of anyone, he did sacrifice, where he didn’t necessarily need to, to better himself, and there is a lesson there for all of us.
Oh, so you think us queers are “limiting societal growth” by criticizing a straight guy’s actions, coming out as an ally is just as important and “informative” as coming out as QUILTBAG, and feminism oppresses men by recognizing their privilege? So glad you dropped by to ‘splain this to us, “heterosexual individual” who knows better!
Seriously, please think about what you’re saying and the position from which you’re saying it. And maybe Google Derailing for Dummies.
No, what I am saying is that when you automatically disregard and criticize any straight guy’s action or perspective you are limiting society.
I am saying that there is something equally valid and important to learn from someone who comes out as an ally, and arguably it may be more informative to more people than the coming out story of someone who is queer (based on general statistics of those who identify as queer vs. not). In other words, people respond best to the stories of those who are or were most like themselves, so for non-queer individuals, his story may be the right way to communicate an important message to them.
And I was also saying that when a feminist perspective automatically colors every male contribution to the world as being irreparably tainted by male privilege and is not worth recognizing (Read ‘Professing Feminism’ by Daphne Patai and Noretta Koertge for more).
And to prove my point, you conclude by challenging my argument not on the basis of its merit, but rather on a judgment of my argument solely based on my “position” (as you perceive it) in society.
“If we silence everyone from other groups who want to talk about our experiences”
But he can’t. That’s the entire point. He is not “telling a story” as much as it is some kind of privileged experiment. There is nothing new or unique about people of privilege appropriating identities.
A man cannot speak about what it is like being a woman
A white person cannot speak about what it is like being black
I’m not sure I understand the cynicism here. It seems to me it depends on how he presents his experience. For sure, this post covers lots of reasons why doing a fake-gay ‘experiment’ for a year could not even come close to *actually* experiencing or understanding what it is like to be gay. So if he goes around championing what he did like “I NOW UNDERSTAND WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE GAY, SO I AM NOW THE EXPERT AND YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO MY STORY TO THE EXCLUSION OF ANYTHING GAY PEOPLE TRY TO TELL YOU ABOUT THEIR LIVED EXPERIENCE EVER, AND ALSO YOU SHOULD GIVE ME THE GAY NOBEL PEACE PRIZE,” he’s a big douche and that’s not cool. But is that what he is saying? (I mean I’m honestly asking, is it? I haven’t read the book.) But why would listening to the story of this guy’s little experiment and listening to our stories need to be mutually exclusive? Would it not be valid for him to say, “I can’t know what it’s like to be gay, but after getting a small taste of a fraction of the shit gay people have to go through, I now empathize with them better than I did before, so maybe all y’all judgmental types should calm your shit down for a second and realize you don’t know what you’re talking about when you’re spouting homophobic crap.” Wouldn’t that encourage people to listen to our stories more, not less?
I very much agree with this. As much as there’s a lot that I agree with in the original article, I think anytime someone can really GET how badly others get hurt by things (for instance, getting disowned by his family and friends and his mom’s comments – those were legit reactions from those people to his news), it’s a good thing. He may have been faking his gayness, but the people who reacted? They weren’t faking their reaction to his news. And that in and of itself has got to be eye opening.
That said, when I was a little girl, I used to close my eyes and pretend to be blind to “learn what it felt like.” I had no idea that a few short years later I’d meet my now former best friend of 17 years, who was legally blind. My experiments as a little kid did nothing to help me understand her point of view. But being around her and watching how others reacted to her definitely did. So, yay for him surrounding himself with queers and seeing how people react to us; boo to him for pretending to be queer when he’s not.
So, in short, do I agree with his methods? Hell no. And his constant references to Jesus made me twitchy (I’m Jewish), but hey, if he’s one less homophobe in this world, then good. Hopefully others won’t have to try the same methods to learn compassion.
This reminds me of when Tyra Banks pretended to be an obese woman and then later a homeless woman for a day
What about when she pretended to have rabies?
God Tyra you can just walk back into your non-rabid life you privileged idiot.
another gay for pay…
I’m kind of OK with him writing this book.
I loved the book The Unlikely Disciple, where a liberal Brown student poses as a conservative Christian at Liberty University for a year and comes back to tell the rest of us liberals what it was like.
I don’t think we’re the intended audience for this one – the homophobes are, and I hope it changes some minds.
So very transparently a contrived stunt to get himself a book deal. Which I suppose worked out for him.
as long as people’s hearts and minds are changed, i don’t give a flying fuck who the messenger is. if it takes a straight white guy to get to certain people who wouldn’t listen otherwise, i’m for it. i’m interested in the end result, not the way we get there. :)
Please consider that the experience of PREJUDICE that Tim felt was very real.
And please consider his motivation.
He didn’t set out to write a book and make money off of his experience. He honestly felt compelled by his conscience to walk a mile in the shoes of those he had condemned due to the brainwashing bigotry of his conservative Christian upbringing.
I believe with all sincerity that Tim is trying to speak up and make a real difference with this book.
Please don’t judge him for trying so hard to understand that which he had once regected.
Hey everyone.. this is my first comment on autostraddle and I love you all.
The problem with the “Black like Me” analogy.. which is what came into my head as well.. is they both come from a selfish egocentric base of deceiving both sides simultaneously.. trying to protect yourself (the experimenter) from being deceived. How can anything but a conclusion based on the concepts of deception arise…this was not for us. But I believe it to be functional in the sense that Christians may read this and change a little. Maybe even branch out to talk to one of us without hate.. maybe misguided on their concepts about it all..but perhaps a little closer to love… for this guy to have such a presence in coming out day just shows the narrowing yet still head shaking divide. Its the slow cell by brain cell evolution of species.
I don’t know how I should feel about this; part of the whole process of being gay is REALISING that you’re gay. It isn’t a choice. It’s NOT just deciding “I wonder what it like to be gay… maybe I’ll go and see.”.
But at least he understands that is isn’t easy.
I reckon this guy is a total homo, came out and was then forced back into the closet by crippling internalised homophobia with a ‘hey guys, it was a all a christian crusade’
This guy should donate the proceeds from this book to his friend who was disowned by her family when she came out.
What the hell? He hears his church telling him that queers are evil, witnesses his friend crying on him after her parents disown her for being gay, and he STILL doesn’t believe homophobia is so nasty and prevalent until he puts on a gay suit for a year? No cookies for finally overcoming the stubbornness and dismissiveness.
Though apparently there are book deals for such feats of… whatever I can’t describe what this is.
as a queer “person of color” (as other people have called me), i also HATE it when people describe themselves as “white allies”. what this guy is doing is no different than “white allies” working for organizations whose aim is to support minorities/folks in need. it’s no different than a white person going to live in guatemala or ecuador or el salvador for a year and then coming back and “knowing” the culture and then telling other people how they can help.
i really don’t see why everyone is hating on this guy, when i see a lot of parallel actions in the queer activist community.
so he’ll never *really* know what it’s like…. big fucking deal. he’s making an effort.
if you want to write a book about coming out or whatever, do it. make it better than his, and sell it better than he does.
People actually call themselves white allies? WTF?? ::baffled at such idiocy::
also, this “queer person of color” (me) has also existed as a very privileged person her whole life and is able to support herself very well.
just because he’s privileged doesn’t mean we a. automatically have to hate him and b. doesn’t mean that he’s insincere. some of the comments i’m seeing here, like he’s “obviously doing this as publicity stunt” are just ridiculous. and it SCARES me, honestly, to see everyone here nodding their heads and saying “yeah! he’s an asshole! insincere!”
let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, maybe? how cool is it that some guy, who once thought that we were the enemy, now can tell folks -more like himself- that they’re wrong? and if they’re more likely to listen to him than they are to queer voices, it’s only because people are more naturally inclined to listen/empathize with those more similar to them. for instance… we’d ALL rather be with queers (vs heteros) all day, wouldn’t we? i know -i- would prefer that.
as someone else said, this is probably more for the heteros than for us.
Seriously, there’s no way he could ever truly understand it. Like – when I hear my parents saying racist things, I can be horrified, disgusted and enraged but it doesn’t hit home. When they say homophobic things, it hits differently. It shakes you up and can feel twice as damaging as some douche yelling “dyke” on the street.
(Have not read all comments, but have scanned to get a general sense of reactions.)
So, somebody has already mentioned the book “Black Like Me.” Someone has already stated there’s no comparison between racism based on skin color versus bigotry based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Several are totally appalled over the year-long experiment conducted by this straight, Christian man.
Was he self-serving? Will his message have any affect whatsoever on his community? Was the experiment a complete insult to the actual reality of being gay? Are experiments in general involving walking in another person’s shoes simply unethical, unreliable, and self-serving?
Remember Morgan Spurlock from “Super Size Me” and his “30 Days” experiments? There was a similar experiment with a straight man entering the gay world (full documentary here: http://watchdocumentary.com/watch/30-days-straight-man-in-a-gay-world-video_37858369b.html). Was this objectionable too?
What about Norah Vincent and her year-long experiment dressing and pretending to be a man in a man’s world? (http://www.amazon.com/Self-Made-Man-My-Year-Disguised/dp/1843545047)? Unethical, unreliable, and self-serving?
There have been numerous experiments of walking in another person’s shoes. Some have found fame and fortune. Some have been forgotten along with their experiments. Prime Time news programs have shown experiments of all kinds (i.e. “What would you do?” and shows such as the one about sending equally qualified employee candidates, both with unique aesthetic qualities that could make one more desirable over the other to prove a point about hiring practices).
Why be pissed off at this straight guy? So what if he doesn’t know firsthand the absolute struggles a genuine gay person faces. So what if he makes money off a book at the expense of an experiment which didn’t meet certain standards others may have.
Here is a man who entered a community that is terrifying to most conservative Christians. This alone would not have been an easy thing for him to do. While he may not know the intimate struggles and feelings a truly gay person faces, to some extent he was able to walk in another person’s shoes, see how friends and family react, and view how conservative Christians treat the gay community. Even a little bit of this information can be helpful to build bridges between two opposing communities.
I came from a conservative Christian community. I knew as a teen that I was a lesbian. Even so, because I was so engrained in my community of origin, it was terrifying for me to visit a “gay church” and enter the gay community in other ways. Going outside one’s comfort zone can be terrifying, and may have nothing to do with negative beliefs about sexuality, but everything to do with what one has been taught as the consequences for leaving the comfort zone (a.k.a. community of origin). Case in point: remember the movie “The Village” by M Night Shyamalan (http://bit.ly/QmyVlB)? If you’ve never seen it, while not a “two thumbs up movie,” it does convey an interesting point about building a separatist community based on fear of the unknown.
It took me years to find a level of comfort within the gay community and embrace my sexuality. I was motivated by self-knowledge. Regardless of Timothy Kurek’s motivation, even if one person from the conservative Christian community reads his book and begins to develop a sense of empathy, then his efforts were worth it.
There’s no perfect way to build bridges. It’s going to be a messy process. At least one person is always going to be dissatisfied with the process and progress. Why not make the process a little less like a battle and a little more like a journey of reaching out to one another even during moments of discomfort and disagreement?
When we think about who’s voices are really heard and given the time of day in the midst of a civil rights movement, it’s never the voices of the minority at hand alone. Those voices count like hell, but without leverage from the majority we don’t stand a chance. Take for instance the black civil rights movement and the montgomery bus boycott. The chances that it would’ve worked and for the extended period that it did, over a year!, are very small had it not been for the white housewives that supported the cause by going to pick up the housekeepers and maids and nannies and the people who had cars and a little bit more money helping by taking husbands to work.
I think the way this guy did this was…interesting. If i were straight i would never in my life do this much less create an air of self righteousness about myself by releasing it on national coming out day butttttt despite how uncomfortable his memoir would probably make me, being that he probably thinks he felt the worst of it when he could never if it isn’t his reality, if a straight guy who pretended to be gay for a year needs to be our voice of reason as a gateway to the straight, christian voters, so be it. at least he isn’t homophobic anymore.
When you are raised in a conservative environment, hating people (all the while smiling) becomes second-nature… a reflex. When everyone around you thinks and acts the same way (having friends outside the church is often discouraged), you can live for decades without hearing dissenting thought. In many ways it is like being brainwashed by a cult and it is very difficult to throw off that way of thinking… even when presented with evidence to the contrary.
Throughout the book, Tim has “conversations” with his former conservative self, and if you have never been raised in that environment, it will give you an insight to what “the other side” is thinking.
Tim NEVER exalts his own experiences of “coming out” over those of the gay people he introduces the readers to — ever. But his familiarity of both hurting others and being hurt by others in the name of Christ is illuminating.
It’s very clear that the author of this article and several of the commenters have not bothered to read the book at all. Judging a book by its cover… sound familiar? Read the book for yourself. Make your OWN opinions. Don’t blindly hate the author when you haven’t yet heard his story.
Can we please talk about how spot-on some straight people can be? Like, Hank Green: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=xXAoG8vAyzI
For a three-minute explanation of Queerdom by a straight guy, I was pretty freakin impressed.
Yes, I felt validated watching that.
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I am with Chandra above. I don’t know if any of us can know this guy’s motivations for writing a book about pretending to be gay. So before making a hasty judgment, I will at first just be glad that it will probably help change people’s minds about gay people in parts of the U.S. where so much homophobia still exist. It seems unnecessarily divisive to me, as well, to ostracize our allies…they are essential whether we like it or not. Making it a competition as to who is the most oppressed in the world is pointless, in my opinion. Everyone has their own struggles. If people support us in a positive way, I will take it.
I really want to share with you a story that I’ve never really shared with anyone else, because I think it might help illustrate why I don’t think the writer is definitely being exploitative (I would want to meet him personally to know whether he made a cynical attention grab or really had positive intentions).
My mother has mental illness and for a little bit, I tried to break with some of society’s norms in some kind of exploration of what she was going through, or solidarity, or rebellion. I was really angry at the world for having judged me because I was her child; in public people would sometimes give us LOOKS, because she so obviously wasn’t normal. (She looks like a hobo. Mismatched clothes and broken teeth.)
When I grew up, without her around I fit in. I am attractive and educated. But I kind of didn’t want to give up, give in and swallow the conformist, spirit breaking crap. I can pass as normal but I kind of started doing rebellious things. I would pick up garbage that was on the street and put it in the bin. I would talk to the hobos on the street that people usually just ignore. I stopped wearing pretty clothes and started wearing junk. I Gave all my dresses away. I played with my younger sisters lots, trying to replace a passion for success and social acceptance with creativity and fun and something really lovely and super idealistic.
And one moment, that I’ve never forgotten: I saw a big box of paper, just shoved into the bin in a public space where lots of pretty ‘arty’ kids hand out, and kind of dared myself to take it out of the bin and throw it in the recycling at home.
These guys – walking behind me, the kind that would wolf whistle if I’d been wearing a nice dress instead of old jeans and an ugly jumper – started calling out the most disgusting slurs and laughing and saying the most revolting things.
Immediately I had no humanity. As soon as I put my hand in the bin I showed them my… hand. I lost any stand, any voice. It was safe for them to be so aggressive, in public, towards a ‘crazy’ or homeless person. Someone so obviously disadvantaged that few would advocate for me or take my side.
It was in the scheme of things, a teensy tiny event. But a few of these kinds of experiences stopped me from trying to rebel and be like my mother. It wasn’t safe.
It was weird. I thought that because I am ‘normal’, I could do a few abnormal things and still have people understand and respect me. (Privilege). I didn’t realise how quickly you can lose privilege when you break status quo.
This guy, that wrote the story. He might not have been gay, not have been a real subject of derision, abuse and discrimination. But walking in someone else’s shoes, even for a few months, even as an idealistic kind of attempt to understand – it can show you powerfully how QUICKLY the gloves come off when people think you are other.
People will treat you like a dog if you don’t fit in. I hope some straight people will read the book and think on that. Even if it makes gay acceptance a little more popular, a little more satus quo.
There’s this nagging feeling at the back of my head that this man is actually gay. It’s just a feeling.
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