MSNBC video, “Coming out: The Experiment”
Recently I saw an interview at MSNBC of an author who is finishing a book about his change of attitude toward gays after he posed for a year as a gay man.
In the video, Timothy Kurek says he embarked on his experiment to test his homophobic views that he acquired as part of his Christian faith. He says he began his experiment by “coming out” to his family, reasoning that he needed to experience this moment because of its extreme traumatic effect on a gay person. Fortunately, his family was supportive. Kurek goes on to describe his activities while posing as gay, frequenting the relevant bars, bookstores and cafes.
“I tried to be around these people as much as I possibly could to see if there was any justification in the fear that I had,” he says, though he acknowledges the limitations of these activities for gaining full understanding of gay life.
Kuerk says the experiment “altered my faith and challenged my beliefs.” He hopes that the book will change the outlook of Christians and serve as an apology to gays, whom he once despised.
I suppose this venture is well meaning, but I feel that, by lying and misrepresenting himself, Kurek severely undermines his lofty purpose.
Lying to his family on such an intimate level?
Faking as a means to gain honest understanding?
Journalism went through a process where serious practitioners stopped doing this sort of thing to gain access to guarded details for a story. The question of misrepresenting oneself to get a story is pretty much off the table now. It’s not done. It’s a matter of credibility. Kurek isn’t doing journalism, but, in his religious enterprise, he ought to be held to even higher ethical standards.
Kurek didn’t need to pose. He could have approached members of the gay community, told them that he needed to understand them better, and asked them if he could hang out with them for a while. There are limitations to this approach as well, but it would be real, not fake.