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The experiment began after a lesbian friend opened up to Kurek about being excommunicated by her family. All Kurek, an avowed evangelical Christian, could think about, he says, “was trying to convert her.”
He was quickly disgusted by his own feelings, more pious than humane.
In fact, Kurek was so disgusted by his response to his friend that he decided to do something drastic. Living in Nashville, Tennessee, he would pretend to be gay for a year. The experiment began on the first day of 2009; Kurek came out to his family, got a job as a barista at a gay café and enlisted the help of a friend to act as his boyfriend in public.
His doubt about Christianity’s condemnation of homosexuality, Kurek writes, was “perfected” in 2008, when a close friend recounted the story of coming out to her family and being disowned.
“I betrayed her, then,” writes Kurek. “It was a subtle betrayal, but a cruel one: I was silent.”
His recognition of that betrayal, he writes, led him to believe that “I needed to come out of the closet as a gay man.”
“I believe in total immersion,” Kurek says in an interview. “If you are going to walk in other people’s shoes, then you are going to need to walk in your shoes.”
“I want to tell more stories,” he says “and humanize the people who Christians always want to look at as labels.”
For Kurek, his year as a gay man radically changed his view of faith and religion, while also teaching him “what it meant to me a second class citizen in this country.”
Originally posted by papazen
In the fall of 1959, Griffin determined to investigate the plight of African-Americans in the South first hand. He consulted a New Orleans dermatologist, who prescribed a course of drugs, sunlamp treatments, and skin creams. Griffin also shaved his head so as not to reveal his straight hair. He spent weeks travelling as a black man in New Orleans and parts of Mississippi (with side trips to South Carolina and Georgia), getting around mainly by bus and by hitch-hiking.
His resulting memoir, Black Like Me, became a best seller in 1961. The book described in detail the problems an African American encountered in the Deep South meeting such simple needs as finding food, shelter, and toilet facilities. Griffin also described the hatred he often felt from white Southerners he encountered in his daily life — shop clerks, ticket sellers, bus drivers, and others. He was particularly shocked by the curiosity white men displayed about his sexual life. His account was tempered with some anecdotes about white Southerners who were friendly and helpful.[