Homeschooled by a conservative Christian family, Timothy Kurek was raised to believe homosexuality was an abomination. But when a close friend revealed her family had disowned her for being a lesbian he resolved to learn how gays really lived.
Kurek, 26, 'came out' and spent the next year pretending to be a gay man, experiencing an isolation from friends and family he never expected.
The Portland, Ore., author's experience is chronicled in the new book, The Cross in the Closet.
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Timothy Kurek, center, was taught homosexuality was an abomination before posing as a gay man for a year The Portland, Ore., man told ABC that he first conceived the project after a friend he knew from karaoke confided in him that she was a lesbian, and that her parents had just disowned her over the revelation.
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For years, Kurek had been told that the loving thing to do as a Christian would be to tell his friend that she was an abomination and who should repent immediately if she wanted to go to heaven.
Homophobic no more: Kurek even recruited a fake boyfriend to help him pose as gay But this time the idea of converting his friend made Kurek ashamed of himself.
'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.'
The memoir: A portion of the proceeds from Kurek's book will go to a charity for homeless LGBT youth So Kurek embarked on what's being called a sort of 'spiritual espionage' to truly understand how society treated gay people. Among Kurek's most shocking discoveries was how quickly the people around him abandoned him.
'The thing that struck me most was the isolation,' he said. 'Before I came out as gay, I had a very busy social life. After I came out, I didn't hear from 95 percent of my friends.'
He pretended to come out to friends and family, began frequenting gay bars and gay friendly businesses, and went so far as to recruit a gay man to pose as his boyfriend for a short period. He started snooping around his mother's journal to find out how she really felt about having a homosexual son and got his answer.
'I'd rather have found out from a doctor that I had terminal cancer than have a gay son,' she'd written. To make the charade seem real, Kurek also recruited a gay man to pose as his boyfriend. In his book Kurek described his fake boyfriend, Shawn, as a 'big, black burly teddy bear.'
Have some empathy: Kurek hopes his book will foster understanding between devout, straight Christians and gays 'I needed protection to keep me balanced and teach me the nuances of gay culture and how they flirt, and to give me an excuse when guys hit on me,' he said. Even more, Shawn was 'the first gay person that I let into my heart. He was totally there for me through emotional turmoil. I trusted him.' Before he began his journey the idea of being around gay people repulsed him, but Kurek says any lingering homophobia is gone.
The first time Kurek went to a gay club he was pulled on the dance floor by a man with no shirt on, covered in baby oil and glitter.
'I didn't know whether to punch the guy or smoke a cigarette after the song ended,' Kurek told the Huffington Post. 'In hindsight he was a perfectly nice guy, but everything I had heard in church about gay men told me that he was a sexual deviant and predator, and I was irrationally afraid.' Rev. Connie Waters, a protestant minister and supporter of LGBT rights from Memphis, first met Kurek online while debating his church's stance on homosexuality. She called his year undercover a life-changing transformation. 'It's what you hope for - the goal of the Christian walk of faith,' she said. 'It's enough for me that he transformed,