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Christian’s year of living 'gay' leads to dramatic change, sparks controversy
December 2nd, 2012
06:45 AM ET

Christian’s year of living 'gay' leads to dramatic change, sparks controversy

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) - Timothy Kurek’s motivation to spend a year pretending to be gay can be boiled down to a simple conviction: it takes drastic change to alter deeply held religious beliefs.

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.

The experience – which stopped short of Kurek getting physically intimate with other men - is documented in Kurek’s recent book “The Cross in the Closet,” which has received international attention, landed him on ABC’s "The View" and elicited some biting criticism.

The book is the latest entry on a growing list of experiential tomes revolving around religion. They include Rachel Held Evans’ recent “A Year of Biblical Womanhood,” in which the author follows the Bible’s instructions on women’s behavior and Ed Dobson’s “The Year of Living Like Jesus,” which had the author “eat as Jesus ate. Pray as Jesus prayed. Observe the Sabbath as Jesus observed.”

For Kurek, his year as a gay man radically changed his view of faith and religion, while also teaching him “what it meant to be a second class citizen in this country.”

A yearlong lie

For years, Kurek says, the only life he had was “his church life.” Being an evangelical Christian was his identity.

He was home-schooled until seventh grade, almost all of his friends were from church and his social life was a nightly string of faith-based events, from church sports to a Christian Cub Scout troop. “It was the only thing I was used to doing,” said Kurek, who attended Liberty University, the largest evangelical university in the world, before dropping out after freshman year.

Kurek grew up in an “independent Baptist church.” “We were evangelical,” he said, “but we were more conservative than evangelical, too.”

His churchy lifestyle led to some deeply held views about homosexuality. Most evangelical churches condemn homosexuality as sinful. Many rail against certain gay rights, like gay marriage.

“I had been taught to be wary of gays,” Kurek writes of his beliefs pre-experiment. “They were all HIV positive, perverts and liberal pedophiles.”

Those views began to be challenged in 2004, when he first encountered Soulforce, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights group, on Liberty’s campus. The group made the school an important stop on its cross-country tour targeting colleges that they alleged treated LGBT people unfairly.

Kurek was struck by what he had in common with the protesters at Liberty. “It really impressed me that people who were coming to push their agenda were able to do it and be so nice about it,” he said.

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.”

To ensure the purity of his project, Kurek says, he had to lie to his deeply religious family about being gay, something that troubled him throughout the year.

“I felt like they loved me but they didn’t know how to deal with me,” he says. “They didn’t understand how to handle having a gay brother or sibling.”

In the book, Kurek recounts learning that his mother wrote in her journal that she would rather have been diagnosed with cancer than have a gay son. That experience and others left Kurek feeling outcast by people he loved, confused about his new life and conflicted about past religious beliefs.

Kurek was living a lie. And even though he was conflicted by his family’s reaction to his new lifestyle, he was longing to be honest with them.

The response

It’s no surprise that the “The Cross in the Closet,” has spurred strong reaction, especially from the LGBT community.

“I feel for the gay community of Nashville, and for every person who trusted Kurek enough to flirt with him, hang out with him, and confide in him about their lives,” wrote Amy Lieberman on the blog Feministing. “If I were in that community, I would feel so betrayed right now.”

In a Huffington Post blog post titled “Pretending To Be Gay Isn’t The Answer,” Emily Timbol, a religion blogger, expressed a similar opinion: “What's sad is that every interaction Timothy had during his year pretending was fake.”

“He was welcomed under false pretenses, acting like someone who understood the struggle that his LGBT friends faced,” she wrote. “He did not.”

But Kurek says that that was not his aim. “This isn't a book about being gay, I could not write that book, I am not qualified,” he writes. “What this is about is the label of gay and how that label affected me personally.”

Throughout the book, Kurek emphasizes that distinction. While much of “The Cross in the Closet” is about the struggle to understand the gay community, which he tries to address by enlisting a friend to act as his boyfriend, much of it addresses how his former church’s community – and family – reacted to his new lifestyle.

“I am actually not friends or in contact at all with 99.99% of the people that I grew up with or the churches that I grew up with,” Kurek says.

Kurek says he isn’t opposed to interacting with people from his "former" life. When he has run into members of his old church, he said he generally has quick, cordial conversations and moves on.

But some of the new distance is by choice. When Kurek’s mother told a friend in her church that her son was gay, the person said Kurek’s sexuality could jeopardize his mother's standing in the church.

The evangelical community has remained fairly mum throughout much of the reaction; most responses have come from Christians who are in some way connected to the LGBT community.

The change

Though Kurek goes to church less now, primarily because he has yet to find one that feels like “home,” he says he feels more religious “in the biblical definition of religion.” He still considers himself a Christian, although no longer evangelical, and says he is interested in attending the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in the future.

Kurek quotes James 1:27 from the New Testament: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

There’s no mention of organized religion in passages like that, and Kurek says it’s the institutions of religion that worry him most today. He talks about his once robust church life as a distant memory.

Living as a gay man jaded him to religion, he says, though he has not surrendered all of his former beliefs. Yes, Kurek says, he is struggling with certain points of his theology, but he has been looking for the right church. “I am trying to figure out what place in the body of Christ I fit in,” he said.

As for his original goal, to radically change who he was, Kurek says mission accomplished. He says he has conquered his prejudices of the LGBT community and is happy with the person he has become.

“If anybody had told me back then who I would be or what I would believe now,” Kurek said, “I would have thought they were completely insane.”

For example, Kurek now thinks homosexuality is completely acceptable.

His family is happy to know that he is not gay, says Kurek. He has a new set of friends. And he lives in Portland, Oregon, where he moved shortly after finishing his experimental year.

The author plans to donate part of the proceeds from his book to help LGBT homeless youth who have been rejected by their families.

He is now at work on a book proposal for a follow-up to “The Cross in the Closet.” The book will be about the years after his experiment, transitioning back to honest living while continuing to engage the LGBT community.

“I want to tell more stories,” he says “and humanize the people who Christians always want to look at as labels.”

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Belief • Faith • Homosexuality • Sexuality • Uncategorized

soundoff (3,659 Responses)
  1. Babe

    I just came out this morning. I told my my husband I'm a ny.mphomaniac but he didn't take it well. I wish people would stop being hateful and using words like troll.up and tr@mp. I can't help that I was born this way and it's so painful to have to say no to so many men just to conform to society's ideas. I have my rights. I'm not hurting anyone and its no one else's business. I should be able to be with as many consenting men/boys as often as I want without other people judging. Just as soon as all the other tarts come out as ny.mphs, we will be a political force to be recconed with, you'll see. The only reason it hasn't happened already is because of all the prejudice and h.ate and because we have been enslaved by society.

    December 2, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • Bob

      " I should be able to be with as many consenting men/boys"

      Since you're obviously a troll who wants to equate pedophiles with gays shows you're a moron. Children can't consent, it's harmful to the child and it's illegal.

      December 2, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • Babe

      Fine. Have your way with semantics & call them young men. No 16 year old in the back seat of a car ever said he didn't want to do it.

      December 2, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      Your life; your choice, babe. I don't think it will be very pleasant for you, but go for it if that's how you want to live. Enjoy.

      December 2, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • Babe

      And I resent you calling names like moron just because you don't understand.

      December 2, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • Bob

      "No 16 year old in the back seat of a car ever said he didn't want to do it."

      And who ever has sex with this child would face rape charges, are you really this stupid?

      December 2, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      Extreme promiscuity seems problematic no matter your s3xual orientation. Gays can be chaste or have just one partner just like straights can.

      December 2, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Babe

      I don't have to take this abuse here. I can get it anywhere.

      December 2, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • Babe

      One last thing Bob...if that's your real name...16 is not legally underaged. Who's really the "stupid" one?

      December 2, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • carbie

      So your husband didn't know? Why? Because you don't like to sleep with him much? So you only want to be a 'nymph' outside the marriage? Not with your husband? (because then he would KNOW)! No – you are NOTHING but a HO!!!! A nasty dirty HO!!!

      December 2, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  2. Reality

    Only for the new members of this blog:

    o "Abrahamics" believe that their god created all of us and of course that includes the g-ay members of the human race. Also, those who have studied ho-mo-se-xuality have determined that there is no choice involved therefore ga-ys are ga-y because god made them that way.

    To wit:

    1. The Royal College of Psy-chiatrists stated in 2007:

    “ Despite almost a century of psy-choanalytic and psy-chological speculation, there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person’s fundamental heteros-exual or hom-ose-xual orientation. It would appear that s-exual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of ge-netic factors and the early ut-erine environment. Se-xual orientation is therefore not a choice.[60] "

    2. "Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab state in the abstract of their 2010 study, "The fe-tal brain develops during the intraut-erine period in the male direction through a direct action of tes-tosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hor-mone surge. In this way, our gender identi-ty (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and s-exual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender ident–ity or s-exual orientation."[8

    3. See also the Philadelphia Inquirer review “Gay Gene, Deconstructed”, 12/12/2011. Said review addresses the following “How do genes associated with ho-mose-xuality avoid being weeded out by Darwinian evolution?”

    Of course, those gays who belong to Abrahamic religions supposedly abide by the rules of no adu-ltery or for-nication allowed.

    December 2, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • Reality

      Only for the new members of this blog:

      That being said, some added nitty-gritty:

      Because of basic biological and physical differences said monogamous ventures should always be called same-se-x unions not same-se-x marriages.

      To wit:

      From below, on top, backwards, forwards, from this side of the Moon and from the other side too, ga-y s-exual activity is still mutual mas-turbation caused by one or more complex s-exual differences. Some differences are visually obvious in for example the complex maleness of DeGeneres, Billy Jean King and Rosie O'Donnell.

      Yes, heteros-exuals practice many of the same "moves" but there is never a doubt who is the female and who is the male.

      As noted, there are basic biological differences in gay unions vs. heterose-xual marriage. Government benefits are the same in both but making the distinction is important for census data and for social responses with respect to potential issues with disease, divorce and family interactions.

      For example at http://www.census.gov/dmd/www/pdf/d61a.pdf , there is a check box for "unmarried partner" under Person #2. There of course is also a check box for "husband/wife". One assumes a gay couple could check this latter box but how does one choose which is which for a gay union?

      Future census forms should have a check box "gay union partner" for a better description?

      December 2, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • Babe

      Just why hasn't the same research been done for nym.phs too? They have many of the same issues.

      December 2, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Bob

      "Just why hasn't the same research been done for nym.phs too? They have many of the same issues."

      How many troll handles are you going to use on this blog? Grow up.

      December 2, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • Babe

      Bob, you must be a jerk in real life too.

      December 2, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • Bob

      Oh you mean being a bigoted prejudice troll on this blog isn't being a jerk? Grow up.

      December 2, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • Babe

      I'm not the one calling names like a 3rd grader.

      Obviously, you're too into your own perspective to give any thought to someone different than yourself or what it's like to live any other way. What a hypocrite.

      December 2, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • Bob

      "Obviously, you're too into your own perspective to give any thought to someone different than yourself or what it's like to live any other way. What a hypocrite."

      Grow up troll.

      December 2, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  3. Charlie

    THIS GUY IS NOT PRETENDING. HE IS GAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    December 2, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • bob

      yea right read the rest – it wasnt ok -20 So all the children of Israel came out, from Dan to Beersheba, as well as from the land of Gilead, and the congregation gathered together as one man before the Lord at Mizpah. 2 And the leaders of all the people, all the tribes of Israel, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God, four hundred thousand foot soldiers who drew the sword. 3 (Now the children of Benjamin heard that the children of Israel had gone up to Mizpah.)

      Then the children of Israel said, “Tell us, how did this wicked deed happen?”

      4 So the Levite, the husband of the woman who was murdered, answered and said, “My concubine and I went into Gibeah, which belongs to Benjamin, to spend the night. 5 And the men of Gibeah rose against me, and surrounded the house at night because of me. They intended to kill me, but instead they ravished my concubine so that she died. 6 So I took hold of my concubine, cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout all the territory of the inheritance of Israel, because they committed lewdness and outrage in Israel. 7 Look! All of you are children of Israel; give your advice and counsel here and now!”

      8 So all the people arose as one man, saying, “None of us will go to his tent, nor will any turn back to his house; 9 but now this is the thing which we will do to Gibeah: We will go up against it by lot. 10 We will take ten men out of every hundred throughout all the tribes of Israel, a hundred out of every thousand, and a thousand out of every ten thousand, to make provisions for the people, that when they come to Gibeah in Benjamin, they may repay all the vileness that they have done in Israel.” 11 So all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, united together as one man.

      12 Then the tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, “What is this wickedness that has occurred among you? 13 Now therefore, deliver up the men, the perverted men [a] who are in Gibeah, that we may put them to death and remove the evil from Israel!”

      December 2, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • therealpeace2all

      @bob

      And... cue the "Bible spouters"

      Peace...

      December 2, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  4. Ok ..so..

    Will praying change things?

    Just kidding... my comment would be, this wasn't just an experiment for him. He has lots of other stuff going on.

    December 2, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • Mr. Duckworth

      Yes, he's got alot of stuff going on – primarily what he sees in his mirror. The – it's all about me – syndrome, common today, how could he be so selfish and not consider the impact to his family with his pointless experiment and junk ? Sure I'll pray for him and his family.

      December 2, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  5. Mr. Duckworth

    Something is phony about this story – he lies to his whole family for a year, and puts them thru all that like ginny pigs in a lab test, just for the purpose of his little experiment ? Hmmm, I smell a rat somewhere.

    December 2, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • therealpeace2all

      @Mr. Duckworth

      " Something is phony about this story – he lies to his whole family for a year, and puts them thru all that like ginny pigs in a lab test, just for the purpose of his little experiment ? "

      You mean by his choices having his own family/friends and Church have to face their own bigotry, and hateful world-views.

      I guess one can look at what he did in many different ways, as... obviously they are.

      Peace...

      December 2, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  6. helensadornmentsblog

    I think Kurek is very brave to open up his mind to people who differ from him. Jesus championed those on the fringes of society. I really sometimes wonder what the religious right is reading when they espouse these condemnations of whole groups of people. I don't think it is the Bible as a whole. I think they are misconstruing bits and pieces to fit their own agenda. I am so very lucky to belong to a church that is diverse and this enriches my worship experience.

    December 2, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • Bob

      Good stuff, Helen. Now open your mind to the fact that there is no evidence for the divinity of Jesus or the existence of your god, and try living a religion-free life.

      December 2, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  7. Brian Hartman

    Interesting article, but pretending to be gay isn't the same thing as being gay. I'm not gay, but I imagine that the feeling that you aren't accepted for who you genuinely are (rather than for some trait that you're putting on but can bail out of if it gets too uncomfortable) is a very different feeling from *acting* like you're gay. I applaud him for giving himself some small sense of what it's like, but he shouldn't be confused into thinking that it's genuinely like that for gay people.

    December 2, 2012 at 10:00 am |
  8. Phil

    This is my take: He is actually gay, came out, was disowned, and after a year on his own, he decided to tell his family it was all a ruse. Maybe it was financial reasons, or the Gays never accepted him, or whatever the reason. I am nit buying this for a second.

    December 2, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • Howie76

      with you on that!

      December 2, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • therealpeace2all

      @Phil

      Hi Phil...

      You seem so *certain* about your disbelief.

      How did you get there ?

      Peace...

      December 2, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  9. KGE

    On the surface, perhaps we are supposed to applaud someone who takes such drastic steps to make changes in hateful beliefs learned over a long-long immersion in evangelical religion. But here's what bothers me about it: Instead of approaching the LGBT community with honesty, he built his entire "conversion" on lies and deceit, pretending to be "one of them" instead of who he is. It would have been more honorable and meaningful to learn, communicate, socialize, and support a way of life that ISN'T his own. Does one have to be gay in order to support gay rights? Or a woman to support women's rights? Or a person of color to support the rights of minorities? Instead of being honest and saying "I was raised to believe THIS and I want to learn more about it," he was deceitful and left the very people he supposedly now supports feeling conned.

    December 2, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • ShannonCT

      I think one purpose of this exercise was to experience what gays have to put up with from straight people in the Bible Belt. It's true that many gay people would have no problem being friends with and opening up to a straight Christian who was trying to open his mind.

      December 2, 2012 at 10:06 am |
  10. Mary

    The guy in the picture is much too fat to br gay. No decent gay guy would have talked to him.

    December 2, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • Doug

      Nice stereotyping! Being gay myself, and yes overweight and with the same man for 22 years, gays come in all shapes and sizes!

      December 2, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • nobody

      You are dead on there. In fact, it is my understanding that they are all a little on the short side, latino, have "sassy" haircuts, and hang out at clubs until all hours. In fact they all pretty much look like ricky martin. Makes it easy for us straighties to see them from a distance so we can avoid them. As a back-up, I am pretty much certain it is required by law that they introduce themselves by saying, "I know it will make you uncomfortable because of your logical discomfort with people not like you, but I am Ricky (remember they are all called that) and I am gay" Then they do a little pirouette and skip away.

      December 2, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  11. Elizabeth West

    The worst thing about a blind adherence to ANY dogma is a huge disconnect between reality and belief. It makes people unable to see contradictions, to think and learn, and to admit that they might be wrong. I really don't think God cares too much about religion, but I'm pretty sure He does care when you treat other people like crap.

    December 2, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • Susan

      Excellent point, well said. When are we going to get out of people's bedrooms and religious beliefs?

      December 2, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • carbie

      I sooo agree........

      December 2, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  12. April

    Wow, I can't believe how judgemental both sides of the argument are about Kurek's search to own his personal beliefs and the risks he took in publishing that search. He was placing himself at great personal – physical, emotional, spiritual (in his eyes if no other), mental, and social- risk. He ran the chance that no one would accept him because he cared so much about a friend he loved and sought to understand. It stemmed from a broken heart over how he had mistreated and did not understand a friend. It's amazing how quick both sides jump on the lying aspect of this young man's experient while no one is talking about the reactions he is recieving from both sides. There is a greater issue his publication is raising. Whether how he chose to research this issue is right or wrong, I applaud this young man for wanting to own his own convictions in the face of a religious group that applauds not thinking just obedience to their rules and his humanity that reached out to a community of people who are often wounded deeply. We have a number of careers that "go native" to really understand a culture. There are movies about immersion into a culture and how it changes how you see people when you live along side them. The lying so blatantly perhaps was too far, but the findings should not be dismissed just because the methodolgy was skewed. And prejudice from both sides is still predjudice. Being dogmatic, base, immovable, unteachable crass, ugly, or crude kills your humanity. To care so much to understand and really know what you believe (while he could have done it without lying, I agree) is something rare these days. Too many of people just want a rule book to follow, a save passage into a pleasant eternity, and others who look exactly like they do... on both sides of this issue. That is not love, courage, or a teachable spirit. I can't imagine how difficult that year was for Kurek, those in the LBGT community, or his friends and family. My heart goes out to all readjusting to Kurek's exposure to many different new ideas and the truth in his years that follow.

    December 2, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  13. West

    I don't think I care about you are gay or not. That is your life. You probably think others concern about your gay lifestyle. But I never heard gay people pushing their agenda to have separate public restroom because they enjoy staring at straight people. Sorry, I don't really care what you stick not your body or what juice do you drink or put into your ear canal. Just because there is genetic mutation XXY, it does not mean it is normal or natural.

    December 2, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • YeahRight

      "Just because there is genetic mutation XXY, it does not mean it is normal or natural."

      There are hundred of thousands of experts in this country that have proven your prejudice and hatred opinion is wrong. They have stated that heterosexual behavior and homosexual behavior are normal aspects of human sexuality. Despite the persistence of stereotypes that portray lesbian, gay, and bisexual people as disturbed, several decades of research and clinical experience have led all mainstream medical and mental health organizations in this country to conclude that these orientations represent normal forms of human experience. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of SocialWorkers, together representing more than 480,000 mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus is not something that needs to or can be “cured."

      December 2, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • ShannonCT

      H0mos3xuality is completely natural, observed in many species, including in our closest cousin, the Bonobo. It's not a human invention, like religion and deities.

      December 2, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • TimothyTallow

      @yeahright – How is bypassing ones biological design considered normal?

      December 2, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • ShannonCT

      Some species have evolved the capacity for having relations with members of the same gender. In our closest cousin, the Bonobo chimpanzee, it is believed to improve the social cohesion within a clan, and therefore increase the likelihood of a particular set of genes surviving in future generations.

      December 2, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • Erik

      "How is bypassing ones biological design considered normal?"

      All major medical professional organizations concur that sexual orientation is not a choice and cannot be changed, from gay to straight or otherwise. The American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, and European Psychological, Psychiatric, and Medical Associations all agree with this, as does the World Health Organization and the medical organizations of Japan, China, and most recently, Thailand. Furthermore, attempts to change one's sexual orientation can be psychologically damaging, and cause great inner turmoil and depression, especially for Christian gays and lesbians.

      The scientific evidence of the innateness of homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgenderism is overwhelming, and more peer-reviewed studies which bolster this fact are being added all the time. Science has long regarded sexual orientation – and that's all sexual orientations, including heterosexuality – as a phenotype. Simply put, a phenotype is an observable set of properties that varies among individuals and is deeply rooted in biology. For the scientific community, the role of genetics in sexuality is about as "disputable" as the role of evolution in biology.

      On the second point, that there is no conclusion that there is a "gay gene," they are right. No so-called gay gene has been found, and it's highly unlikely that one ever will. This is where conservative Christians and Muslims quickly say "See, I told you so! There's no gay gene, so being gay is a choice!"

      Many of these reparative "therapists" are basing this concept on a random Bible verse or two. When you hold those up against the mountain of scientific research that has been conducted, peer-reviewed, and then peer-reviewed again, it absolutely holds no water. A person's sexuality – whether heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual – is a very deep biological piece of who that person is as an individual.

      The fact that a so-called "gay gene" has not been discovered does not mean that homosexuality is not genetic in its causation. This is understandably something that can seem a bit strange to those who have not been educated in fields of science and advanced biology, and it is also why people who are not scientists ought not try to explain the processes in simple black-and-white terms. There is no gay gene, but there is also no "height gene" or "skin tone gene" or "left-handed gene." These, like sexuality, have a heritable aspect, but no one dominant gene is responsible for them.

      Many genes, working in sync, contribute to the phenotype and therefore do have a role in sexual orientation. In many animal model systems, for example, the precise genes involved in sexual partner selection have been identified, and their neuro-biochemical pathways have been worked out in great detail. A great number of these mechanisms have been preserved evolutionarily in humans, just as they are for every other behavioral trait we know (including heterosexuality).

      There are many biologic traits which are not specifically genetic but are biologic nonetheless. These traits are rooted in hormonal influences, contributed especially during the early stages of fetal development. This too is indisputable and based on extensive peer-reviewed research the world over. Such prenatal hormonal influences are not genetic per se, but are inborn, natural, and biologic nevertheless.

      Whether or not something is a choice is not a suitable criterion for whether someone should have equal rights and protections. Religion is indisputably a choice, but that fact is a not a valid argument for discriminating against a particular religion.

      December 2, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • putty

      Your last sentence makes no sense. If XXY was a genetic mutation it would be a NATURALLY occuring variant. You are right that it would not be normal, which is actually an often misused statistical term. Lefties are also natural but not normal, for example. 200 years ago, you bet there was legislation against lefties and they were burning them at the stake as witches. Like lefties, it's time to abandon the pointless agenda against gays. It's just progress.

      December 2, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • putty

      @Tim, bypassing biological "design" is exactly how evolution occurs. Gays have been around for all of recorded human history, so it is interesting to theorize why it would still be around, if there is no obvious reproductive benefit. Shannon's right, one theory is that this behavior increases social cohesiveness (not so much in our species, though). It's also possible the trait is hanging around for two reasons; gays are still capable of reproduction and hets can have gay children, and so the trait persist at a low level. Also probable that there are environmental cues to the developing brain that cause the trait. And as Erik says, there's no autism gene, but autism is very real and appears to have both heritable and environmental components. The current evidence suggests the same is true for gays – there's definitely a biological basis for the behavior in terms of brain structure and responses.

      December 2, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  14. sisterchef

    I remember when Black Like Me was published. This young man's story, too, is about a journey, one during which he found a personal truth than changed his life. And now, he is truly more Christlike in his acceptance of Everyone. Under the Old Covenant, being gay..or eating certain foods or wearing certain clothing...was a sin. Under the New Covenant, loving God and our neighbors is the command. Good luck and continued growth to this young man.

    December 2, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  15. John

    Good for him, I think most young people once they get to a certain age should stop and look into and question the beliefs that their parents raised them with and then decide on their own what to believe and how to live. I wish the story had some actual accounts of how he say the LGBT community after his experience. Most religions subvert the very teachings of their prophets to the point they become the very opposite of what their founder believed in or how they lived. People whether religious or not should try and understand and be tolerant of others but all too often religion becomes an excuse to hate anyone that is not "like us" the biggest abusers of this are Christianity and Islam. The saddest part which is only briefly mentioned here is how "religious" parents can disown and throw out on the street their very own children, which happens much more often than you might think, this is actually against the law if the kids are under 18 and the law agencies should be cracking down on these parents I say any parent who throws out their kid for any reason should be jailed or imprisoned for child abuse and endangerment and the kids placed in the foster care system. Thats the America I want to live in one that takes care of its own children no matter what.

    December 2, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  16. Eve

    This Belief Blog contains nothing other than the belief of CNN.
    CNN despises, gives critics and even attacks Christianity...
    On the other hand, CNN promotes and defends Islam ( never commenting or despising not even in an indirect way
    but always siding with it).
    CNN is just a childish media bully.

    December 2, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • I Am God

      Hey Eve you are a complete fool. Protecting Islam? No they are protecting those individuals who are not EXTREMISTS. They protect people from individual like Bachmann.

      December 2, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • Merlin

      Yes, poor Christianity. Being attacked so vilely by a blog opinion post. How terrible.

      The article was never meant to be unbiased. It's an opinion column, and yes, you'll find other opinions on this same blog that would love to trash gays. But enough of that.

      You can't honestly believe that Christianity is being bullied. Christianity is a powerhouse in America. Nearly every town has a display of the nativity scene on the lawn of some public office, the president is a Christian and wouldn't be president if he wasn't, and every town or hamlet has a church that is regularly used, sometimes even two.

      No one is knocking down on your church doors telling you how to worship your perceived deity. What you do in your church or in your home is just fine. But this movement in American culture shows a shift in social dogma. Haunted by lessons of slavery, women's suffrage, and discrimination, we are quick to give up hateful preconceptions and grant fair rights - for the better.

      While many would disagree, dogmatically, that America shouldn't be a secular nation, it must to continue. We cannot allow certain groups (and yes, that includes atheists, secularism != atheism) to change the rules based on what they believe and not on evidence. You are legislating for Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, atheists, Druids, and yes, even Pagans. The only way to win this game is not to play.

      We print public endorsements of Christianity on our money, we added it to our pledge of allegiance. It's about time people wake up and realize that's not acceptable. That Christianity is still trying to bully everyone else, just as it did in the past. And what is most annoying is that every time someone comes along to try and actually make everything equal and fair - people like you come in whining about how your first amendment rights are being violated and it's an attack on religion.

      December 2, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  17. Mark Yelka

    And, of course, they only show the most atypical gay photos (for those people who are really gay). The overall feel I get only reinforces bad gay stereotypes: gays are flamboyant, dress skimpily, and are not like "normal" people. Well, that just isn't true. And, this guy condescends to try to experience the consequences of being gay. Hmpf. Why not just believe what others say: being gay is not easy. Discrimination abounds everywhere. Gays are third-class citizens behind the minority second-class citizens that at least have equal protection under the law. This report disgusts me somehow.

    December 2, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • Dawn

      Mark,
      Have you read the book? It is quite something, really. I'm not sure why those photos were chosen bc the majority of the book is actually Tim discovering that the gay community is just like the straight community...they look the same, act the same & have the same responsibilities. The major difference is that the LGBT community sadly, often has to hide their true selves for fear of retribution from someone or another. Often that "other" can be family...making their coming out process that much more painful. They come out face who knows what or stay in, unable to live their authentic life. The constant thread in the book is Mr. Kurek learning again & again that the problem was him, his judgement & religion....not the LGBT community. Check out the book, this write up does it no justice.

      December 2, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • Susan

      It's one thing to hear about discrimination, it's another to live it. It's not like he got into a relationship with a person under false pretenses – his boyfriend was in on the charade. Other than that, he was truly experiencing the discrimination and rejection from his family by coming out to them, whether that was true or not. But the bottom line is I can tell you until my voice is gone about discrimination I or other people face by what makes us a minority, but until you live it, you have no idea how it really feels.

      December 2, 2012 at 10:08 am |
  18. John

    Sounds like he's really gay and has always been taught to hate himself for his urges by his cult. He found a way to temporarity live that lifestyle, getting great temporary relief and then go back to the fold and avoid the eternal flames of hell. Talibangelicals are such oddballs.

    December 2, 2012 at 9:52 am |
  19. Nietodarwin

    No sooner does one finish the story than you run into the first long winded raving lunatic comment from some Talibangelical.
    The GLTBT community isn't a problem. This guy's "trick" and lies aren't the problem. CHRISTIANITY IS THE PROBLEM. Hope this young man can "pretend" to be an atheist for a year, THAT will stick. If he's smart enough to cook up this whole ruse, then LOGIC, REASON, and SCIENCE will bring him to the "GLORY" of realizing he has been lied to and brainwashed all his life, and he should QUIT THE CHURCH, ADMIT THERE IS NO GOD, AND BECOME A HAPPY COMPASSIONATE, THINKING PERSON

    December 2, 2012 at 9:52 am |
    • TimothyTallow

      I don't understand why people like you come to a "religion" blog to tell everyone how they are wrong for their personal beliefs. Why do you want to make everyone as miserable as you?

      December 2, 2012 at 10:00 am |
  20. Jean

    Good for you Timothy for questioning aspects of your religion enough to step outside of that box. The box doesn't have to be totally slammed shut but it's a wonderful freeing feeling to open thy eyes. Don't pay attention to the negative words of Christians or members of the LGBT community. Both sides can be judgmental and cruel. Seeking knkowledge is never wrong.

    December 2, 2012 at 9:51 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.