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Want to be gay like me?

OPINION

  • 2011 Chicago Pride parade
2011 Chicago Pride parade (Michael Tercha/Chicago…)
June 20, 2012|By Jason Steele, For RedEye

In 2009, a 20-something man went "undercover" as a homosexual for a year to see how it would affect his deeply conservative religious beliefs.

Now Timothy Kurek, of Nashville, Tenn., has written a yet-untitled book about his experiences hanging out in gay bars, bookstores and clubs—and even "coming out" to his family—and he is appearing on networks such as MSNBC to raise money for publication.

Let's put aside for a moment any jokes about a straight man doing undercover "research"—wink, wink—and what might really have been going on there.

Instead, let's talk about the obvious: Pretending to be gay isn't the same thing as being gay.

If Kurek wanted to get an authentic gay experience, he didn't have to fake it. He could have visited gay bars, joined equality rallies and volunteered at a gay youth center—all as his hetero self. Lying to your newfound buddies never is a good way to start a friendship.

The stupidity of this social experiment is particularly poignant in Chicago this week as Pride Fest comes to Boystown. Just look at how many of our straight friends will be attending the fest on Friday and Saturday, as well as the parade on Sunday (which, by the way, has a new route this year, so plan accordingly).

They won't be there because they got stuck in traffic on their way home from Jewel-Osco. They won't be there pretending to be someone they are not. They will be there to enjoy and support the community.

You don't see straight guys making out with each other in order to fit in. I mean, if they want to, that's fine by me, but it isn't required. Either way, we're glad you're there.

In fact, the Pride parade isn't that different from the South Side Irish Parade before its recent relaunch. Both prominently feature (or featured) boobs, beers, bros and barfing. Nothing, it seems, bridges two traditionally diametric communities like alcohol.

More and more, the line between a "gay community" and a "straight community" is blurring—which is a good thing. Just last week, Cook County and state officials said they support lawsuits that challenge Illinois' ban on same-sex marriage. They find the law to be unconstitutional.

We are at the tipping point of equality. More Americans are coming around to fact that people who are gay are just like people who are straight. Some are awesome and some are awful. We're all just people.

To Kurek's credit, he did admit that merely pretending to be gay for a year did not give him a true idea of what it's like to be a member of an oppressed community.

The lesson here is that we need to ask ourselves the right questions.

"What's it like to be gay?" That's irrelevant.

"What's it like to be treated as a lesser citizen?" It sucks, but things are looking up.

JASON STEELE IS A REDEYE SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR.

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