msnbc | June 14, 2012
>>> allies in the fight for lbgt equality come from unexpected places. my next guest is a young man whose staunch religious upbringing left him homophobic until he says a female friend changed everything.
>> she broke down one night outside of care yoke and told me in tears she had just come out to her family and been brutally disowned. she had been ex-communicated from her entire life and two words changed it all. two simple words. i'm gay.
>> you know, after that he questioned his own faith and his dogma saying he needed to learn empathy so decided to pose as a gay man for one year. he then went on to write about the experience for an untitled book out this fall. author timothy purek joins me now. good to have you here. you say this is all done not in an effort to bash christians but your religious upbringing taught you to convert liberals, jews, muslims, atheists. the lbgt community represented the worst of all sin and you say you treated them as a bigot. when you made the decision to try this social experiment how did your friends and family react when you fictitiously came out?
>> my family was very supportive initially. they treated me with the love and respect i expected. i don't think they quite knew how to react to having a gay family member but, you know, that was the religious barrier there that we were all, you know, kind of captive to.
>> timothy, if you say your foundation was pickled in religious ideology that taught you homosexuality was the biggest sin wasn't that your biggest fear and your biggest curiosity to see what would happen to you with your own immediate family for how you would be treated?
>> absolutely. i didn't know what was going to happen. i think that is the part of it, why i actually told them that i was gay. that's one of the reasons why they weren't in on any of it. because i had to know what it was like to face that potential kind of ex-communication. like i said, they treated me with love and i was very lucky. i know many who aren't so lucky and, you know, but i understand their situation when they're telling their families. it's the most fearful thing i've ever done.
>> when you say you posed as a gay man for a year, how did you commit socially to this? what did you do to change your life?
>> well, i think it's a matter of where i spent my time. i spent a lot less time in my religious circles and church. spent a lot more time in the small gay district in nashville which we call gayborhood and so i spent a lot more time out at the bars, the clubs, the book stores, the cafes. and just tried to be around these people as much as i possibly could, you know, to see if there was any justification in the fear that i had. socially i was pretty immersed in that experience.
>> coming out it's not a cavalier conversation. it's an arduous process.
>> because of our society for many it takes years to be a watershed moment in someone's life. how do you validate this to those who wrestle with this for years where their sexual identity is and might be offended by what you've done by simply coming out to your family then going to some bars and clubs in a book store that you actually know what the heck it is like to be a gay man living in modern day times?
>> yeah. i will be the first one to say that my experience is severely limited. there is no way i could possibly understand what it's like to actually be gay. and the book itself is not at all about what it is like to be gay but only about how the label of gay impacted my external life and how those things kind of altered my faith and challenged my beliefs. it is a very paramount moment in the life of an lbgt individual to come out and it's a very, like you said, long and arduous process. i was doing everything i could to understand and going as far as i could but being i'm straight was obviously very limited in what i was able to do.
>> is this book to help those that have faith-based ideologies that would have them discriminate against the community? is it supposed to inspire them with empathy and toll earns?
>> i hope so. i hope people read the book and read the experiences and they have, you know, the same emotional and mental reaction that i did as i was going through those experiences and i also hope to the lbgt folks that read it that they'll accept my apology. you know, i know people are sick of hearing straight apology after straight apology but this is really me saying, hey, i'm sorry for who i was. i'm on your side. you know, i don't understand every detail of your life and your journey but i would like to walk beside you in it from now on.
>> it is going to be a fascinating read, a book coming out this fall yet untitled. great to have you on. thank you.
>> thank you very much.