Timothy Kurek recently released the trailer for his upcoming memoir, Jesus in Drag. In it, Kurek, a straight man, identifies himself as gay in order to experience first-hand what it's like to be a second-class citizen.
Think of it has an LGBT version of the Gregory Peck film Gentleman's Agreement, where Peck's character, a Gentile journalist, identifies himself as Jewish in order to expose antisemitism in America.
And if I can be honest with you, I have mixed feelings about this. In fact, I have mixed feelings about the whole idea of some one with privilege identifying him/herself as someone under-privileged.
Now before I begin, I want to make two things clear:
1). This is NOT a personal attack on Tim. He's one of my Facebook friends, and he seems like a cool guy, even though I've never had a one-on-one conversation with him.
2). "Privilege" does NOT always mean you deliberately participate in injustice. In fact, most of the time, we inadvertently participate in global injustice. As Americans, we live on land that technically belongs to some one else.
3). When I say "privilege," I mean that with the way this world operates, some people have an unfair advantage over others because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. In fact, people who are under-privileged in some areas are privileged in others. For example, as a bisexual man I cannot hold my boyfriend's hand in public without the possibility of being attacked. However, as a white man I will never look suspicious in a hoodie. As a male, I'll never know what it's like to have people shout crude things to me as I walk down the street. As a cisgender man, I can use a public men's room without any discomfort (unless it's really stinky).
Now that we got all that out of the way, let's get back to my original point.
Tim makes a good point in this video: you can never know a person unless you've walked a mile in his/her shoes. And if this experience opened Tim's eyes and inspired him to work along side of the LGBTQ community for justice, then that's awesome! Lord knows we need all the help we can get.
And yet, when the experiment was all over, Tim was able to go back to identifying himself as straight. At the end of Gentleman's Agreement, Peck's character was able to identify himself as a Gentile again. At the end of Black Like Me, John Howard Griffin was able to take off the make up and identify himself as white again. I, on the other hand, am unable to return to any sort of "normal" life. I don't really know how else to explain it. I just feel uncomfortable with the idea of a privileged person being able to temporarily identify him/herself as someone without privilege. Perhaps one of my friends can help me put words to this uneasy feeling.
So now I turn it over to you, dear reader.
What do you think? Do you think social experiments like Jesus In Drag and Black Like Me work? Or do they only make things worse?