Originally published in 2006
There’s a lot of hype surrounding Brokeback Mountain. People are talking about it. Clients want to know what I, a gay man, think of it. The ones who haven’t seen it wonder if it’s any good. The people who have seen it say the liked it, but ask me what the point was? I must admit, after watching the movie, I wondered the same thing. I’ll be the first to say the motion picture was well acted, the backdrop was beautiful and it was an effective piece of storytelling. But, what exactly is the story? On the Quicktime movie trailer site, it is described as “…a testament to the endurance and power of love.” But what has continued to stick with me is, if they were so in love, why did they marry and have children while continuing the affair?
The picture is based on a short story of the same name written by Annie Proulx. Following its publication in The New Yorker, for which the magazine won the National Magazine Award for Fiction, it was included in Prize Stories 1998: The O. Henry Awards. This is a good work of fiction! The jacket notes state “…Proulx limns the difficult, dangerous affair between two cowboys that survives everything but the world’s violent intolerance.”
That’s it, in a nutshell. The story is really about intolerance. What isn’t obvious to most moviegoers ins the time in which the fictional love affair takes place. In the beginning of the film, we are told it begins to unfold in 1963. What we aren’t told is that it happens six years before Stonewall.
Okay, I can hear you asking, “What the hell is Stonewall?” I have to admit that in my fifteen years living “out of the closet” I didn’t really know. Still, I knew enough to realize that 1969 marks for many a sort of before and after landmark in history. Once, at a cocktail party, an older gentleman chastised the “little queers” of my time. He said we had no idea what it was like to be gay when it wasn’t easy. At the time I couldn’t get my coat fast enough.
Hell, my partner and I work in the same place. Our clients know everything about our lives and look forward to hearing more. The very act of writing as “Justin and Eddie” is a testament to the accepting nature of our readers.
I suffered plenty growing up. As far as I knew, I was the only queer in my county. Looking back on that cocktail party now, years later, I have to admit that he was right. I reentry have done some research on the legend of Stonewall, and even though I’ve only scratched the surface, I have a whole new appreciation for the trailblazers of the 60’s. Here are the Cliff’s Notes.
For five days in June of 1969, gays of all description rioted over police brutality and corruption. Greenwich Village and more precisely, Christopher Street, was the area where “the hairpin drop heard round the world” took place. The Stonewall Inn was a gay bar cops stormed-which spawned citywide anger and rebellion.
In the wake of the riots, gay rights activists and groups gained a growing following. Gays everywhere could view Stonewall as the catalyst for empowerment. They spoke up than and, now, across the nation and around the world people literally march in the streets under the auspice of “gay pride.” Most of us can’t remember and simply don’t know what it’s like to live in a world without Will & Grace and open discussions about gay marriage.
Empowered as we may feel, I think it’s time that we consider a different approach. Let’s drop the “nurture or nature” argument. Why don’t we stand up and, as Oprah would say, “own it.” Yes, at some point we decide that we are gay; we choose not to live a lie or to hide in fear. The right to make a union, the right to carve out a little place in this world is afforded to us at birth as Americans.
Everyone can oppose it, fight it, rally around the Bible and the constitution. I choose to live like it is not an issue. what couples do in their bedroom has no bearing, whatsoever, on the value or validity of life. Hell, my partner and I work in the same place. Our clients know everything about our lives and look forward to hearing more. The very act of writing as “Justin and Eddie” is a testament to the accepting nature of our readers. This all came to fruition with one phone call, without the thought of rejection from the metro area or hatred from anyone. Why does Brokeback matter? To remind us of a time when the world was not as open minded. To make us wonder what it must be like to love and not be able to do it openly. Jack dared to dream of a place where he and Ennis could be together. Ennis, gripped by fear, couldn’t afford to dream. In an era when gay people did what was “normal,” to hide the obvious, Brokeback was the only place they could escape.