Monday, January 30, 2006

Thoughts from the other side of the Mountain

On Saturday, I went to see Brokeback Mountain with Damien and Tom, who then graciously invited me over for dinner. (Br'er Damien's review of the movie is here.)

On one level, that was my reaction, too. OK - I can check this box off. Been there, done that. Nice visuals, beautiful cineatography, powerfully acted (if unsympathetic) characters, but definitely not the "oooh, ahh..." reaction I've read in so much of the press. (I did love Letterman's list of "Top Ten Rejected Titles for 'Brokeback Mountain,'", which included Oklahomo, Best Little Bathhouse on the Prairie, and The Good, The Bad, and the Fabulous.)

But there was more to it than that, for me.

I really identified with the character of Ennis - fearful, emotionally-impaired, unable to imagine life outside the rural closet he lived in. It was that same fear of being "found out" that kept me closeted as along as I was. Which is pathetic, especially since so many people I've come out to have said, "Well...yeah, that's no surprise." Not a lot of folks were fooled...

I also identified with Ennis, because the first guy I ever loved (and first male sexual partner) was my best friend from high school. He and I both married, and (unlike Jack and Ennis) never picked up our sexual liason after my wedding. He divorced before I got married, and he found another childhood sweetheart not long afterwards. Both my marriage and his relationship with his girlfriend were disintegrating in early 1990. He committed suicide on Palm Sunday 1990, rather than face his alcoholism, drug use, and closeted secrets.

My marriage ended eight months later, followed shortly afterwards by my entrance into sobriety. I've wondered what would have happened if he and I had both been newly sober and newly-single at the same time. I wondered if we both would have stayed in the closet as long as I did if he had lived.

Of course, it's a silly speculation on so many levels - if only because relationships (especially sexually-active ones) in early sobriety often last about as long as matter-antimatter unions. And the family estrangement he felt resulting from his interracial hetero relationship (a contributing factor in his suicide) would have been nothing to the reaction of his redneck family to his having a gay lover. And I can't deny that his shame over our past sexual encounters was also a contributing factor to his death. So that whole line of thought falls into the woulda - coulda - shoulda category...a romantic fantasy even more improbable than Brokeback.

But the other image from the movie - that of violence against gays - is one that is not nearly as far away from us as we'd like to think. True, it's been ten years since Matthew Shepard's brutal murder, but gay-bashing is still something that goes on every single day (though it rarely gets publicized as anything more than a violent mugging). There are still many places where homophobia can be a justification for murder (the so-called "gay panic defense"). So in that way, it's still a very timely story.

But the movie's best argument is for coming out, and for living the truth, instead of a lie. Would the two lovers have had a longer life up on Jack's parent's land? Would it have been happier, less fraught with guilt, shame, and fear? Who knows. All I know is, every day that I'm out to more people, I lessen the likelihood of living the rest of my life (however much there is) in regret and what-could-have-been. I've lived enough of that - and I'm not going back to it.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Catching up...

The good news? I'm back, "on-line and real-time" (as a friend says).

The bad news? I started this entry on "catching up" on December 19th.

I've got a lot of catching up to do...

I've been away from this place (and the blogging world in general) for a number of reasons. My "temp job" officially became "my new job" on December 12th - and at the same time, I got thrown into two incredibly messy and tragically-flawed projects almost immediately. The second project went live on January 2nd (about 90 days before it would have been ready), and we've been putting in between 70-90 hours a week for the last four weeks putting out fires.

So my life has been just dealing with first-order topics - work, sobriety, maintaining basic utilities and services (like laundry) - and there hasn't been any bandwidth for much else. It's not that I'm any less gay, or any less in the process of coming out. But frankly, sexuality has been the last thing on my mind - or on my co-workers' minds, either. I think that if Osama bin Laden had shown up, and been able to deal with the issues at hand, our team would have welcomed him onto the team with open arms.

One of the negative consequences of the excess hours has been that three or four days a week I've been driving into the office (rather than risk having to take the train home into the ghetto at 1 AM). So my reading/rest/meditation time has been sucked up by driving down Stony Island and Lake Shore Drive into downtown Chicago. So I've been kind of burnt-out and fresh out of things to say, other than "Damn, I'm glad that day's over..."

My goal, going forward is to post something on both my blogs at least twice a week - if only to think about something other than my two problem-children clients and their payroll challenges.

For now, there's a bunch of things on mind - including four books I've been alternating reading (when I'm not too brain-dead to read), and my reactions to seeing Brokeback Mountain (which I went to see with Tom and Damien earlier today). But the thing that has stuck with me the most happened on the phone a little over a week ago...

A week ago Thursday, I got a phone call about 11:30 PM, and it was my friend Eric. Eric's about the closest thing I had to a brother-in-spirit in my former church community - and therefore was one of the people I'd been more concerned about coming out to, especially because of some of the religious views he'd expressed about homosexuality in the past. Of course, when I actually sent him the email, he wrote back and basically said, "I've know that about you for quite a while, and it doesn't change how I feel about you," which was an immense relief.

Flash forward to last Thursday...Eric was calling from Hong Kong using Skype, a voice-over-IP internet phone service. (He goes to HK, Taiwan and China several times a year for business. Since I'm one of the few people he knows who are up late, he thought he'd try out the VoIP deal on me.) So after the initial "Guess where I'm calling you from?" deal, he said, "Yeah, I thought I'd be your first-ever call from Hong Kong..." (and I could almost hear the smirk in his voice) "...and it's a cute boy, to boot."

Well, to be honest, Eric would definitely qualify as a cute guy (although not necessarily a type I'd be drawn to) but it really surprised me, for some stupid reason, that he'd be comfortable enough to tease me about that. It took me a two-count to recover, and then I replied, "Yeah, and doesn't it just figure that the first time I get a phone call from a cute boy, he's in freakin' Hong Kong..."

And we laughed...and I breathed a sigh of relief. There aren't many things in my life that are big deals - but finding one of my best friends able to tease me about my orientation was a really big deal. Especially when I'd been so terrified about people finding out for so long.

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:32, NIV)