Monday, December 12, 2005

Brokeback Mountain and the Ex-gay Folks

I'll be seeing Brokeback Mountain for several reasons. One is Jake Guyllenhaal. I think I am the only person who liked The Day After Tomorrow, and I liked it because I couldn't get enough of that boy (and because I was fascinated by the idea that a storm might get so big that the Troposphere would drop down and flash-freeze me). And Donnie Darko? Please. Don't get me started.

There are other reasons I'll see Brokeback Mountain. It will be a little like revisiting some of my past. If you aren't familiar with the original Annie Proulx story, here is a short plot summary. Two guys take summer jobs working together as sheepherders on a mountain in Wyoming. The boys discover they are attracted to each other, and they eventually fall in love. Not having a vocabulary or frame of reference for their feelings causes them to struggle with what to do next and to fear for their lives. Eventually they part and marry women, which seems to be the only socially acceptable option available to them (happens all the time). They also cobble together what they can of a long-term relationship with one another. As you can imagine, the seeds of love are sown right alongside those of dysfunction.

Exodus International, a ministry that encourages same-sex attracted folks to try to change their sexual orientation, is not happy with the movie. I can sort of see why. When I was involved with an Exodus affiliated ministry there were guys in my group who were married to women. They joined to try to get rid of their strong attraction to men. As you can imagine, it is about as hard for these guys to change as it would be for you to rid yourself of your attraction to whatever gender you look forward to waking up with in the morning.

Exodus is afraid that the movie will cause men to question whether or not it is a good idea to stay in these problematic marriages, and this likely will be the case. Alan Chambers, a spokesman for Exodus, said that the movie was:

“a story of unbridled obsession and painful oppression-emotions that I and thousands of others who have left homosexuality are well familiar with,” said Chambers. “The hopeless desperation we experienced, however, came from accepting the culture's 'born-gay' mantra and resigning ourselves to a life dominated by our unwanted same-sex attractions.

If Chambers experienced hopeless desperation because the culture around him insisted he resign himself to “unwanted same-sex attractions” (or in other words “your same-sex attractions may be unwanted, but there is nothing inherently wrong with them”) then he was right to find a way to keep from swallowing the business end of a rifle that worked for him. His experience was different from mine, however. In my case, I wanted to die because the entire world around me seemed to despise who I was and insist that I be someone I didn't know, which is similar to what the main characters in Brokeback Mountain wrestle with.

I'm willing to believe that Chambers and I are both a lot more joyful now that we have followed the paths God has set before us. I honestly think there must be some people who get what they need from ex-gay ministries. And I'm equally convinced that God provides blessed unions for same-sex couples. I certainly have one.

I don't, however, see the value of insisting that we all do things Exodus's way to the point that an undue burden is placed on individuals, certain families and their children. Our society is on the path to understanding this. Brokeback Mountain may just be an expression of the loss our society experiences as it stutters and stammers its way toward a more full confession of what love is.


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