The Rest of the Story
Some stories in Beyond Brokeback are cliffhangers. As authors reveal the next chapters of their lives, we will post them here.
Update to atruant's story, 10 July 2007
A lot of ground has raced by under my wings during the past twelve months. On the Forum, I now include my picture as an avatar and sign myself John, my first name. My partner and fellow Forum member, wanderer, is Charles, and goes by Chuck. The ride has been turbulent for me. My beloved Golden Retrievers passed away within eight months of each other, one of old age the other suddenly and unexpectedly. All the while I was chipping away at my internalized homophobia, not easy after 45 years of cover-up. Happily, many of you on the Forum helped me see the light. And best of all, Chuck and I found each other.
From my update of September 2006, you will recall that Chuck and I first met face to face on a visit to my home in BC. During those few days, we confirmed our love and decided we wanted to live together. Chuck planned to retire from his job in late summer 2007 and emigrate to BC.
I visited Chuck at his home in Virginia Beach in October 2006 and again in early February 2007. Chuck came back to my home for a week in late March 2007. After that visit we decided to get married, in Vancouver BC. This occurred on May 1st, which was also Chuck’s 54th birthday, with three of our friends from the Forum as witnesses – Jerome, his spouse Dominic, and Billybobcat. We were married in a civil ceremony, in a hotel adjacent to Stanley Park. Chuck and I had decided not to tell any family or friends until after the event.
Then in late May 2007, we met in Estes Park, CO to attend a well organized three-day reunion of nearly 80 members from four internet Forums devoted to Brokeback Mountain. Here we experienced great pleasure in meeting so many of our Forum friends who had been supportive of our relationship. What better way to spend a honeymoon?
We had more obstacles to overcome. We were still not out to our parents, and in my case to any family and most friends. We trampled down the barriers one by one, and are now completely out. As hoped for and expected, we have loving support from all sides. Happily, we will celebrate with our immediate families at the end of July.
As an aside, but apropos to my story, Chuck and I have enjoyed much of the symbolism employed in the movie. Under my avatar is the comment “No more white trucks.” This refers to the post-divorce scene where Ennis, while rejecting Jack, apparently fears that people driving by in a white pickup truck might see them together and label them as queers. Over the past year, Chuck and I constantly reminded ourselves not to fear white trucks, in other words, what people might think of us. Well, I think we found a ‘bookend’ in the picture here, taken of us at Estes Park in CO. Chuck picked it out.
Notice the only vehicle in the picture. Here we are celebrating our marriage, white trucks be damned. We couldn’t stand it, so we fixed it.
So what remains? Throughout the months we have thoroughly researched immigration procedures through the Canada Immigration website, which is very good. We consulted an immigration lawyer in Vancouver who has represented same-sex couples. We discovered that the most efficient method for Chuck to obtain landed immigrant status was to apply to become a Permanent Resident under Family Class Immigration, with me sponsoring him as a Spouse. The paperwork will be submitted as soon as we receive all the required documents.
That’s where it sits right now. Chuck and his cats (Smokey and Cosmo) will move to their new home in late August 2007. If the residency application has not been fully processed (it can take months) then Chuck can live here as a visitor until it’s completed.
We can’t wait to live together as partners for life.
Paul Mejack's Followup
Just a bit of a followup to my story in our book, Beyond Brokeback.
Bobby’s Journey – The Rest of the Story
Many of the circumstances in which Jack and Ennis find themselves in Brokeback Mountain ring true in my life these days. I find that the quotes from the movie often fit perfectly. For example, just when I think the bumps on this rocky ‘coming out’ road of mine are smoothing out, I am reminded by Ennis that “There ain’t no reins on this one.” Just like Ennis, events often seem to be out of my control. Sometimes I feel the helplessness, hopelessness, anger, sadness, and the frustration we saw in the movie. Those are the days when I feel it’s a ‘g-d-damned bitch of an unsatisfactory situation’ I find myself in.
At other times, life is rosy and I smile at the possibilities. I put the movie poster of the “Dozy Embrace”, a gift from a fellow Arizona Brokie, AHappyMan, up on the wall over my bed so that the first thing I see in the morning and the last thing I see at night is a representation of the happiest times in their lives. And we Arizona Brokies have had some happy times over the past year. Real people actually stepped out of the electronic pages of the Forum to gather together with friends from around the globe, discuss the movie, sustain and support each other in our individual trials, and have become a repository of advice and encouragement in an atmosphere of acceptance and love. In my life I’d equate all of this to a wonderful miracle…what else could explain it?
I guess when all is said and done I’m an eternal optimist, because most of what Brokeback Mountain means to me is that there really is hope…IF one will just shake off the shackles that Society and our own ‘stinkin’ thinkin’ binds us with, and venture out into that unknown arena … ‘if you can’t stand it, you have to change it.’
The last year has been full of coming out events that I want to chronicle for you here. The last sentence in my story in Beyond Brokeback reads: “I fooled myself into thinking that I could make do with the “Brokeback Marriage” that I have…but I just can’t any longer. I need someone to love and someone to love me.”
That statement drives my life today. When I lay my head down on my pillow at night, I am thankful that Brokeback Mountain and the Dave Cullen Forum has allowed me to explore my feelings and as I look back over the months I posted, I find I actually wrote some things that still ring true today, a year and a half later. Underneath it all, I don’t want my life to change, because change in this instance is scary. But change is a fact of life. I keep trying to fool myself into thinking differently, even today, but the reality is that I am on a different road since my experiences with Brokeback Mountain and the Forum, and until I just go ahead and admit it, I will remain confused about the path.
AHappyMan and CANSTANDIT and I got together over the weekend for dinner and talked about … what else … Brokeback Mountain. AHappyMan said that I needed to just come to a full stop, shut myself in my bedroom without any distractions, and just think it through and decide what I really want in life. Then when I come out of the bedroom my goal is to make that happen. So, that’s where I am now…not actually in the room…but planning to just try my best to think out of the box I’ve been in my whole life and see what I can come up with.
However, for the purposes of bringing everyone up to date, the rest of my story after the publication of Beyond Brokeback essentially began on January 5th of this year. That was the day that my wife saw the statement envelope from my therapist and asked what that was all about. I stalled her for a day, but then on Saturday, January 6th, I sat down and told her the whole story…all about Brokeback Mountain, the Ultimate Brokeback Forum, and what they had meant to me in the 11 months up to that time.
As you can imagine, this conversation was what I had been planning for but dreading would come all those months. Up until then I could live this secret life and stay in the closet, peeking out now and then to various friends, but not have to ruin my whole life by telling my family and close church friends that I am gay. I was forestalling the inevitable. Statistics show that very few of us can remain married to our straight spouses once we come out to them.
I knew all along that I couldn’t keep this huge Brokeback Mountain Alternative Universe secret forever. I was working with my therapist to figure out the best way to come out to my wife and family, and had just not found the right way or the right time. Well as they say, time and tide wait for no man.
Of course she was devastated. We cried. The worst part was that she knew something was up for months, although I thought I was doing a good job at acting natural…apparently that did not work as well as I thought it had. She was upset that I was lying to her and ‘sneaking around with my Brokeback friends.’ She called it an emotional affair and will probably never forgive me for doing it.
We’ve been married 42 years so she knew a lot about me. In fact, she could remember back to the week we were married and I sure couldn’t. Apparently, I lied to her during that first month of our marriage and for all of those years she knew parts of what I was but never the full story until now. You have to understand that this is a wonderful woman, just like Alma and Lureen were wonderful women. They didn’t deserve the hand they got dealt, anymore than my wife did. I accept a LOT of the blame, but what was I to do back in the early ‘60’s? My handle on the Forum is Bobby19in1963, because I was the same age as Our Boys when they went up on that mountain. They left behind all the homophobia and homoanger…until it came to them on the mountain in the form of Aguirre. In those days, marriage was the only choice we had…or were told that we had. That is the reason Brokeback Mountain was so devastating to me and to others like me. We were caught in lives we didn’t choose, and wouldn’t have chosen, but had to live.
She insisted that I tell our children that day, so I did. One daughter lives in town, so I called and told her we had to talk to her and to drop everything and get someone to stay with the kids and come right over. She and her husband did, and after I told them about Brokeback Mountain and the story, they breathed a sigh of nervous relief and were glad that one of us was not dying of cancer!
They both said they loved me and that wouldn’t change, but that they drew the line at me bringing a man friend over to their house or around their children. This daughter has never, yet, wanted to discuss anymore about it with me. That has been a surprise, because we have been closer than I have been with the other two children. She has been loving and helpful, but we just don’t discuss Brokeback.
My other daughter just completed her Bachelor’s in Psychology, so she wanted to psychoanalyze me. She still maintains I’m not gay, just confused and off on another tangent. Her husband is very accepting…but he has been kind of a rogue, off into concerts and writing his own music and doing his own photography and so I would expect him to be more tolerant. They are the only ones of the three who have seen the movie. It made my daughter mad that Jack and Ennis lied to their wives and committed adultery. She’s pretty much in denial about all of it and hurt that it has made such dramatic changes in our lives. I gave her an autographed copy of Beyond Brokeback, in which I wrote how happy I was as a gay man to have had to opportunity to have a family.
My son and his wife were perhaps the most critical. Well, actually, she was. She’s pretty bossy anyway, and had the same reaction saying that I couldn’t come around their kids with a man as my companion. She was concerned at what it was going to do to my Church membership, and where I fit into the extended family picture. My son wrote a very nice letter to me after several weeks, which talked about how good a father he thought I had been to him. He insisted that the best thing to do was for me to get a divorce from his mother.
I also had to go talk to my bishop and stake president and tell them what was happening in my life. My bishop said, “Well, I guess the statistics are right. There are now three of you in our ward.” His major concern since he was close to the end of his tenure as bishop (they’re called for about five years) was that we remain together. He didn’t understand homosexuality, but was kind of neutral and no problem, so it went well.
My stake president on the other hand was hoodwinked by a Mormon psychologist in the area who had convinced him that ‘reparative therapy’ was not only a good thing, but the best thing for all people like me. He offered to pay for it if I would go. I knew that reparative therapy had been debunked by both of the largest professional societies in psychiatry and psychology in the U.S., and I had been counseled well by my Brokie friends to stay away from it. But to make my stake president happy I went for two counseling sessions…one with a really Newbie psychologist who was just spouting book learning and no common sense, and the second with the more experienced counselor who had convinced the stake president of the efficacy of his treatment.
You can imagine, with this sticky problem of homosexuality coming up from time to time in the stake, to have an answer provided by a psychologist was an ‘answer to prayer’ I’m sure. Whether it worked or not, didn’t make any difference. It was a place to send those of us caught in the grips of this addiction of homosexuality. (I don’t believe it is an addiction, but the members of the Church have been taught by the Apostles that it is…sadly.)
During the session I told him that I didn’t want anything to do with reparative therapy because there was nothing that needed repairing. I believe I used the word ‘hogwash.’ I asked him if he could help me with communication with my wife, because that had always been a huge concern of mine and something I definitely needed help with. He thought for a few minutes and said, if I couldn’t accept his counsel on reparative therapy that he didn’t think he could help me communicate better with my wife.
I’ve never been back to him, but I continue to go to my own therapist, who is gay and in a committed partnership that has lasted more than a quarter century. He wants me to do more in the gay community, and I have been resisting, not wanting to give my whole life up.
We changed bishops in the middle of all of this and the new bishop is a friend of mine. He worked really hard for two weeks to try and figure out a way we could stay together. Mormon bishops for the most part are thrown into situations where they become a religious counselor and actually have no training in marital counseling. This was the case. My friend the bishop asked me to come see him. We sat in my car for an hour and forty minutes while he tried to convince me how everything that was happening was my fault because I wouldn’t change. He wanted to know how I was doing on the basics on my religion. I told him I wasn’t saying my personal prayers. Check. I told him I wasn’t reading the scriptures. Check. I told him I wouldn’t have reparative therapy. Check. I told him that I hadn’t been going to the temple. Check. He showed me all the checks and said, you appear not to want to change. I told him there was no reason for me to change, because there was nothing wrong with me. I had never been good with personal prayer or scripture study, and although I had done a lot of temple work in the past, right now it was just not someplace I wanted to be. He fervently hoped that I would recognize the error of my homosexual ways and want to change. He just did not ‘get it.’ That afternoon was a sad chapter…because I know he loves me and from his point of view wants the best for me.
However, I left that meeting totally and utterly depressed. You know how when you argue and argue with someone and each of you is so immovable in your stance that you end up worn down and frazzled by the other’s intransigence? There was no way that I was going to admit that I could be changed back to a heterosexual. That’s just plain crazy thinking!
I emailed him the next day and told him that we had to stamp DNR on our marriage, and that he had to accept that and the fact that there was nothing wrong with my sexual orientation that needed to be changed. I told him how depressed my meeting with him had made me, and we agreed we wouldn’t do that again. He backed off and I moved ahead with what I had to do.
I told my wife when I came out to her that I would move out whenever she wanted me to. After four months my wife asked me to move out, which I did as quickly as I could. I now live in a one bedroom apartment within a block of my old home, so that I can check on her and help when needed. She is handicapped by being morbidly obese and has knees that are bone-on-bone so she can hardly walk. We have limited contact, going out to dinner a couple of times, and I stop and get the mail, mow the lawn, wash the car, etc. We have decided not to divorce because she needs my company’s medical insurance. She has borrowed money and is fixing up the house and apartment attached so that she can live in the apartment and rent out the house for the mortgage payments. I essentially gave her all the assets of our marriage, we split a small savings account, and accepted $119 in our joint checking account when all was settled.
I am going to a new ward in a new stake. I know it must be the ‘true church’ because I’ve been going about two months and so far no one has called me or come by my apartment. It’s a joke…because that’s just the way it is. Everyone talks about how wonderful their ward is, but people like me could whither and die on the vine and no one would know. I go to church each week and people smile at me, I bore my testimony and told them about me (not that I’m gay, though) and my family, and I’ve prayed in the congregation…so I’ve done my part. I don’t expect anyone to care, but it hurts a little that they apparently don’t. Makes leaving the Church a lot easier…if and when I do.
I went on Google and put in ‘gay friendly churches’ in my city and there are a bunch for me to check out. One I was intrigued with has a contemporary jazz service which they call The Studio. How much fun could church be?
My friend in D.C. asked me why I would continue to tithe to the Mormon Church when they will use that money to espouse causes I do not now believe in. That is a good question, one I am grappling with at the present time.
How am I? Well, not that good. My sister is dying of emphysema and has been hospitalized the past week, so that’s a worry. I’ve started a new online travel agency business that has a large learning curve for me. My day job has increased in intensity recently. Life is just busy…sometimes you can’t just say, ‘Stop’ while you put your life together. Life just continues on anyway.
Although wanting to remain friends with my wife, she really doesn’t want much to do with me. My kids have their own lives and so they’re always busy doing those things. My granddaughter was excited that Grandpa now has a pool she can come to my house and swim in.
So, when I put my head on my lonely pillow each night, and stop just a minute to think of my plight, that is the saddest time of the day. I wonder how Ennis got through it after Jack was gone? Oh, and the movie? Whenever I think of it, the power it had over me is still there…sometimes there is just an overwhelming feeling of sadness…for Ennis, for Jack, for their wives, for Jack’s mother…everybody thinks Jack’s dad is a bastard so we don’t worry about him so much…and the picture of Ennis holding the shirts…right now I’m listening to the music from the soundtrack…it still permeates my life!
However, I don’t have to ‘stand it.’ I CAN change it, and that is where I am this week, moving toward changing it. I think I’ll reach out to a new church, reach out to my online Brokie friends, reach out to others of my faith who have found they can no longer support the Church, but want to remain true to their faith in God and His Son. I think I’ll also reach in…into my own self and just try to find out what I want to be and do right now.
The ‘rest of the story’ will continue the rest of my life. I am so danged fortunate to have found the Forum and all it has meant to me. I have a fellow worker who is coming out to his family and divorcing his wife and has lots of challenges right now. I wish he could have had the support that I have had…it would have helped him with his overpowering depression concerning his fate as a gay man in a Brokeback Marriage.
No matter what, I win in all of this…if I stay true to the person I was from the beginning…a gay man…a good gay man…with lots of online and offline friends… a family who still loves me…and a God who doesn’t make any junk!
I swear…life IS better because of Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain….love to all….Bobby
Read Part 2 of Bobby's Journey as it was published in the East Valley Tribune, Nov 15, 2007.
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