There was some open space between what he knew and what he tried to believe, but nothing could be done about it, and if you can’t fix it you’ve got to stand it.
Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx
Annie Proulx chose to end her tragic tale of forbidden love with the notion that ‘nothing could be done…and if you can’t fix it you’ve got to stand it.’
Brokeback Mountain, brought to the screen so beautifully by Ang Lee, depicted the love between 2 men in a profession which thrived on the image of the machismo at a time when social pressure made such love impossible.
In spite of falling in love with each other against the breathtaking backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, the 2 men, Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, got married to women. Could we have expected otherwise in small town America in the 1960s where gossips and social norms form the backbone of their daily lives and gay love would have scandalous and devastating consequences for the 2 men? In fact, the 2 men, in self denial, declared to each other that they were not gay.
Ennis said, “I’m not no queer,” and Jack jumped in with “Me neither.”
Although both men got married, Brokeback Mountain never disappeared from their lives. Ennis’ marriage to Alma Beers ended in divorce, not before producing 2 daughters. Jack on the other hand, married the rich Texan, Lureen and managed to father a son. We are told that he wanted to divorce Lureen but it seemed that he didn’t, well at least not before being killed in an ‘accident’.
And Ennis is left with only memories of his one love – Jack. Who can forget the scene when Ennis visits Jack’s parents’ home and find his own shirt inside Jack’s in the closet?
But Brokeback Mountain is just fiction.
Unfortunately, reality is not very different for married gay men, well at least not in Singapore.
Many gay men who have somehow ended up married, many with children, young and grown up, grit their teeth and carry on with life. How they cope is left to our imagination.
Many who are able to divorce, without messy repercussions, do so. One such example is the openly gay pastor from West Malaysia, the Reverend Ngeo Boon Lin (歐陽文風 牧師) who not only divorced his wife but went on to write books about it. Recently, he in a high profile fashion, married his African-American partner Phineas Newborn III in New York (http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/gay-pastor-wed-malaysia060612).
In one of his books, the autobiographical 现在是以后了吗？Is Now the Future?, he explains his decision:
“唯有展示真相，我们才可能消灭偏见。唯有更多同志公开现身，见证我们的生命的美好， 才可能帮助社会接纳同志。”It is only through revealing the truth that we can get rid of prejudice. It is only through more gay men coming out as a testimony to the beauty of our lives that we can help society accept us.
But how many married gay men would be able to do what he did and get away without devastating consequences? How many have the kind of altruistic motivation that he has? And how many have wives like his, who loves him enough to not only forgive but accept him – loves him enough to set him free so that he will find his own happiness and after the divorce remains his best friend without any bitterness? What is that they say about hell, fury and a woman spurned? But nonetheless if your calling is to be another Ngeo Boon Lin, then perhaps you’ll have enough God-given grace to go down that path.
To me, prevention is always better than cure.
It is only when our young gay people
are comfortable in their own skins
that hopefully the tragedy of the gay married man would be
a thing of the past.
To me, we should educate our young so that they do not follow in the tracks of their predecessors. The state of sexuality education in schools today, when it comes to sexuality issues, is dismal – they merely exist to perpetuate the prejudice against the LGBT community. And most teachers are hardly the right people nor the right models to teach tolerance and acceptance of a sexual minority. On top of this, the sexuality education programs here generally are fearful of the backlash from the religious right wingers. In addition, concerned parents also assert pressure on schools in the unfounded fear that their children would turn gay should a positive image of homosexuality be given in school.
But our young people need to make right decisions, decisions based on correct unbiased information and not on misinformation and fear.
But I’m not just talking about education in schools. I’m talking about public education too. The mass media plays an influential role in this. It needs to stop presenting the gay community in a bad light. It needs to give more information about the gay community so that society out there will be able to have a fair picture about what it means to be gay. The Media Development Authority (MDA)1 should stop the policy of banning good gay movies and television programs that accurately portray gays in a good light or at least in situations that make us out to be normal human beings trying to find happiness and our own meaning in life.
It is only when our young gay people are comfortable in their own skins that hopefully the tragedy of the gay married man would be a thing of the past.
But something stands in the way.
377A2 does not only stand in the way of HIV prevention, it stands in the way of proper unbiased education and social acceptance of the gay minority.
I read with disappointment that the courts have found the penal code not unconstitutional. But perhaps, it is not a matter of the legal law; it is a matter of the heart, soul and conscience of a nation. It is a matter of what we are doing to a minority group of people in Singapore. If we claim that we are all-inclusive, 377A cannot stand. It must not because it has tragic implications and consequences not just for our gay men, but also the people in their lives and ultimately society at large.
For all our sakes, for the sake of the whole of Singapore, our leaders must take the bold step and do the necessary even if it goes against a vocal segment of the population.
It is my hope that one day, we can say that Proulx is wrong: something can do done about it and we do not have to stand it because we can fix it.
Call Oogachaga Hotline (6226-2002 – Tuesdays to Thursdays 6 to 10 pm and Saturdays 2 to 5 pm) if you need someone to talk to about your issues.
1 Media Development Authority – The statutory board under the government which regulates the mass media in Singapore
2 Section 377A of the Penal Code of Singapore is the legislation which criminalizes sex between mutually consenting adult men.