Personal note: Not sure how long I'll be able to blog again, but will try for as long as my current circumstances hold out. It's very nice to be able to, all the same.
We went to see two films over the holiday weekend. One is highly controversial and, we knew before we went in, incredibly sad. The other we thought was going to be a much needed dose of comedy to lighten our mood after the first one, but turned out to be incredibly thoughtful as well. We didn't realize that the second film offered the near opposite vision from the first for what it means to be gay in America. The films were "Brokeback Mountain" and "The Family Stone." I don't think I'll forget either one for many years to come.
The "gay cowboy" movie as our pathetic excuse for a national media has taken to calling it is, as you've read or seen for yourself, incredibly beautiful. If your heart doesn't ache at the end of this film, you might just be dead.
"Brokeback Mountain," in and among other themes of longing and true love, explored the worst of being gay in America. The loneliness, the duplicity, the violence, the self-loathing, the heartbreak, the bigotry, and the wasted years. I know there are many Americans, like Larry David (you have to read this, it's amazing), who refuse to go see this film. It's their loss. They're denying themselves one of our country's most exquisitely told, most human of tales.
"The Family Stone," in and among other themes of the power of family and familial love, explored the very best of being gay in America. The gay son (and his lover) wants to adopt a child, is as welcome as any other of the four siblings with their significant others in the parents' home, and in one incredibly well-written scene that exposes the soft bigotry that underlies so much of the so-called "tolerance" toward gays in this country, is told by his mother in front of everyone that he is more "normal" than any other person in the house.
I don't want to spoil either film if you haven't seen them, but I do want to discuss how these films work to dispel the myth that gay marriage is somehow "anti-family."
In "Brokeback," both the gay characters, despite knowing they are in love with each other, are pressured by society to marry women. Both those marriages are disastrous frauds, of course, and the costs to the spouses, children, and other family members are brilliantly illustrated. When the one character's wife finally confronts him, it's clear he had scarred her for life.
This scene brought back to me the arguments I've had on political blogs with folks who insist there's no discrimination inherent in banning gay marriage, because gays are free to marry someone of the opposite sex, just like anyone else. It's always their last refuge when all other avenues are logically blocked. In any other context, they must admit that it represents discrimination, so they fall back on this argument.
I want to play off the example in this first film to explore just how anti-family such a position truly is. Again, though, I don't want to spoil the film, so I'll genericize this a bit and then veer off into the real world:
Imagine a gay man wants to be married...for the companionship, for the financial and societal benefits, for all sorts of inheritance and tax purposes, and because his position in his workplace, his community, and his family, will be much less anxiety-ridden once he does. As for any American, there's no law that says he must marry for love...he can marry any woman he can convice to marry him...but imagine that this man chooses, for a host of reasons, not to tell the woman he proposes to that he is gay. Essentially, he lies to her. Mostly because if he doesn't, she won't marry him and she will likely tell other people he's been leading her on, etc. So, he tells her he loves her, and woos her, and bends down on one knee and the whole nine yards. She thinks she's marrying for love (or something as close to it as she's likely to get).
Now imagine that with the right amount of liquor, lighting, and creative positioning he can manage to have sex with his wife. (The film does a great job of showing how horrible this is for both of them, but in particular how humiliating it is for the wife.) Great sex is a missing ingredient in many marriages, but eventually this wife here will know...deep down, she'll know...that something is seriously wrong. But, again, with liquor, lighting, etc. etc. she gets pregnant. They have a kid or two. From the outside they're a typical American family.
Now imagine one day the wife puts two and two together. She's had plenty of clues along the way, but she finds some evidence of a homosexual affair...or not...perhaps all she sees is her husband looking a bit too long at another man or whatever. But now she knows what was seriously wrong all those years. It's now crystal clear. She's been betrayed, lied to...her marriage is a fraud. The arc of shame and disgust and anger she experiences is excruciating. Her identity is shattered. All at once she painfully questions her attractiveness, her intelligence, her mothering skills...HER CHILDREN...what does this mean with regards to her children...and HER PARENTS...what will they think if they learn? Does she pretend she doesn't know and continue living the fraud? Does she out her husband and risk destroying her family? It's a living nightmare rife with degrees of self-doubt and guilt straight spouses dealing with a mere bout of adultery can't compare to. She's trapped in this hellish dilemma and every possible avenue out still tears away at her self-worth.
Now, imagine this shell of a woman is your daughter.
That's right...your little princess that you walked down the aisle or beamed at from the first pew. Your little girl who seemed so happy at her wedding.
Arguing that it's ok for gay men to fraudlently marry women so that you don't have to support gay marriage is to willingly submit your own daughter to such a possibile fate. Willingly. Make no mistake about it, gay men can be very, very convincing if enough societal pressure is applied to them. Even your own superiorly intelligent daughter might fall for one. Or the dupe might be your son in the reverse situation.
By comparison, in "The Family Stone" the bond of that family's love was so incredibly strong that even the father...even the father...pounds on the table to silence a very misguided guest who tries to ask whether the gay son and his lover shouldn't reconsider adopting, for the child's sake. He had had enough of the pain he could see this caused his son. The words the guest utters are so flawlessly wrong (in the PC sense) that they brilliantly expose why most anti-gay arguments are actually as cruel and hurtful as gay people insist they are, even when self-declared non-bigoted straight people insist they're not meant to be.
In the end, one of these families was stronger than ever...the other utterly destroyed. The solution to such pain and damage is clear. The family that supported their gay son and his relationship unconditionally saw their family grow stronger for it (the movie's about a lot more than this, but in this context, this assessment is accurate), and saw the love they had for each other and the joy that brought multiply. The families/societies that pressured their gay sons to pretend to be straight were utterly miserable...their decisions killed family bonds and love and killed fleeting chances for joy.
Of course, these were movies. In real life it might be different. The man pressured to marry and the woman fooled in marrying him might live happily ever after. Their siblings and parents and children might see their love and joy multiply. Sure. So long as the man never lets anyone else discover his true nature. So long as he lives the lonliest existence imaginable. But then at least some people won't have to feel they've discriminated against him.
Oh...Happy New Year all!