A Parallel Story to Brokeback Mountain
I have recently read the short story on which the movie, "Brokeback Mountain" is based and I almost felt like I was reading my life story. I wept most of the way through. I could not wait to see this wonderful movie. Here is a bit of my story. My best friend gave me the name "The Colorado Kid", so I am reclaiming it because of "Brokeback Mountain".
"My Ennis" was the most handsome masculine man I had ever known. He taught me to ride horses, handle a firearm, hunt and do many of the things that Jack and Ennis do in the movie. He even gave me a "friendship ring". The only thing lacking was we never consummated our relationship sexually. But the hugs and terms of endearment were nourishing to our bodies and souls.
He was the love of my life. Our camping and hunting adventures were in the 1970's in Colorado, Wyoming and Alaska when we were just a little bit older than Jack and Ennis. We both were in denial of what we were experiencing and considered it a Bible style Jonathan—David type relationship. When do two straight men exchange rings and write love poems to each other?
We were both fundamentalist pastors and he finally said with tears that we should cool our public expressions of friendship or someone might get the wrong idea. Talk about denial. I was a fundamentalist pastor for 25 years and was the same kind of homophobe that we see in the hateful right wing movement today. I could preach some of the most hate-filled messages against homosexuality and at the same time be struggling with desires for my best friend and some of the men in my congregation. I was trying desperately to convince myself that I was not gay. My "Buddy" and I even helped to found the Moral (immoral) Majority in the state of Colorado. At the same time I was secretly seeking counsel to rid myself of these desires that I had not chosen.
I thought that in getting married, having children and serving God that I would be healed. I suspected that I was gay at 22 but did not once act on it for 16 years. It was sheer hell. I tried every theory and therapy available to change including exorcism. I even fasted one time for 20 days thinking that would cleanse me of these forbidden thoughts. Finally after seriously considering suicide and then opting to live I had my first adult same-sex relationship and finally found out what passion was all about and that this was the real me. I left the ministry because I could not continue being a hypocrite. I confided for the first time to "My Ennis" that I was gay and that I was leaving the ministry. He wept and said that it was his fault, that if he had been a better friend I would not have become gay. On my recommendation my church asked him to be their new pastor. He walked into a very good paying position with a large congregation and a private school. My intent was to quietly walk away, saying that I was taking a leave because of stress in my life, which was only part of the story. I purposed to not embarrass my family or hurt the ministry I had worked so hard to build. This was not to be.
Time has proven that "My Ennis" really was in love with me and my coming out scared him to death, as he even dreamed that he was also becoming gay. He became so afraid that he would also be suspected, if the real reason for my leaving the ministry got out. Therefore in order to protect himself, he denounced and outed me, and I lost all of my so-called friends. He quickly wiped his tears and told me that if I did not repent within one year God would either kill me or one of my children. When that did not happen a year later he said, "This proves you have been a fraud from the beginning." He even tried to get my wife to dump me. See what a hate filled religion can do to two people who love each other. I walked away from my faith believing that God hated me and had played a cruel joke on me. My wife, who truly had become my soul-mate, was the only one who exemplified God’s love.
I did not know that my "Buddy" had encouraged her to leave me until 20 years later when he confessed this to me. He said she told him that, although she might have grounds to leave me, the Bible did not command her to do so and she would only leave if I left her. I honestly wondered how she could stay with me. I would even bring some of my boyfriends home to meet her. I was so blind and did a lot of stupid things. I believe perhaps one reason she was able to deal with this without hating me was that she had seen the pain and struggle I had gone through for years trying to change before I ever acted on my orientation. Consequently she knew that it was not a choice that I had made. Gay men and straight women can be soul-mates and best friends. which was certainly true in our case. The problem is that there is no real sexual chemistry, no matter how hard they try.
So-called ex-gays who get married, when pressed hard enough, have to admit they can only have sex with their wives when they fantasize about another man. My friends, that is not healing but deception and, if you want to use Bible terms, "mental adultery".
Years later, "My Ennis" asked for my forgiveness and quoted from memory a poem he had written about our love and friendship. For a moment I was elated in thinking we could at least be friends once again, but he again ran from our friendship because he continues to be afraid that people will get the wrong idea.
It took me 20 years of trying to make up for lost time. "So many men and so little time!" I was like a kid in a candy store for the first time. All of this was great fun, but without a committed love relationship it became rather hollow. I wanted a love relationship like I had with my "Buddy" and which is illustrated to a point in the story about Jack and Ennis.
I then went on a search to sort things out. I met some wonderful gay Christians atwww.ecwr.org and this changed my life. On this journey I got a new understanding of who the real God is, and let me tell you God is not the God of the hateful fundamentalists. I came to realise that God had actually created me as a gay man and loved me just as I am. I began to once again walk with God but this time as an openly gay man.
I would encourage anyone to rent Del Shores movie, "Sordid Lives." It presents this message with great humour but accurately and in a powerful manner. Del was a Southern Baptist preacher’s son and the movie tells his life story and how he also comes to the conclusion that God loves him "just as I am."
When I began to reconcile my faith and sexuality, my wife and I then had to decide what to do about our marriage. I had spent 20 years breaking my marriage vows. I either needed to be honest and ask my wife for a divorce, or make a commitment to be celibate and renew our vows. She knew I couldn’t change my gay orientation but I promised her that I would be faithful to her and be celibate to honour her. I had experienced enough promiscuity to last a lifetime, and was not sure there was a male life partner out there who would want me and share my new goals for life. Also I did not want to lose my best friend. I asked her if she could live without sexual intimacy and she replied that should be easy as she had managed that for many years. She stated that if we could nurture each other emotionally and spiritually that would be enough. That is exactly what happened for the next three years. She became very involved in our Evangelicals Concerned ministry and became one of the teachers. Her love and acceptance blessed many of God’s gay and lesbian children. She was finally able to also come out of the closet as the wife of a gay man.
I had no idea, when we exchanged our vows, that within three years she would be diagnosed with stage IV brain cancer and I would lose her. It was my privilege to care for her the last 10 months of her life. It truly was a labour of love for the one who had shown so much unconditional love for me. The Christian Gay community had a special memorial service for her and many testimonies and tears were shared regarding her unconditional love. She became the "mother and big sister" that many had never had.
The question is, "Should we have divorced years earlier when we were young and could have each found someone who was truly meant for each of us?" Yes, I believe we should have, and that is what I counsel today. It was very unfair that she never got to experience the "unconditional love" that she so freely tried to bestow on me. My children today love me rather than hate me and it is because of their mother and the way they saw her treat me. In all honesty though, I believe each of them would agree that we should have been free to each find the right life mate. This could have happened and because of our friendship we would still have been good parents.
Today I live my life as a 66-year-old single gay Christian man. If God sees fit to bring Mr. Right into my life, I am open to that possibility, but I am only interested in a life-long committed relationship. I feel a desire to model for younger generations that it is possible to be Gray, Godly, Gay and very Happy. I spend my free time counselling and encouraging those gay men and lesbian women of all generations—that they can claim their gay birthright and still have a spiritual life. They don’t have to pretend to be straight, get married and end up hurting those they love most in this life. That is the biggest regret of my life, in how my struggle affected my wife and children. What a horrible fate so-called Christians including (ex-gay ministries) are forcing on us by promising us we can change. This is a lie because God did indeed create us as "God’s gay and lesbian children."
I challenge anyone reading this to not hate yourself but accept your God-given birthright. Doing so has changed my life and given me peace which I now have the privilege of sharing with one of my sons who is bi-sexual, as well as a host of "GLBT kids" that God has entrusted into my care. Wow, I am back in the ministry but now sharing God’s love instead of hate. Please e-mail me if I can be an encouragement to any of you out there. Please join me in forgiving and praying for those who hate us and would like to deny us our rightful birthright.
If you want to check out the websites for "Brokeback Mountain" here are two of the best:
you can find the short story on which the movie is based at:
Websites where my personal story has been published:
EC Western Region:www.ecwr.org
Courage of Great Britain:www.courage.org.uk
You can contact Gary L. Matson, Sr. personally by e-mail at: [email protected]