Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Closet

Over the weekend I read this article written by Murray Archibald, published in 'Letters from Camp Rehoboth'. I thought the point about the results of being closeted was worth passing on.

The Lesson of Brokeback
by Murray Archibald

To say that I am a little obsessed with the film Brokeback Mountain would be exaggeration—but only a slight one. Like many Letters’ readers, I’m sure, this brilliant film directed by Ang Lee touched me deeply, and its stark and tragic story continued to replay in my mind for a far longer time than I usually expect, even for a film of this caliber. (As an aside, I suppose I should also confess that I’d watch almost anything with Jake Gyllenhaal in the cast, and though Steve usually agrees with me on that, even he vetoed a recent suggestion that we watch The Day After Tomorrow for the third—or maybe the fourth—time last week.)

I bring up Brokeback Mountain here because its story tells us something important about ourselves, not just as gay people but as human beings. Brokeback Mountain is the story of two men—Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist—who hide their love from the world around them and even from themselves. Ultimately it is a story about the destructive nature of life in the closet and the sickness of a society that demands it. Brokeback Mountain graphically illustrates how the closet can become to the soul like a splinter buried deep in the flesh—its pain and inflamation affecting the entire body.

Sometimes the excuse of the closet is a sense that it protects the loved ones in our lives; all too often, it simply alienates friends and family and destroys the relationships it sought to save in the first place. In truth, there is no relationship—there is no contact—when there is a closed door between human beings. The love that Jack and Ennis had for one another could not survive in the vacuum of the closet, and its eventual implosion touched and damaged all the other people close to them.

One of the great tools of a society bent on preserving the closet is silence. Silence is the closet. In a recent interview in Newsweek magazine, Ang Lee was asked, "...are you surprised that Brokeback Mountain hasn’t raised more protest from the religious right?" He responded: "I didn’t know they would take a position of deliberate quietness, so that they wouldn’t [inadvertently] promote the movie."

Change never comes about because of silence, which is one reason that conservative churches (or other institutions for that matter) don’t want open dialogue about GLBT issues. As long as they can simply point a finger and scream "sinner," they don’t have to open the closet door. To engage in a true dialogue about the differences in our beliefs—to have a true conversation with one another, person to person, human to human—necessitates the opening of the closet door. Change happens when we open doors. When we come out to our family, our family is changed. When we come out in our church, our church is changed. When we come out in our school, our school is changed. When we come out in our community, our community is changed.

I believe with all my heart that we are living the change. At times our opponents seem more vocal and organized than ever, but that is in direct proportion to our success and visibility in the world around us, and we must not be intimidated by them. The Advocate recently reported that among high school seniors in the class of 2006, 74% supported legalized same-sex marriage or civil unions—think about what those figures would have been just a few short years ago.
When we started CAMP Rehoboth 16 years ago, it was about coming out, not just as individuals, but as a community. We were responding to the need to be visible, to be heard, to become a part of the community around us. I clearly remember the first year that this magazine appeared on the streets of our town. There was both support and opposition from both straight and gay people in our community. Change can be frightful to all of us, but once we get through it, it is rarely as frightening as we imagined it would be. The same can be said for coming out of the closet—it affects us all, the individual, the family, the church, the community, the society as a whole.

The CAMP Rehoboth Community Center is about the health of our community, both gay and straight. It is about keeping the doors of the closet standing wide open—no, on second thought, it’s about removing them altogether—so that we can reach out and touch one another, neighbor to neighbor, person to person, human to human.

2006 will be an important year for the CAMP Rehoboth Community Center and we will be pushing hard all the way through the year to not only meet our goals, but to exceed them. Perhaps if Jack and Ennis even had the smallest inkling that a place like this could exist, their story would have had a very different ending.

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