Brokeback Mountain Represents The Freedom To Be Gay - Outdoors

By Mike Boisvert.

From this hour, freedom!
From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines,
Going where I list, my own master, total and absolute,
Listening to others, and considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.
I inhale great draughts of space
The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine.
I am larger, better than I thought
I did not know I held so much goodness.

- Walt Whitman, ‘Song of the Open Road’

Bottom line is... we're around each other an'... this thing, it grabs hold of us again... at the wrong place... at the wrong time... and we're dead.

-Ennis Del Mar, Brokeback Mountain

For many gay people today, which is remarkable given the progress that has been made with gay acceptance, the only "right place…at the right time" is the great outdoors. Walt Whitman, a famous gay poet, must have felt the same way as you read parts of his famous 'Song of the Open Road."

"Brokeback Mountain," the movie that everyone is talking about begins in 1963 when Ennis (played by Heath Ledger) meets Jack Twist (played by Jake Gyllenhaal). The two Wyoming ranchers fall in love, but it’s a love that can never be fully realized, due to deep-rooted fears stemming mostly from Ennis' childhood memories. It ends in 1983. But this fear still exists today, especially in Middle America. I know many gay people living in large urban cities who just can't understand why. As you know from the last election, there is vast difference between the 'blue' states and the 'red' states.

When it comes to the outdoors, it has always been a refuge for gays to express love with their boyfriend/partner freely without fear of ridicule, anger, or beatings. I’ve received a few e-mails from folks in third world countries who tell me that the only place they can take their boyfriend is outside up in the mountains, in a forest or secluded beach.

"Brokeback Mountain" beautifully tells a story of two men who come outdoors not for quick, anonymous sex. Instead the great outdoors became a means for them to explore and develop their love for each other over the course of 20 years. 

One of the great things I've seen when I run outdoor wilderness travel trips is how comfortable gay folks become with expressing their thoughts and feelings. As GayOutdoors’ saying goes, "We’re here to GO outdoors and make new gay friends in a safe and comfortable atmosphere." How true this was for Ennis and Jake.

As I watched Ennis and Jake’s love grow while camping below Brokeback Mountain I was filled with joy. Being with someone you love and surrounded with spectacular scenery is a vision all gay outdoor enthusiasts wish for.

Brokeback Mountain Setting

"The cinematography was spectacular. I would like to camp and hike 'Broke Back Mountain'," read one post on the GayOutdoors discussion forum.

Much of "Brokeback Mountain" is set in Riverton, Wyoming, gateway to the Wind River Range and Gannett Peak. However the movie was actually filmed in the Canadian Rockies near Calgary, Albert Fort Macleod in Alberta and La Mesilla, New Mexico. So if you were thinking about going to Wyoming to enjoy the scenery you saw in the movie, you’ll be disappointed. However, that aside, Wyoming does have spectacular scenery.

The Global Names Information System shows no Brokeback Mountain although there is a Brokenback Creek/Narrows/Reservoir about 100 miles northeast of Riverton. Annie Proulx was quoted in Planet Jackson Hole: "Brokeback is not a real place. There is, on a map I once saw, a Break Back Mountain in Wyoming which I have never seen, but the name worked on several levels and replaced half a dozen more pedestrian names I had been trying out." However a check of the USGS database showed no Break Back Mountains in Wyoming — although there are plenty of Breakneck features in Wyoming and elsewhere.

According to the USGS there are only two summits which are similarly named: Brokenback Mountain, TN and Brokenback Mountain, Virginia.

Riverton is depicted in the movie as a dreary wide spot in the road with a dilapidated one-room post office — not a "booming" college town of 10,000 with an airport with commercial service. Although it’s a big town for Ennis who moves there from a ranch with his wife so they can be around other people.

Closeted Bi-Guys

Ennis Del Mar: "It's a one-shot thing we got goin' on here."
Jack Twist: "Ain't nobody's business but ours."
Ennis Del Mar: "You know I ain't queer."
Jack Twist: "Me neither."

Another poster at the GayOutdoors discussion forum says "It was refreshing to see gay guys not portrayed as stereotypical queens that is shown on TV like ‘Will and Grace’, ‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy', or the sex crazed circuit boys on ‘Queer as Folk.’ Hopefully many in the straight world will see this film."

Says another poster, "Maybe more so called BI guys will be brave enough to admit their sexual attraction and understand that you cannot have it both ways living a bogus marriage, then going out and picking up guys."

I've run into a couple of ‘straight guys’ who have signed up for my hiking trips who later revealed to me that they had sex with guys, enjoyed it, but are not gay. They explained that the gay lifestyle they see portrayed on television and in magazines is not who they are. I’m sure a lot of ‘straight/bi guys’ feel the same way. If they only knew how many of us are just like their neighbor across the street. Not all of us spend our time partying at gay bars or marching at gay pride parades. We enjoy time with our friends, straight and gay, and spend time with our families. We enjoy outdoor activities, watch ball games, volunteer for social causes, donate money to charity, etc. We have a mix of both straight and gay friends. Sure we spend some time at gay bars because it’s a way for us to meet others like us in a comfortable atmosphere - but we are not obsessed with it.

Two friends of mine from college are now married and meet once a year for a fishing/camping trip. They were both cruising guys in school. I heard years later from a gay friend of mine in college who knew them both that they fooled around with other guys.  So are these friends having a "Brokeback Mountain" type relationship? It's quite possible. 

Until the gay community does a better job promoting itself as having the same interests and values as their neighbor, closeted straight and bisexual guys will remain so denying a better life for themselves. I believe there is a silent gay majority in Middle America that nobody knows about. I hope that GayOutdoors is helping to change that.

The Times Are A Changin’

Jack Twist: "The truth is... sometimes I miss you so much I can hardly stand it."

I read a post on a discussion board: "I've seem BBM 3 times now and each time I take a different straight couple so we can talk about it after. I think I'm kind of proud to be associated with characters like Jack and Ennis to the point that I can talk about my homosexuality much easier around my straight friends. I think this movie is doing more for gays than all the parades with tight jock straps with boys blowing kisses to nuns with beards."

Here’s another post I read on a discussion board: "Growing up and always going against the bible-belt ultra-conservative mantra in an ultra-conservative state was always been such a large frustration for me...in particular because of the field of work I am in and the things I wish to pinnacle with my career. I really was expecting SOMETHING to piss me off at the movie...an inappropriate laugh, a snide remark, an "eww," something (by the movie audience)...I did not. In Alabama, even in 2006, I came away with something that I never expected - hope."

This is what is so great about this movie…it is has the power to change people’s perceptions of the gay lifestyle and to support it. Gay people are cowboys, ranchers, farmers, construction workers, married men hiding behind a "marriage certificate," republicans, democrats, military consultants, admirals, generals, military officers, military consultants, business owners, adventurers, mountaineers, athletes.

Gay people struggle to make a decent wage each day like everyone else, who pay their taxes, who fight wars, and who donate to charitable causes such as conservation organizations, the United Way and local non-profit groups.

Even today, we still fear ridicule by walking hand-in-hand down the street with our boyfriends or share an impromptu kiss. Many of us still fear telling our parents. However, the "times are a changin'." Americans for the most part are not homophobes. We must give 'straight' people time to accept gay relationships instead of shoving it down their throats. As long as we feel progress is being made, that is the best we can hope for.


Jack Twist: "Tell you what, we coulda had a good life together! Fuckin' real good life! Had us a place of our own. But you didn't want it, Ennis! So what we got now is Brokeback Mountain! Everything's built on that! That's all we got, boy, fuckin' all. So I hope you know that, even if you don't never know the rest! You count the damn few times we have been together in nearly twenty years and you measure the short fucking leash you keep me on - and then you ask me about Mexico and tell me you'll kill me for needing somethin' I don't hardly never get. You have no idea how bad it gets! I'm not you... I can't make it on a coupla high-altitude fucks once or twice a year! You are too much for me Ennis, you sonofawhoreson bitch! I wish I knew how to quit you."

Ennis Del Mar: "Jack, I swear…"

In the end, I have decided that my interpretation of "Jack, I swear" and all of Ennis' actions is that he was devastated by regret at not having lived his life with the man he loved. He recognized the importance of that love, and knew how much he had missed out. His time with Jack's parents had to demonstrate to him the possibilities. He was not kicked out, ridiculed, or treated poorly. Even though Jack's parents knew what was what. In fact, Jack's mother invited him back to visit some more. Ennis had to have realized that the possibility of being with Jack was more real than he had ever been willing to see.

Allons! the road is before us!
It is safe- I have tried it- my own feet have tried it well- be not detain'd!
Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the book on the shelf unopen'd!
Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the money remain unearn'd!
Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher!
Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! let the lawyer plead in the court, and the judge expound the law.

Camerado, I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law
Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?

- Walt Whitman, ‘Song of the Open Road’

For anyone who has seen this movie, especially if you are bi/straight, find a mountain nearby and call it Brokeback Mountain. Then with all your might, hike up it allowing it to drain your negative perceptions of the gay lifestyle along the way. And when you reach the summit, visualize a rainbow flashing across the sky! Once you reach the bottom, immerse your new self in a brook. Come back home ready to accept who you are. Find a buddy to love and go camping with you for the rest of your life...

Checkout the Brokeback Mountain discussions on our message board. Add a comment based on this story if you'd like.

© 2006 Gay Outdoors All Rights Reserved.

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