I’m teaching Brokeback Mountain (the story, not the film) to my literature students as part of our thematic look at love.
When I gave the students the story, I offered them the option of not reading it. For as outspoken an advocate as I am, I’m not willing to force my views on anyone, and I recognized that the story might be difficult for some people to read. Two students took me up on my offer and asked me to assign them something else, which I did, all the while gently encouraging them to read the story anyway.
Tonight, just after class, one of the two who’d requested a different story (one was male, the other was female) came to me and told me that she’d changed her mind. She was going to try, she said, to get through the story, even though she had a hard time getting past the sex. She told me that she was raised to think a certain way, and that way did not make any room for the idea of homosexuality.
This led to a long and interesting conversation about what the story is really about. “Look,” I told her, “I’m not telling you that your views are wrong; you’re as entitled to your opinions as I am to mine, and I respect that. I AM saying, though, that we should only keep opinions as long as we find them to hold true, even and especially after letting them be good and challenged.” I told her that the story isn’t about sex; it’s a gorgeous, heartbreaking love story, and a story about fear and self-loathing and society and relationships and coming to terms with one’s choices made with a closed heart.
When we left tonight, she promised me that she was going to read the story. She’d decided that she’d been closed-minded long enough, and that even if it made her uncomfortable, she was going to get through it. She may not become an activist, but the fact that she’s willing to pry loose some of her long-held assumptions is a huge deal. I think the world just became a better place, and I feel honored and privileged to have played a small part in that.