by artistSTEVE WALKER

"Love, Light, Loss, Life. Touching, Watching, Thinking. Yearning, Reflecting, Fearing. I paint about life, mine and yours. My sexual orientation is, unapologetically, simply part of that."

I Now Become Myself


James Trundy Verrill

Life is full of ironies like the April 11th I was born, a Gay baby boy, in Concord, Massachusetts. The colonial village that was the starting place of the American revolution. The site of "the shot heard 'round the world". A town that contributed significantly to the founding of the greatest democratic nation in the history of the earth. Yet a nation that to this day, two hundred plus years later, refuses to accept my inalienable right to love whom I love openly. A nation that denies me the rights accorded heterosexual couples because I am Gay and I love another man. Yet, as Concord was the site where the nation's fight for freedom began so it was the site where my battle for freedom as a Gay man began. For that battle, as it does for all of us, began at birth.

I was born into an extremely homophobic family. It was obvious as I was growing up, within my family and within society, that being interested in women was the only way. Even the medical and psychiatric professions labeled people like me mentally ill.

So it was, as I paraded around my grandmother's kitchen at 18 months of age in my mother's high heel, fur trimmed winter boots. A picture of this event was saved and smiled at over the years as cute. I see this picture as the first recorded sign. Even though doing drag has never interested me, I have always appreciated fine fashion.

I was the five year old who went to kindergarten and on the first day refused to climb up on Miss Jone's lap to kiss her good-bye and I expressed my dislike strongly enough at home to have my mother intervene and see that I was not asked to do so again.

I was the pre/post puberty boy who dreaded the required showers after gym class. Not because I didn't enjoy the scenery, I did!!, but because I was petrified that with so much visual stimulation combined with my raging hormones I would become visibly and rigidly aroused and immediately be labeled "queer" or "faggot". At that point in time we had not claimed those words as our own.

I was the high school freshman who exchanged erotic notes with the boy next to me in Latin class. Certainly made Latin more bearable!! and resulted in my first homosexual experience. I was the high school student who dutifully had a date for all the major proms yet never kissed or made out with a single one. The high school student who loved to watch Elvis swivel his hips!!

So I headed for college in Washington, DC . More freedom, more exploratory sexual encounters with fellow students, more guilt, more disgust with myself for being such a perverted deviate. I can remember going back to my dorm room after a sexual encounter, hot and enjoyable until it was over, and scrubbing myself in the bath tub. Feeling so dirty and disgusting because society said I was.

I couldn't make it go away. The fear of my family knowing kept me being extremely careful and discrete. Today I realize that fear kept me alive. For during those years while I was in college and working summers, HIV/AIDS was beginning its unknown rampant spread.

The circumstances of my life kept me too fearful to partake of all the blatant, cock exposed,sexual propositioning that occurred, as I have shared, within the walls of the United States Capitol Building. Kept me from going beyond visual enjoyment of all the marvelous male beauties out of New York City that appeared fresh weekly at The Lakewood Summer Theater in Skowhegan, Maine, where I worked the four summers I was in school. Kept me from being a panel in the AIDS Quilt today.

Was I celibate? No, but my liaisons were with fellow students as fearful and cautious as I was. I smile today at some of life's incidences. Like the time when I was fourteen and "antiquing" with my mother. We were in an antique shop owned by a Gay man. He noticed and made a big deal over a cut on my leg. A cut I didn't even realize I had. I knew he was Gay but how in the world did he know I was! I didn't understand "gaydar" at that point in my life. Before our visit was over he had given me a beautiful brass inkwell. Why mother let me accept this gift I will never know. Maybe she considered it a premium for the money she did spend that day. All I knew was that some how "he knew about me" and that was petrifying. Today I have a spectacular collection of antique inkwells. That first one is even more special because of its place in my story.

The signs were there. It is just that no one saw them. Being from a good, proper, well bred New England family I could be nothing other than what I was supposed to be: straight. So the battle was internal. There was no external suspicion. I successfully played the person I was assumed to be. I could not be me.

Today I smile at a picture of me at fourteen, running to first base in a baseball game. Titled "The Homerun" today!, that picture screams GAY!. Something about the gracefulness and fluidity of the running posture!!! Especially the carriage of the arms! Yet nobody guessed then, Thank God! I could have been labeled mentally ill.

During my` years at The George Washington University I considered for the first time actually telling my family. Wanting so desperately to just be me and assuming I was loved enough to be accepted in this new light. Just before I garnered enough courage to do so, my next brother who was straight and a marvelously gifted musician, announced that he planned to go to Julliard and study music. I was in our library that fateful day when Mother forbade him to pursue those plans because "only queers went into music". BAM! Two sons shot down at once. I wasn't prepared at that time to lose my family.

So close, yet the personal battle would consume another twenty years. Uncle Sam claimed me when I drew #14 in the draft lottery. Heaven help me if I was discovered now. That would mean immediate, dishonorable discharge and disgrace. Once again I was thrown into an all male environment. Basic training was fifty, in shape, guys to a squadron, all sleeping in one big room. All naked and jammed into a group shower with such limited time to shower that it was a mass of maleness, flesh brushing flesh. That horrible fear of being sexually aroused by the visual stimulation combined with the physical brushing of flesh against flesh as we rushed to shower ourselves in the very limited time allotted. That fear of being a disgrace to self and family by being dishonorably discharged for being queer. For being me.

The battle of knowing that I was a good and capable person while society and Uncle Sam stood ready to label me a perverted deviate if they found out who I really was.

So at that point in my life I naively believed that if I just did what I was expected to do "it" would all go away. When I met Sharon it was not conscious deception. I would not have done that. I was attracted to her as a person. We shared a lot of interests. We were friends. I loved her. I functioned within the marriage. We had a lot of marvelous times. We accomplished a lot together both personally and professionally.

Yet, despite a wonderful wife and living the life I was supposed to live "it" didn't go away. I was Gay. There was no denying it. When we traveled it was the good looking guys that caught my eye and I felt renewed quilt and betrayal to Sharon, whom I loved, because of the lust I was feeling for other men.

So began the second painful part of my personal battle and my journey out of the closet. The part where I could not deny who I really was. The quilt over my being Gay and yet truly loving Sharon. The fear that my double life would be revealed and a relationship I valued destroyed. The horrible experience of being with Sharon at concerts and other North Country functions and walking by other men I had "known" in the biblical sense, often with their own wives. The horrible awkwardness of being introduced to a man in a group of straight friends, with Sharon present, as if we were meeting for the first time when in fact we "knew" each other better than anyone would possibly suspect. Knowing that some of our horse riding friends were Gay and wondering if they knew about me. (they did!)

The stress of living in two worlds. One where I was the real me. One where I was the me I was raised to be. I inwardly resolved the conflict to preserve my own sanity. I convinced myself that I wasn't cheating because it wasn't another women I was with. So many married Gay men have shared that same incorrect illusion... I was cheating and I didn't want to be. I was a Gay man locked in a straight world.

I was so, so careful because I felt more of a responsibility at that time to protect Sharon from what was out there (HIV/AIDS) than I did to protect myself. Her life was in my hands and the marriage saved my life and kept me from being a panel on the AIDS Quilt. So I not only thank and honor Sharon for a lot of wonderful years, I thank her for my being alive today.

I was happy with myself. I had learned to accept and honor my being Gay. Here I was married to someone I love, a women, and unable to be free. Unable to be me. I considered divorce and decided I had to honor the "for better or worse" vows I had taken. Things were starting to unravel in the relationship with Sharon. My sexuality was not an issue. My personal, spiritual and metaphysical growth were issues. So as I said in my President's Column, The day Sharon announced it was over " I felt all the emotions one feels when a special part of life is over and when a significant relationship is over. At the same time I felt marvelously free. Free to be who I really am. Free to live life without hiding a significant part of myself. Free of the fear that my being Gay would be discovered and a relationship that I valued destroyed." FREE. Free at last!!

No one, unless they have finished their own personal journey to freedom (is it ever finished?) can even begin to comprehend how great it feels to just be me. The closet, the deception gone. You can like me or not. That is your choice. Now you will know whom you are choosing to like or dislike.

I have retained old friends and gained new. The old friends who are still friends were surprised with the new information but if there has been any change in these relationships it has been for the better thanks to complete honestly and openness. There are many new friends, Gay and straight. I have experienced love like I have never known before because now I can love as I was created to love.

I know that there are many wonderful years ahead. I know that somewhere in the near future there is a phenomenal man who will join with me in a committed, monogamous relationship destined to fulfill the second half of this life. I know that from this point on my closet is totally gone and James Trundy Verrill will be exactly who he really is. I now become myself.

As I look back I know that my grandmother Verrill knew. From my earliest days she always quoted to me and only to me out of ten grandchildren, the Henry David Thoreau quote: "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer." Now I know that was her way of acknowledging and honoring who I was and her way of saying it's OK to be who you are, Jim.

Yes, I have always marched to the beat of a different drummer in more ways than by being Gay. The difference is that today I march to that different drummer openly and proudly. Sometimes I even carry the rainbow flag.

May those of you not free yet, honor yourselves. Know that every journey out of the closet is personal and individual. Honor your own journey. Pace it as you feel is right for you. You will reach the day when you too are free.

When that day arrives I will be waiting, with lots of others, to celebrate with you. Take time to ponder. Honor who you are and where you are in your journey. Happy Holidays everyone.


FOLLOWING IS A LETTER TO THE EDITOR I WROTE AS I FINISHED "COMING OUT" OF THE CLOSET:

Dear Editor:

Life is a balance. However one describes it: yin - yang , dark - light, love - fear, joy - pain. "Coming out of the closet" is no exception.

The exhilaration of finally having the closet walls totally gone. The exhilaration of being totally free. Comparable only to what my earth bound imagination believes the eagles must feel as they soar with apparent effortlessness through the infinite sky.

Balanced with the pain. The pain which I can only speculate must be similar to the pain created by a dagger piercing the heart. An aching that is of a magnitude that balances the exhilaration and replicates the balance found throughout the universe.

My pain is caused by those I have called "friend". Those who have known I am Gay and have accepted me as I am. Yet, now that I have taken the final steps to live my life without hiding, to honor my total self and all the strengths and struggles (balance again) that comprise me, they have cast me aside fearful of what others in the community will think about our interaction and association.

So as I soar in freedom they burrow in fear.

Do I love them any less? No, for they are where they are on their own journey in life and they must honor that and who they are. Is there pain? Yes. It is my responsibility to not let that pain cripple. I must honor myself. I must honor the journey of life that brought me to this glorious day. Even if I need to revert to a once held belief that " I am an island and I can stand alone".

Better to be free and alone than shackled to be with others.

As in all aspects of life there are consequences. The positive consequences of finally honoring myself for who I really am far out weigh the negative consequences that accompany that decision.

There is much work to be done. We can best do that work out of the closet. I make that statement realizing how long it took me to arrive at this day and totally honoring the individuality of your own journey to that same spot.

As I have said so many times, honor yourself and your own journey . I have honored myself and my journey and there has been criticism from some who thought I should have been progressing at a different pace. We can only make that determination for ourselves. We are in no position to question or criticize how, when or to what degree a person comes out of the closet.

Freedom has a price. However, it is a price worth paying. It is great to be free. I now become myself!

Signed: James Trundy Verrill


ANOTHER COLUMN I WROTE AT THE SAME TIME

HALLELUJAH. Merry Christmas Jim. I am free at last. The very last piece of my closet gone. The most wonderful Christmas present I can give myself is to retire James MacBean!!! From this point on as long as I am President of Prism this column, when I write it, will carry my full name: JAMES TRUNDY VERRILL.

I am not a "Gay man", I am a marvelously complex soul who is on an exciting journey of personal and spiritual growth who has been additionally blessed with being Gay. My being gender-gifted does not define me. It is a valuable and blessed part of me. A small, yet very significant part of my whole. A piece that I value and am thankful for. Because I am Gay I am also more intuitive, more loving, more accepting more understanding, more compassionate, more creative,, more caring, more forgiving, less judgemental. All the wonderful characteristics that go with the Gay package!

My story can now be told and will be over time starting with this month's Points to Ponder Column. Events beyond my control placed me in the position where as President of PRISM this final step of my coming out journey appears on the front page! Because of this front page location I will move part of what I had originally intended for Points to Ponder to this forum.

As people receive this final piece of information as to who James Trundy Verrill is, it is very important to me that they realize that I love Sharon and I will always honor the years we had together. We had a lot of fun and a lot of marvelous times. Sharon had a tremendous and positive influence on me and my initial personal and spiritual growth. I would not be the person I am today if Sharon hadn't been in my life. I love her. My sexuality was not a factor in the divorce. I felt all the emotions one feels when a special part of life is over and when a significant relationship is over.

At the same time I felt marvelously free. Free at last to be who I really am. Free to live life without hiding a significant part of myself. Free of the fear that my being Gay would be discovered and a relationship that I valued destroyed. As exciting as all that freedom is it does not lessen the loss of Sharon in my life. It does not change the fact I love her. I wish her nothing but the best. I am still disturbed and concerned when I hear that she is not well. I will have to deal with my personal grief when I hear that she has passed over. Any male partner who comes into my life will have to understand and honor that part of me and not be threatened by the sense of loss I will feel and my need for final closure when something does happen to Sharon.

How could it be otherwise. I love her. There are some that will see that as a contradiction. How could a Gay man, one who has known he was Gay from puberty or before, love a women. Those are all Points to Ponder in later issues.

For now let me just say how marvelous it is to be totally out of the closet at last. How wonderful it is to be free. How wonderful it is to just be me. Good-bye James MacBean, you served me well in a time of need and I will always honor you. MERRY CHRISTMAS JAMES TRUNDY VERRILL.

As we approach this holiday season, the season associated with giving and receiving gifts, remember that the most significant gifts are not material gifts. The most significant gifts are LOVE and TIME. Love and time for yourself and for others. This is the season to begin loving and honoring yourself as a gender-gifted individual and to acknowledge where and how you can give love and time to others.

One of the ways to give to others is in your active participation in PRISM. Sharing your love, your time, your story, your talents, your support with the other gender-gifted who live in the North Country. As we celebrate this holiday season vow to gift yourself and others with Time and with Love.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS EVERYONE. May l998 be a great year for all of you as you continue your life journey.


Please Remember To Sign My Guestbook

Sign GuestbookView Guestbook

1997 jtv@mailcity.com


This page hosted by GeoCities Get your own Free Home Page


1