Here is Jacques’ brave, compelling story from January’s Tenx9. This story was featured in The Tennessean.
Before I get to “My First Time” I need to give you a little background of my life. Born a Yankee from VT in a French Canadian heritage , the 8th child in a family of 13 which include 9 sisters, 3 brothers, living in a house that had only ONE BATHROOM. Brought up Roman Catholic until the age of 21 when I committed the Mortal Sin of leaving the Church to become a Protestant. Living a very safe and uneventful life until I turned 58 when everything changed.
- 58 I decided to retire from a job I worked at for 39 years, sell the Homestead that had been in my family for over a hundred years
- 59 decided to leave VT. and move to Franklin, TN. a 1,000 miles away
- 60 got my first and only Tattoo, at this point my family really started to get worried!
- 61 decided to got my ears pierced.
- 62 walked my first 5K race, and bought an airplane ticket.
- At 63 I plan on running the next 5K race and using that airplane ticket to go skydiving.
Coming from a large family was more like growing up in a village, there was so many of us fighting to getting the love and attention we all needed. We had to make sure that we behaved properly as not to bring shame to the family. Things like not getting pregnant or getting someone pregnant before marriage, having an affair, or being GAY could never happen in our family because of the shame that followed. As hard as we all tried not be bring on the shame, we still brought it to the table. Our actions lead us to believe would bring shame to our parents, disgrace to the community, which made the fight all the harder for love and acceptance. This battle is still on going, even today with both of our parents decease.
Around the age of 12 I knew I was different, I was attracted to older men, I was gay and I had to keep it a secret. In the early 60’s the word was not gay, but queer, faggot, homo and a list of other names that made one feel less than human. I needed to keep this secret hidden to protect a little boy who had no one to turn to, from a family who were afraid of what the community would think, from a Church that already had me condemned for my sin.
About the age of 15 I did get some courage to go to confession to the parish priest with my sin, instead of receiving absolution, I receive a heavier load of Guilt and Shame. Using this information,this man not only molested me but convinced me that it was my fault and I could not tell anyone what happen because it would ruin his life. For over 40 years I believed his lies.
Once out of high school, living in the closet with my secret, I would come out only when I needed to fulfill my sexual needs and run back in, closing the door real tight. I was never able to find the intimate relationship I wanted or needed. As time went on I sought therapy to change my thinking pattern. Even tried to live a life of absence, which you can bet never lasted long.
What I did not realize at the time that being Gay had nothing to do with who I really am. I maintained a job for 39 years reaching many awards for my performance. Was the primary care giver from both my parents for over total of 32 years, allowing them to die at home, not in a nursing home. My mother died at 94 in the same room she was born in. Some Churches was very accepting as long as I did not act out. Most of these Churches never covered my shame but were willing to take my tithes.
It took over 50 years to come to this freedom I have today. I’ve had enough of the shame that held me in bondage all this time and now it’s time to throw open the door of my life and really start living.
There are 2 “First Time” that started this journey that I now travel:
My primary “FIRST Time” was the day I finally had to courage to say out loud the name, ………….., the man who molested me, convinced me it was my fault and told me I could not tell anyone because it would ruin his name!
Hearing my voice as I spoke that name felt like I released an air bubble that had been stuck in my throat not allowing me to breath. For once I could breath, feeling alive and knowing that I was not a bad person.I repeated that name over and over, and over and over, feeling better about myself each time I said it.
I still carry shame and guilt for some of the things I have done along the way, but I am not ashamed of who I am as a person: I’m a good and loving person who need love and support just like anyone else in this room.
In the children’s classic, The Velveteen Rabbit, the Rabbit asks if it hurts to become Real. The Skin Horse replies, “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt” He goes on to say, “ Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been love off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once your are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand”.
At the age of 63 I want to start to be real, not living in the closet, hiding from everyone out of fear of rejection. Rejection will happen, but it will come from the people who do not understand. I’m looking for the day when I can have the Freedom to finally be free!
Now to my Second Big “First Time”. I stand in front of you tonight announcing for the first time in public that I am a gay man.
This may be uncomfortable for some of you and you may not agree with my stand. All I ask is that you give me the FREEDOM to BE FREE and allow me to REAL and not UGLY.