On Monday, May 22, 2023, Geraldo Migues will be displaying 2 artworks in an exhibit called “Proud to be Seen” at the Bruce Baughman Studio and Gallery in Tubac, AZ. The exhibit will continue through July 2nd. In the exhibit, artists were asked to tell their stories about coming out to the shadows and into the light, and to interpret the pride of who they are and their community.
In this large Self-portrait, I am seated in front of a floating bird cage. Inside the cage is another self-portrait looking through an open door. My eyes radiate a rainbow of light.
My Coming Out story happened at age 64. I had already retired from a successful career as an art teacher. I had what many might think a successful life. I had been well liked by my students and was an Elder in my church. I was part of the area art community and was often asked to be a juror at local art exhibits. But there had always been a lingering doubt, as if I were watching my life from a distance. Even when I was named the “Art Educator of the Year” by the state Art Education Association , it seemed as if the award was being presented to someone else.
Over the next few years, my retirement, like that of many, brought an opportunity to “redefine” myself and to ask questions about the rest of my life. About the same time, one of my life long friends also retired. Within a short time, he had been diagnosed with brain cancer. His retirement lasted just those few short years and the cancer eventually took him. He was buried in the Spring of 2013. That same Spring, I finally left my old life and “Came Out” as gay.
The journey continues.
EMOJI defined = An Emoji is a pictogram or an ideogram used in electronic messages and web pages. The primary function of an Emoji is to fill in emotional cues otherwise missing in typed conversation. Most Emoji’s are very small compared to the typed text that normally surrounds them.
In preparing for this exhibit, I researched several “Coming Out” stories, paying special attention to the ones by men who were older, married and had adult children. None of these stories were small. A lot of times, we were labeled as liars who intentionally sought to hurt the ones closest to us. Don’t believe it. The reality is we were living the best life we could at the time given the information available to us. There is nothing wrong with that. But, lives often change due to a variety of factors; age, jobs, social norms, religion, long suppressed feelings about our identity. People change as new information becomes available. They choose something different. And as a result, the feelings of those around us can get hurt. When the “who you are” is radically different from “who you had been” as is often the case with “Coming Out”, this can be a very BIG DEAL, hence the size and color choice for my Emoji.
Bucket Lists are developed to show where one hasn’t been or what one still wants or needs to do – this is, purposefully, a positive recounting of what I have been able to do. Maybe this is an ANTI-Bucket List? Fifty years since graduating from Rancocas Valley Regional High School and leaving Lumberton and Mount Holly behind – I have visited 32 states of the U.S.A. (this is in addition to living in New Jersey, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Texas, & Arizona); 7 Canadian provinces; 27 countries, including Andorra, on 4 continents; and sailed some of the “Seven Seas.” I have been to Paris and Venice, to Rome and Constantinople, okay Istanbul. I have been to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and inside the Great Pyramid – ridden a camel and crossed the Suez Canal on a pontoon bridge. Have seen the grandeur of Westminster Abbey, Notre Dame, St Peter’s, St Mark’s, Hagia Sophia, and dozens of other Romanesque, Gothic, Byzantine, and Perpendicular cathedrals and abbeys – some in ruins, others in full glory – across Europe. I have explored London and most of Britain (visiting some two dozen times), even living on a lesbian-owned and operated, free-range, organic pig farm in Wales for a stretch. (So, I speak a little Welsh / Cymraeg.) I have known a member of the U.S. Cabinet, a member of the Bundestag, and had tea in the House of Lords dining room with a member of that body. The MacArthur “Genius Grants” escaped me – but not people I have known. I have seen the works of Rembrandt and Van Gogh in Amsterdam and those of Picasso in Malaga. I have worked in a flower shop, a hotel, the headquarters of an insurance company and for an insurance agency, and a publishing house. I have an undergraduate college degree and several advanced degrees, including one from Harvard. I have been a scholar librarian at a major university and have taught at universities on both the undergraduate and graduate level, and for a program to keep senior minds active. And I have been involved with students who have become an internationally known television journalist and commentator, the director of a presidential library, and an ambassador. I have held state, regional, and / or national office in the professional associations of both my main callings – library science and history. And I hold life membership in some of these associations. And I have as a friend – the Archivist of the United States – who is near the pinnacle of both of my professions. I have presented papers, been a guest lecturer, moderated panels, and the like on more than sixty occasions. And even appeared on television in two different cities as an “expert” commentator. My name appears on some 200 publications. Over a dozen scholars have cited me in their acknowledgements. And I belong to three academic honour societies. I have worked for gay civil rights and against war and been in parades (1974 & 1975 Christopher Street Parades) through Manhattan and tear-gassed in D.C. I have attended plays on Broadway and in London’s West End – I have met a Tony Award winner. And I have even met a Mouseketeer. Like most of my high school classmates, I know someone in the NFL Hall of Fame; I also know a former General Manager of a Major League Baseball team. I have won medals for sporting events. I have worked for and been involved with charities and my church, for which efforts I have received some accolades. I changed denominations twice before I found an almost perfect match in the Ecumenical Catholic Communion. As far as religion goes, I have attended a papal Mass, a Mass in the Garden of Gethsemane, and Shavout services in a synagogue in Cairo, Egypt – oh, and I have never had a cup of coffee, espresso, or cappuccino. In nature, I have been in a hurricane and an earthquake; I have seen swans on Shapwick Heath, bears in the Canadian Rockies, whales on Stellwagen Banks, and Gila monsters in the Sonoran Desert. I have not witnessed birth; but death I have seen. I have traced my ancestry back to the earliest days of European settlement in “The New World” and beyond. I have had many acquaintances and a few friends – according to Facebook, they currently number nearly 700 and live in 33 states, the District of Columbia, and 11 countries. Actually, like us all, I must have met thousands – many of whom I don’t remember any longer; many of whom are gone. Some of these I lament knowing; others I lament forgetting. One of these friends particularly stands out and I have been grateful to have him as my BFF for the last five years – his is the deepest friendship, I have ever had. I have children and grandchildren (some of both have had fur); and have spent most of these fifty years with the most amazing person by my side as soulmate. I have been blessed.
www.StMichaelsECC.org LGBTIAQ Affirming Church
It was in 1955 and I was stationed at Lowry AFB in Denver, Colorado. Across the way was Fitzsimmons Army Base. As our base laundry was undesirable, we fly-guys went to the Army base to use theirs. One day as I was leaving to go back to Lowry, I looked up and saw a man wave at me so I waved back. Then it dawned on me who it was as the radio and TV were talking about him all the time, every day! Eisenhower had a heart attack and was at the Fitzsimmons Army Hospital. "It’s gotta be him.”
I got back to Lowry and found that Ike waved to anyone in uniform from his upstairs terrace where he was recuperating. My next trip to the Army base, I got brazen enough to go up to see him. A Marine Captain said for me to go right in as the President received all and any service men that wanted to see him. Ike was in a wheelchair and held out his hand to shake. We had a very pleasant talk and I told him the Set-School training for Bombing /Navigation was coming to an end, but I would come back to say “good-bye” to him.
A week later I had mustered out of Lowry and would be on my way to a SAC (Strategic Air Command)
Base in New Mexico. “I thought you said you were from New England”, said the President. “I am, but I can’t afford to go there now” I said. “Well, son, Mamie is going back to Washington, actually Andrews AFB, and you can go with her, if you like”.
And so I did. I met Mamie at the guest terminal building on Lowry the next afternoon. Mamie was driven there and she came right over to us and shook our hands then turned and walked the stairway to the plane. There were five of us Servicemen that boarded the Columbine next. We did not see Mamie again until we landed at Andrews. She wished us “Godspeed'' and from that day on I LIKED IKE.
My Military Service
1960 - 1969
In Particular, My First Couple of Years
My basic army training took place in Ft. Knox, Kentucky. Eight grueling weeks, turning an innocent virgin , seventeen year old boy into a ground pounding fighting machine man.
My first permanent assignment after Army Basic (at Ft. Knox) and after my 8 weeks of Advanced Administrative Training (at Ft. Leonard Wood, MO.) was at Ft. Eustis, VA with Hq and Hq Company (where I was an equivalent to a MASH Corporal Radar - the company clerk.) I enjoyed my assignment in Virginia but wanted to see the world by getting an overseas assignment. My boss, the Company First Sergeant, suggested I look into applying for a Special Assignment and if I saw something of interest, he would get the paper work going and approved, not that he wanted to get rid of me but he knew I wanted something more than a desk job in Virginia.
I checked and there were positions for clerical all around the world at special military assistance groups and embassy type assignments; after all the mission can't be complete unless the paperwork is too. I always wanted to go to the Caribbean area so I figured I would put in for that area. About a month passed and my orders came down - assignment to Cambodia - close but a long ways from the Caribbean! At that time I wouldn't have even known where the heck Cambodia was if it were not for Laos and Vietnam being in the news back in those days.
Our mission was in the capital city - Phnom-Penh. There were 30 officers and 30 enlisted men assigned to the US MAAG (Military Assistance Advisory Group) Cambodia.
The shoulder patch (not pictured here due to site limitations) were all hand made as we had a very limited force of "Advisors" assigned in Cambodia in the early 1960's when I was assigned there so they were never mass produced like other larger Unit or Army patches.
All of the single enlisted personnel (or married but unaccompanied) were housed in a small hotel that was rented by the government. Only senior enlisted and senior officers were permitted to bring wives and family with them.
Of course, back then I knew I was a gay kid but also knew that I could never be OUT or I would be Court Martialed and Dishonorably Discharged if I were to ever be caught in a homosexual act. Subsequently, my life would have been ruined.
I had several close friends but never found a secret lover, either in Cambodia or any other assignment during my 9 year enlistment. Trust me, there were many that I would have loved to have gotten really close with and many times when out on the town downing all the brews we could, things sometimes got "CLOSE".
My job was at MAAG Headquarters was interesting but it was a desk job, no special challenges,typing correspondence, daily "morning reports", filing, and being a gofer for the Colonel and Sergeant Major. Boooorrrring, so my off-duty time was really appreciated.
I had a jeep assigned to me the entire time I was there. Getting from the hotel to the headquarters office, running errands, all that kind of stuff, but the best thing was we could sign the jeep out for weekends and wander all over the countryside. Cambodia borders Thailand to the north and west, Laos to the northeast and Vietnam to the east and southeast. The "hot spot" when I was stationed in Cambodia was Laos. It amazed me that we had the run of the countryside with no restrictions other than not to cross the border into another country! One of our Rest and Recreation (R&R) areas back then was Saigon, which we could visit. We all had passports. Air America was an American passenger and cargo airline, covertly owned and operated by the Central Intelligence Agency from 1950 to 1976. It supplied and supported covert operations in Southeast Asia, in particular in Laos. I hit the ground in Saigon flying in on a Military Air Transport Service (MATS) aircraft on April 27th, 1961, then flew into Phnom Penh on a little single engine Cessna. I remember that pilot well, Captain Hughes, a handsome young Magnum PI type - Tom Selleck.
Usually every weekend I would fill up the jeep and head out into the countryside. We had a major highway that USAID (Aid for International Development) built from the capital, Phnom Phen, to the seaport town of Sihanoukville, ont the southern coast of the Gulf of Thailand. Sihanoukville was named for the King of Cambodia back then, Norodom Sihanouk. That was always a nice trip and a good weekend on the beach.
My other favorite weekend trips were up to Siem Reap, location of the ancient temple ruins of Angkor Wat.
I loved the assignment and it is on my "bucket list" to revisit when I hit the Lotto!!