Midnight, January 1st 1992: I found myself celebrating the New Year gazing out of the window of a stopped train overlooking a snowy, moonlit landscape. The trip from New York to Portland had been slow. I didn’t mind. I had all I needed: time, a journal, and my Sony Walkman. The tapes I brought with me switched with my mood; melancholy music from my high school years, Bob Dylan and John Denver from my childhood. And of course, the sound track from, “The Sound of Music.”
I arrived home to a gray and drizzly Oregon winter. I returned to college. I came out to my family and friends. And if you’ve ever known someone when they are coming out, that’s all they can talk about. I was the same. But after my time as a missionary, and my months with Julie, I began to see who I was becoming.
Julie and I had not left each other angry; we just knew the time was right. We began writing long letters to each other. I told her of my coming out experience. She talked of performance schedule and her grandkids. But the letters weren’t just “how’s the weather?” In her beautiful script, Julie wrote of the art she was intrigued by; the new music she was singing, and the shows that moved her. In my blocky letters, I wrote of the intellectual high I was on; telling her of the theories and ideas I was learning in my University classes. Finding a letter from her in my mailbox was an occasion to open a beer and lock myself in my small, paper strewn bedroom.
My letters were not addressed to “Julie Andrews.” They were to, “Sister Maria,” with a PO Box number. For the return address, I would write, “S.J. Trapp.” The “S.J.” was the nickname Julie had given me. As much as I liked her being named, “Julie,” I had never felt the name fit me. She called me S.J. for, “Sweet Julie.” Years later I would change my name to, “Jay,” as homage to her pet name for me.
The years went by and our letters were replaced by emails. I had a special email address just for her. I still do.
Then, in 1997, Julie would have her singing voice permanently quieted by an unneeded surgery. Her four octave range would never be that again.
I hadn’t heard from her. I began to worry. Finally, after already checking 15 times that day, I received a message, “Please come to Santa Monica. I need to see you.”
By this time I was in a serious relationship. And the company I had been working for closed down. I was unemployed.
Erin, my girlfriend, did not know of my relationship with Julie Andrews. And I loved both of them too much to tell Erin. I told Erin I needed a road trip; some time to visit old friends and think about what I wanted to do next with my life. I was twenty-eight years old.
I put gas in my truck, bought some snacks and headed straight to Santa Monica. Fifteen hours later, having only stopped to refill the gas tank, pee, and replenish my snacks; I arrived at Julie’s house. A house-keeper led me to the deck. Julie sat with her back to me, gazing out over the Pacific Ocean. The sun was setting. I walked quietly across the deck. Without a word I sat on the lounge chair next to her and covered her hand with mine. She didn’t say anything that first night. I slept in the guest room. This wasn’t the time for sex. In fact, we never did have sex again; a decision we made together. Our relationship had changed.
The next morning I found her again on the deck. This time, she spoke. Her sadness was overwhelming her. Like she had told me when we were in New York together, a singer is all she felt she was. And now, she would never be that again.
For five days we talked on the deck; moving with the shade, (besides sharing a name, we share the same skin tone and hair color). Her mood had begun to lift. Of course she was more than a singer. She was a mother, a grand-mother, a friend and a writer. We talked of the stories she wanted to write, and of her passion for children’s literature. She was one of the most beloved entertainers in the world; and she would stay that way. I hoped she would come to believe it again.
It was time for me to go. We embraced at the front door. “Thank you so much for coming, S.J. I needed this time with you.” I kissed her cheek, “I was honored to be asked,” I replied.
Erin and I moved in together. I found a new job that I enjoyed. And then we began to discuss starting a family.
In 2000, we moved to Northern California. The move was a big step up for Erin’s career. After eighteen months of trying, we had our first child. My Mormon upbringing kicked in like evolution. I became a stay at home Mom.
Julie and I stayed in touch. She went back to the screen, playing a queen in, “The Princess Diaries.” She lent her voice to play a queen again in the, “Shrek,” movies. We emailed occasionally; all I could talk about was the joy I felt being at home raising a child.
Three years later, I would give birth to our second child. Julie sent copies of some of her books. I told Erin they came from an old college friend who had joined the convent; Sister Maria.
Right before my fortieth birthday, it became clear to me that I wasn’t meant to stay Julie or a woman. My gender transition caused the end of my twelve year relationship with Erin. I changed my name to Jay. Every week, I injected Testosterone into my thigh. The facial hair I dreamed of grew in. Through all the chaos, I was happier than I had ever been.
In June of 2010, I was diagnosed with stage three rectal cancer. Adrienne and I had only just moved our families in together when the worst news ever hit us. As it had been in 1997, “Please come to Vallejo, I need to see you,” only this time it was me who sent the message.
Adrienne would have to be told. My treatment consisted of daily radiation, weekly chemo infusions, and a bag that pumped chemo into my body twenty four hours a day. There was no way I would be able to sneak out to see Julie. She would have to come to our house.
I sat on the couch and looked out the front window. A car pulled up, and looking stunning as always, Julie emerged. As much as Adrienne would have liked to have stayed, she knew it was best for me to have this meeting alone.
Slowly I walked to the front door. As I opened it, I smelled the perfume. I knew Julie didn’t wear it every day, but she remembered that it was my favorite. I closed the door behind her and fell into her arms and took a deep breath of the comforting smell of her.
“I haven’t seen you as a man,” she stated, “Step back and let me take a look at you.” The chemo zapped all my energy, but left my hair intact. “So handsome,” she cried, clapping her hands together. “You look just like the boy I always saw inside of you!” I thanked her and we sat close to each other on the couch.
Words of fear and sadness poured out of me. How could I be me when I could barely get out of bed? And what about my sweet children, all of eight and five years old? Julie smoothed my hair as I lay my head on her shoulder. She talked softly about finding myself in other ways. “Your letters,” she began, “Show me that a writer lives inside of you. Find out if that is true.”
I began to drift off. “Take me to your bedroom,” she said. I led her up the stairs of our old funky house and to the bedroom. My bedside table was covered with pill bottles meant to alleviate the side effects. I was too tired to be embarrassed at the state of the room. I let her tuck me in to bed. Julie brought a fresh glass of water from the bathroom. She leaned over and kissed my sweaty forehead.
My eyes followed her as she turned at the door and blew me a kiss. “All will be well, S.J.” I fell asleep before I heard the front door shut.
Why, after 20 years of secrecy, am I writing this and posting it on my blog? For one, I have no proof. No photos were ever taken of us together as far as I know. And who would believe letters from a “Sister Maria” in New York City were really written by Julie Andrews. Second, I have typed many words in this blog about people who I care for and who care for me. Julie is one of the many. I had her permission to share our story.