William Ishmael has gone through many transitions in his life. He worked for a civil engineering and city planning firm for 30 years and then shifted his focus to his art. He now serves on the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission. William learned that to get through major changes in his life, both personal and professional, it was important surround himself with supportive people.
Were you always who you are today?
Well, it’s always been the case in Sacramento, for the whole 40 years. I mean, I came here married to a woman, we made a large number of friends. We loved our friends. I transitioned in the course of from being married to her, through a divorce, coming out as a gay man, having a boyfriend, and now having a husband. So that is a lot of transitions in Sacramento. But I felt accepted every step along the way.
Were you able to take anymore risks in your life now that you had done maybe one of the hardest things you ever needed to do?
Well, I don’t think there’s a direct cause and effect relationship. But it could have contributed to having the courage to make more changes. Like, to become an artist, to start doing art, to start exhibiting art, to get out of engineering, to get out of the office environment, and managing large numbers of people.
Where did you find the courage? I think a lot of people would not rise to meet it.
Do you think? I mean, how could you? I mean, when you’re faced with who you really are, in being someone, and need to become someone that you are not currently. How could you not make that change? I have trouble visualizing in how someone stays closeted. I don’t see it as courage, I see it as inevitability. You just need to act on the inevitable part of yourself.