We weren't able to greet everybody as they entered the church, but we tried our best. We really enjoyed the opportunity to thank people for coming. By a little after four most people had arrived, and the church was pretty full. A number of reporters were in the crowd, and we went out of our way to make it clear that they were welcome and could tell the story completely and honestly. Franklin and Phil, standing at the door, had made it clear that cameras were not permitted, and as far was we could tell that was being respected. The reporters were assured that Mike's pictures would be available.
As I stood there with Tim, greeting guests and reporters, I thought of Ricky's comment of Friday evening-he really didn't comprehend who Tim was until he was asked for an autograph because he was Tim's teammate. I don't think I really had understood just who Tim was until I realized that the press was not only interested in his diving, but his personal life as well! Tim seemed to just glide through it all as if it were the most normal of situations.
Franklin and Phil waited for a break in arrivals and closed the door. The Gang assembled in the back. We had decided that we didn't want any music that would remind people of weddings-whatever this was, we didn't want to pretend it was a wedding-and we certainly didn't want one of us playing the role of a bride to the other being a groom. But we had to get everyone in, and the march down the aisle couldn't be avoided and the organist was asked to play anything appropriate that didn't sound like a wedding. We began with Rev. Millister coming to the front of the church and welcoming everyone on behalf of Tim and me. Then he said, "There are six very special young men in Tim and Charlie's lives, and they want you to meet them now."
Jim was first in, escorting my mother and father. They got to the front of the church, turned and faced everyone, and Jim said, "Good afternoon. I'm Jim, and I'm pleased to introduce Mamie and Jason, Charlie's parents."
We had agreed that when we stood facing each other for our vows I would be on the right. So Jim escorted my folks to the right side of the chancel of the church. He returned to the left front, the first of six that would stand in front.
Jim was followed by Andy, bringing in Tim's parents, following the same routine. Andy stood next to Jim.
Then came Tom escorting Carl and his fiancée Carol, and Wayne and his wife Irma. Tom introduced himself and then Carl and Carol and escorted them up next to Tim's parents. Then he repeated this for Wayne and Irma, who were escorted up to stand with my parents. Tom then stood next to Andy.
Hal then escorted Tim's three coaches and their wives, introduced each and escorted them to a position behind Tim's family. Hal was followed by Ronnie who escorted Gene, Ruth and Stanley, who all ended up standing behind my family.
Then Franklin walked in with Tina on his arm and Phil just behind. He introduced himself and then Tina and Phil as "really special people in the lives of Tim and Charlie." He put Tina and Phil just in front of our parents, and then walked to the front making the line of six complete.
Tim and I were standing in the back. I took his hand and we set off down the aisle. When we got to the front, Tom, Hal and the rest of the Gang made a space for us to walk through and up the steps. We stopped in front of the pastor, separated and each of us went to our parents, kissed them both, and came back in front, facing Rev. Millister, who began the service. "There's nothing ordinary about these young men or this service. I met them both just five weeks ago, having been introduced to them by Tim's brother Carl and his fiancée Carol. As an aside, I have been asked to extend an invitation to all present to be part of Carl and Carol's wedding, right here in this church, July 17th. I feel greatly honored to have been asked by Carl, Tim, Carol and Charlie to preside over these wonderful occasions.
"It's a wonderful occasion when two people come together to publically express their love for one another and a commitment to express that love in a lifelong relationship. That Tim and Charlie express their love a little differently than most of the rest of us shouldn't surprise us, nor should it upset us. We are gathered here today because we know Tim or Charlie or both of them, and want to share the joy that they have in each other.
"Gathered before you are many of the people that have loved and supported Tim and Charlie throughout their lives. Tim and Charlie have asked each of them to speak today, saying whatever is in their minds on this occasion."
Twenty-one people spoke. All of them followed our instruction to be very brief. It still took more than a half-hour. But what a wonderful half-hour it was. Though there was great repetition, the love, support and affection that was expressed will sustain us for years. If any of those people read this story, and I trust that some will, let me thank you, on behalf of Tim and me, for the love expressed that day!
Hal fooled us all when he spoke, saying, "I'll second everything that has been said here. But I'm going to share today what the six of us here in front have known for a long time, and that it's time for the world to know: Tim and Charlie have plans for the future, and those plans include competing together in the Mexico City Olympics, Tim in diving and gymnastics and Charlie in archery. And I plan to join them running the marathon. And now I have some news for Tim and Charlie, something that they probably missed in the back pages of the sports section during this busiest week of their lives. Their dream of Charlie competing in archery is real; the IOC confirmed at the end of the week that archery will be an Olympic sport in Mexico."
Tim was flabbergasted. He rushed to me, hugged and kissed me, and loudly enough for everyone to hear said, "Oh, Charlie, it's a dream come true. What a day!"
It was preplanned that some of the group would add readings. Ronnie had chosen a section from the Song of Solomon:
I hear my lover's voice.
He comes running over the mountains, racing across the hills to me.
My lover is like a gazelle, like a young stag.
There he stands beside the wall.
He looks in through the window and glances through the lattice.
My lover speaks to me.
Come then, my love;
My darling, come with me.
The winter is over; the rains have stopped;
In the countryside the flowers are in bloom.
This is the time for singing;
The song of doves is heard in the fields.
Figs are beginning to ripen;
The air is fragrant with blossoming vines.
Come then, my love;
Come with me.
Franklin chose to quote from David's lament in Second Samuel:
The brave soldiers have fallen,
They were killed in battle
Jonathan lies dead in the hills.
I Grieve for you, my brother Jonathan;
How dead you were to me!
How wonderful was your love for me,
Better even than the love of women.
When Tina's turn came, she said simply, "Tim, have a wonderful life with Charlie." Then she kissed him and stepped back behind him. This was followed with Phil saying and doing the same thing to me.
Then it was my turn. I turned and faced everyone. "I can hardly speak. I have thanked you all several times, and I need to say it again. Thank you, for being here, for supporting Tim and me, for your love and affection, for so much. But I have to say some special thanks. To my parents, who loved me from the beginning, and have supported me in my love of Tim; to Tim's parents who are simply the most loving and accepting parents on the planet; to Gene and everyone else from Rockford College who molded me into the adult that I am; to Stanley who supported me at camp and who encouraged a Gang of seven to soar with the eagles; to that Gang for letting me, as their camp counselor, soar with them; and finally to Phil who loved me as no one but Tim ever has or ever will and who came here today to share my joy."
Then I turned to Tim and said, "I love you."
It was Tim's turn. "Charlie said it all, and Hal said more than he should have. To Charlie's list of thankees, I need to add my three coaches, Coach Nelson of Southwest High, and Coaches John and Frank from the St. Paul Gymnastics Club. Much as I would like to think I'm a self-made athlete, I know in my heart that I owe my successes to these three men, and others who went before them. And Tina, the most wonderful, loving, beautiful, girl I have ever known or will know. Alas, I'm gay. That Tina accepts that, and accepts me in spite of it, makes her truly extraordinary. Charlie and I want everyone to know that we have invited Tina and Phil to remain a part of our lives forever, and they both have agreed.
"In front of you are six young men. Along with Charlie and me, we call ourselves 'the Gang' having been put together by chance at Camp White Elk four summers ago. We're still trying to understand the improbability of that group actually coming together. Some would call it luck, some Providence. It doesn't matter. We came together, became a cohesive group, and have vowed to stay together, in some way, all of our lives. But as we add partners the group is expanding. Hal will you introduce Sue, and Sue will you stand with Hal?"
Hal did, and Sue joined the group.
"Tom, will you introduce Nancy, and Nancy will you stand with the group?" They did. "Finally, Franklin, will you introduce your partner?"
Towering over everyone, and saying not a word, Franklin walked up the stairs and came to Phil. They kissed, and walked hand in hand back to where the Gang was standing.
Tim continued, "Carl and Carol are part of us as well. As is Tina." Carl and Carol came and took Tina's hand and the three of them joined the Gang. Tim and I followed.
The fourteen of us stood in a group, until Franklin spoke, "Tim and Charlie. This's your day. Thank you for sharing it with us, thank you for sharing yourselves and your love with us. Now, on with the show."
Rev. Millister held out his hands inviting us to join him again at the front of the church. He led us through questions about our love and respect for each other and our willingness to devote our lives, talents, and fortunes to each other. Our actual commitment vow was almost anticlimactic. "Tim (Charlie) I love you, respect you, and promise to do so with all my heart for the rest of my life."
Rev. Millister looked to the congregation and said, "I would like to introduce a new couple, 'Tim'nCharlie.' Wish them well."
Tim looked at Rev. Millister and asked, "Now?" I knew what was coming. I had known it was coming for weeks, and I had known that there was nothing I could do about it! Upon getting a nod from the pastor, Tim leapt into my arms, and kissed me ferociously. Long, deep and hard. Then he started to giggle, and said, "Carry me away, love." I carried him down the aisle, both of us hardly able to contain our joy. At the back, we kissed again. He simply said, "At last, Charlie, at last." With that, there was clapping throughout the church.
I warned Tim in a whisper, "Press photographers will be outside." We took hands and walked out, and indeed the photographers were there. We smiled, held hands, but declined to kiss, despite some urging. Mike would continue to have the exclusive on the photographs of Tim kissing his new partner.
Back in the church Franklin stood at the front, waited for us to get out of the church, and then invited one and all for light refreshments in the church hall. Meanwhile, per our arrangements, Rev. Millister had escorted everyone up front out the side door of the church and over to the church hall.Each couple sat at a different table, so the guests would have one of the principals to talk to during the meal. We urged everyone to change tables from time to time and most of them did. Tim and I moved from table to table throughout the evening.
The reception was put on by the women of the Unitarian Church, and Dad had again been right behind me changing menus. It wasn't light refreshment, it was a meal, but one served from a buffet and eaten casually. I remember bacon wrapped around breadsticks and somehow toasted in maple syrup. I don't know how many I ate, but they were the best food of the weekend. Unitarians, at least these Unitarians, were really good cooks!
Tim and I, and everyone, ate and talked, hugged and kissed, thanked and were thanked for the rest of the evening. Since we had done introductions as part of the service, there was no need at the reception. The same was true of a receiving line-our greeting people as they arrived took care of that. There was no bouquet or garter! But, there was a cake! >From the beginning Dad had said that he would take care of the cake. A huge affair, it was topped with an archer shooting at a diver ready to leave the platform! It was big enough for Tim to dive into, but he restrained himself! We each cut the cake simultaneously with separate knives. Then we stood and cut pieces ourselves for everyone present. It took us a half hour, but we got a chance to greet everyone again. Tim and Norman had worked out that plan, and I thought it was beautiful.
Just as we finished the cake Mike came up and said, "I need your wisdom." He had quick, wet prints of his pictures of the ceremony. "Which ones do I release to the press?" We picked out about a dozen that told the story pretty well. It included three of us kissing, but none of anybody else kissing. At Mike's suggestion we added a few more; there were plenty, and very few that we wouldn't want released. Mike said, "OK, I'm gone. The guys outside are anxious for these. I'll phone the lab, and they'll make prints and hand them out there. That'll get some of the press out of here. We thanked Mike, and insisted that he come inside and be introduced as soon as he had made his call to the lab.
Tim took great pleasure in presenting his classmate, the only other student in the school with a straight-A average, and now a nationally recognized photographer-noting that his picture had been in newspapers nationally. We didn't know then just how widely distributed the picture would be.
Then Phil stood Tina on a table next to him, and got everyone's attention to the two of them. "Tina and I want to propose a joint toast. Since Tim's underage, and Charlie never touches alcohol, this toast will have to be with Coke, or whatever you're drinking. But get your glasses and be ready."
Tina continued, "To Charlie, and to Tim, two of the grandest guys in the world. Please join Phil and me in wishing them the best of everything for all of their lives." Everyone joined Phil and Tina in lifting their glasses and drinking.
Then Franklin came up, "There's another who needs our love and best wishes as well. Hal, come up here." He did, reluctantly. This toast is for the most forlorn camper you have ever seen, arriving in camp four years ago like a little lost puppy. That little lost puppy will be giving the leaders in the Boston Marathon a run for their money in under two months. To Hal, a runner among runners." Everyone cheered, though only a few really understood the background of Franklin's toast.
Tim said, "Carl, come up here. It's time for your special wisdom."
Carl came front, smiled at everyone and said, "My role in the family is to bring them back to earth before it gets too mushy. Everybody here loves everybody here. We aren't going to spend the evening saying so. Eat, drink, and be merry." With that he smashed a piece of cake in Tim's face, and pushed me in to kiss Tim in the middle of the cake. Almost everything about the day had been planned. But not this-well, this was planned, but not by us! Carl was definitely one up on us. He was ready with two wet cloths and two towels!
Then, at my signal, Tim's gymnastics team brought in a balance beam and put it in the middle of the floor. It was a practice beam that sat right down on the floor-making it both transportable and eliminating the need for mats. Tim looked up at me with big round eyes, and I simply said, "Gotcha." Realizing he didn't have a choice, he slipped off his coat and tie, changed into gymnastics footwear (which one of his teammates had brought up to him), and walked over to the beam. He stepped on it, did a couple of back somersaults to warm up, and seemed to forget where he was. Suddenly Tim of the circus was before us, showing off for all he was worth-and he was worth a lot. Since he was on the beam daily, it was no trouble for him to put together a substantial routine from the bits and pieces he worked on constantly. He brought down the house, if that is a correct term for this reception. Finishing with a flourish, but with no dismount possible, he ran over to me and leapt into my arms. If Franklin hadn't been standing behind me and ready, he would have knocked me over. But Franklin the rock prevailed, and Tim kissed me while I was regaining my balance.
After that the party slowly came to an end, winding down till only the Gang and our families were left. Tim walked over to my Dad and Mom and spoke quietly to them. Soon all three were hugging. I had known all along that they wouldn't be able to resist Tim, and I was right. And he knew just how to be kind to them. He never told me what he said to them, and I never asked, but as we went to bed that night he did say, "I really like your mom and dad. We need to visit them often, and encourage them to come to visit us in Grand Forks. Oh, yes, they're going to join us all in Boston." I couldn't believe it.
The Gang, now the extended Gang of 14, with Franklin as its spokesperson, said "Good night" to everyone, and indicated that they would like to be last to leave.
We said "Good bye" to everyone, with particular attention to my parents and Wayne and Irma, who would be leaving in the morning and wouldn't see us again. I don't believe that ever before in my life had I felt so close to my parents. Years of worry and doubt had been peeled away in the past five weeks. All was well.
Mom said, "It's going to be fun reading about this in the newspaper tomorrow." Little did she know that when she got home tomorrow, a half a dozen newspaper reporters would be camped on her doorstep. Susan was right-we were going to get more than 15 minutes of fame.
For now, the 14 members of the Gang were gathered around Tim and me, everyone talking at once. I pulled Franklin and Phil into the middle and asked for quiet. I said, "Listen Gang, we have made this big fuss over Tim and me, but Phil and Franklin were the first to be committed to each other. Franklin's folks and I were the witnesses-I got to be 'best man' for both of them. I don't know whether they're planning some kind of commitment ceremony or not, but they need to hear it from us that we're behind them all the way."
Hal walked up to Franklin, kissed him right on the lips obviously pushing his tongue inside. They finally came up for air, and Hal spoke. "Franklin and I have had a strange love affair for as long as Charlie and Tim. I'm just so happy that he has found Phil that I don't know what to say. But Franklin here it is, 'May you and Phil live happily ever after in the most wonderful fairy tale that you can dream.'" Phil and Franklin weren't the only ones fighting back tears.
The party really was over. We all reluctantly departed, after lending our strong backs to the Unitarian women-helping them get the hall back to its normal arrangement.
At home, Tim and I, along with Norman, Betsy, Carl and Carol, sat in the living room and relaxed, thinking back over the weekend. Tim startled us all with, "The press is going to be all over the school in the morning, so I won't be able to get into the pool in private. So I asked Coach Frank to meet me at the gym for before school practice."
Betsy spoke first, and for all of us, "You what? Tomorrow? Tim you're crazy. You have to be dead tired. Sleep tomorrow morning."
Tim just smiled. "No, it has been a wonderful weekend, but it's time to get back in the routine. Charlie, I hope you'll come with me tomorrow morning; I'd like for us to be together. I have a feeling that it's going to be a hard day once I get to Southwest High."
"Five in the morning; Monday after the weekend? I'd say, 'I don't believe it,' but that would be foolish. I do believe it. And that means it's very definitely bedtime."
As we fell into bed I asked Tim how he wanted to end the day. He smiled, and backed into me, wiggling as he came. I reached around him, seeking his sensitive spots. Nothing more was said. Sleep found us almost immediately. Followed by the most horrible noise on earth: an alarm clock.
John and Frank were both at the gym when we arrived. They were as startled to find Tim ready to go in the morning as all the rest of us were. Tim smiled and said, "I really feel up. I'm up for anything. I think that today's the day I get the vault timing right."
He worked for nearly two hours on a simple somersault vault, determined to get his timing just right. And he did. Time after time, right on the mark. His vaults were picture perfect. Ten. Ten. Ten. Of course, the judges were prejudiced. After this weekend Tim was happier than he had ever been, and that paid off in athletic perfection. I can't say that formula would work for other athletes, but it was certainly true for Tim. Love, support, and happiness led to physical perfection. He got lots of hugs following his vaults, and that just encouraged him more. Ten. Ten. Ten. Then it was time to shower, dress and head to school. Much to our surprise John and Frank said that they would be joining us at school; they had been invited by Dr. Olafsen to be available at the inevitable press conference.
We arrived at school promptly at 8:00 a.m. The press was well ahead of us. Tim said to me, "Charlie, I would like to go in by myself. I'm the student here, I don't want to have a protector, even if he is my partner."
"I understand. I'll follow behind and meet you in Dr. Olafsen's office. Good luck."
As Tim approached the main door of the school, he was surrounded by reporters. Three days after the coming out he was still news. Just before he got to the door he turned, smiled at the reporters, and said, "I'm sure you have been told there'll be a press conference this morning. What can I do for you now?"
"Smile for the camera."
"Where have you been the last two hours? You weren't at home."
Tim was waiting for that one and said, "Working on my vault. Look out world, I finally got the timing just right."
"At six in the morning?"
"Every day, gymnastics or diving. See you all at the press conference." With that he turned, neatly sidestepped two reporters who thought they were blocking the door, and was gone inside. Two teachers just inside the door saw to it that the reporters did not come inside.
I went in a side door and we all met at Dr. Olafsen's office. He smiled and said, "Tim, I don't think you're going to make any of your classes today. I have already informed your teachers."
Tim answered, "No, I really want to at least make an appearance in each class. Let me go to each class, beginning right now with first period, and take my excuse note to the teacher. I want to get there before each class starts so I can talk to people a little-well, it's too late for that first period."
"OK, Tim," said Dr. Olafsen, "as each bell rings you head off to class, hand in your excuse and come back here. If we're in the middle of a meeting or press conference I'll tell folks where you're going. I'll have the secretary make a set of excuse notes for each class."
He left, came back, and handed Tim a note for first period. Tim left and returned after a while, grinning. "I'm afraid I disrupted the class a little, but I'm glad I went. Everybody was supportive. My fears are beginning to disappear."
"Not everything is peaches and cream. I have heard from the Superintendent of Schools, who has heard from several members of the School Board. Of course, I kept the Superintendent posted starting about three weeks ago. But the School Board learned from the newspapers. One of them is a member of the Southside Evangelical Community Gospel Center, let by the Rev. Isaac Wilson. He was quoted in the Tribune article on Saturday. He's demanding a special meeting of the School Board."
"Is he going to get it?" I asked.
"Probably. It'll be hard to say no. The others that I have talked to are supportive, but quiet. Wilson's man will make all the noise."
"How quickly do you think such a meeting will be held?"
"Probably Thursday evening."
"Then we have to make sure that everything's running smoothly and any problems are behind us by then," I said.
"Right you are," said Dr. Olafsen. "It means that every move today has to be very carefully considered. Tim, I saw you talk to reporters before you came in. I'm not sure that was a good idea."
"I think it was. I recognized some of them-the sports reporters. I have had a good relationship with many of them. I think stopping to talk-nothing important was said-was important. I think the press is with us, I want to keep it that way. There was a very important line in Susan Wilfield's story. She wrote that she had extended her personal congratulations to Charlie and me. And her editors let that pass. A very good sign."
I said, "We have told the press that Tim would have a press conference today. Have we set a time? Does the press know when?"
Dr. Olafsen said, "Nothing is set. I suggest 10:30, and we'll have my secretary go out and tell the reporters at the front door. Where? How about the auditorium?"
"Sounds fine, said Tim. But I'll go out and tell them."
I chimed in, "I think that's a good idea. It would be totally unexpected, and greatly appreciated. We need these people on our side. Go ahead, Tim."
Tim was back soon, along with Coach Nelson who had joined him at the door. Coach said, "I have never seen the press give someone so much respect. Tim's years of being nice to reporters is paying off. I don't know how many Saturday's he spent with reporters, demonstrating dives, giving interviews. They really like him and respect him. Of course, he's a stranger to half the bunch-those that aren't sports reporters. But the tone is set by the ones that know him."
Dr. Olafsen asked, "Who should be here to join the conversation before the conference? The School Board attorney would like to be here, is that OK?"
I said, "Of course. And Tim's parents are coming about nine. Coach Nelson is here and Tim's gymnastics coaches are coming; evidently you invited them, Dr. Olafsen."
"Yes, and I took the liberty of inviting Rev. Millister. Those that aren't with us in this room are waiting in the Conference Room. Why don't we move there?" We did.
Dr. Olafsen began by asking if everyone knew everyone. Obviously the Board attorney didn't know us, so we all introduced ourselves. Dr. Olafsen continued, "This's Tim's press conference. Charlie's as well, but we all know that if it weren't for Tim being Tim there would be no fuss. That isn't to say that we might not have had trouble at the school, but the press wouldn't have been interested. Tim, it's your show, do you want to speak?"
"Yes. Thank you. Thank you all for coming. I sincerely want your advice. But I want to make a couple of things clear. While I'm not going to engage in a sort of true confessions, I'm going to tell the truth. And very simply that truth is that Charlie and I are in love, we're partners, and we plan to be for the rest of our lives. We live together now at my parents' home, we'll live together next year when I go to college."
The attorney very politely interrupted by saying, "Tim, you're going to get asked pretty pointed questions about sex. Have you thought about how you're going to answer them?"
"Yes, Charlie and I have talked about that. Try me."
The attorney looked a little embarrassed, but continued, "Do you and Charlie have a sexual relationship?"
"When you last interviewed a pair of honeymooners, did you consider asking that question?"
Dr. Olafsen almost fell out of his chair. "Bravo. I can't think of a better reply."
The attorney wasn't phased. He continued, "Surely you understand that there's a difference. You're in a gay relationship; you can't be married in Minnesota, or anywhere that I know of; whether you're sexually involved is important."
"The last time you interviewed unmarried lovers, did you ask that kind of question?"
The attorney pushed on. "Does that mean that you refuse to answer the question?"
"No, it means that the question was rude and impertinent and should never have been asked."
The attorney stood up, walked over to Tim and shook his hand. Wonderful, I wouldn't want to take you on in a cross examination. I'm not worried about this press conference. And I apologize for having to be so blunt, but I get paid for asking questions like that-before they get asked in public. You did well."
Dr. Olafsen asked, "Do you or Charlie plan to make some kind of an opening statement?"
Tim asked, "What do you think?"
"I would, but I would make it very brief. Who do you want on stage with you, besides Charlie?"
"Everyone here, except Mr. Fitzwilliam [the attorney]. And I'll introduce them all in my opening statement. Then I'm going to invite Charlie to speak. Then Dr. Olafsen-it is his school. Then questions. I'm going to leave when the bell rings, and be back in about ten minutes. Dr. Olafsen can explain that I'm off to class to explain to my teacher where I am. Then I'm going to lunch in the cafeteria. Dr. Olafsen, may Charlie come with me?"
Tim continued, "Comments, suggestions, ideas, thoughts on what to expect?"
Norman said, "The kissing business arises at every public session."
Tim was quick with an answer. "That would be totally inappropriate in the school setting. If asked, that's what I'll say."
"But your coming out kiss was at the school pool. What's the difference?" The attorney, again.
"The same difference as boys and girls kissing in class and kissing in the bleachers at a basketball game. If you don't understand the difference, you shouldn't be wandering around a school-stick to basketball games."
"Oh, man. I really don't want to meet you in court."
Dr. Olafsen stood, "Folks, it's 10:15. I think we're ready. Follow me to the auditorium.
We all stood behind the curtain; chairs were set up in front of it. Mr. Fitzwilliam had joined the reporters in the auditorium seats. Dr. Olafsen told us that the Superintendent of Schools was there as well, but was hoping that he wouldn't have to say anything. At exactly 10:30 Tim stepped through the curtain, with me following him. I was followed by Dr. Olafsen and all the others, each of which Tim introduced. He began:
"Good morning. I'm Tim, and this is Charlie. As I said publically both Friday and Saturday, we are in love and we are life partners. Yesterday at a somewhat private ceremony we pledged a lifelong commitment to each other. At that service we were joined by family and friends who have been incredibly supportive. Those present included those on the stage, and many others from this school. Charlie and I thank them for their love and support, and trust that they're truly representative of the entire Southwest High School community. It's a community in which I have thrived for four years, and I look forward to finishing my high school career here in the same environment of kindness and support that I have experienced up until now. Charlie would like to speak as well."
Tim had spoken from the podium, and I was right beside him. We shifted so that I was at the microphone, and I spoke. "There isn't much to add, except that I have been made so incredibly welcome since I arrived in the Twin Cities. Thank you all."
Tim asked Dr. Olafsen to speak. "This is Tim and Charlie's press conference. As I indicated on Friday, this isn't a matter for Southwest High School. Tim's our student, and will be protected from any hostility engendered by his announcement, but I don't expect any. Charlie's a guest in our school, and receives our respect and friendship. But he's not a part of the official school community. While he often joins Tim before school, and after school, he has not, and will not, be around the school during school hours. Today's an exception, and he'll be joining Tim at lunch, with my permission. The press won't be joining them, by the way. Things will probably continue in this unusual fashion for the rest of the day. Tomorrow I expect things to be back to normal."
Tim invited questions. He handled the noisy reporters like a pro. The sports writers he knew by name got the first questions.
The questions were all over the map. They wanted to know where we had met and that led to all kinds of questions about Camp White Elk. Eventually someone asked the key question, "Where has Charlie been the past three years?"
Tim let me answer that one, and I explained the dilemma of a camp counselor having a camper fall in love with him, and finding that it was reciprocal. We must have spent twenty minutes going over the implications of that, and our forty letters. However, the questions seemed to express sympathy for the difficult situation that we found ourselves in.
Then the sports questions started, beginning with, "As you came in you said you were practicing the vault this morning and finally got it right. If that's true, it means you're going to take overall honors at future meets. Is that right?"
"Yes." Tim wasn't bragging, he was simply acknowledging fact. He never ducked an answer to a question like that. But he chose not to elaborate.
"Tim, are you ready to tell us why you didn't go to the Tokyo Olympics?"
"Yes." I loved it; he was going to make them ask!
"Why didn't you go to the Tokyo Olympics?"
"Because Charlie wouldn't have been there. It's as simple as that. He'll be in Mexico City, and so will I."
"You mean you missed an opportunity of a lifetime because your lover couldn't be there."
"It wasn't the opportunity of a lifetime. The Olympics come every four years. Charlie was the opportunity of a lifetime. Look. I have priorities, and Charlie's number one. There was never any consideration of going to Tokyo. And there has never been one iota of regret. Charlie and I will see you all in Mexico City."
Tim cut in. "There's nothing more to say on this subject. If you haven't gotten it yet, then you never will."
"Where're you going to college? Who has offered you scholarships?"
"I have had one formal offer of an athletic scholarship, and several suggestions that one would be forthcoming if I were interested. I have stated categorically that I won't accept an athletic scholarship: I consider them to be, in effect, professional contracts, and I'm not for hire. I have been thinking carefully about where I want to go to college, no decision has been reached. I'll make a public announcement at an appropriate time."
"Where're you thinking of going?"
"Lots of places. And they will all be unnamed today."
"I understand you visited at Indiana University."
"Good grief, if you already know everything about me, why're we having a press conference! Yes, I visited IU. They were extremely gracious; I had a wonderful visit, but I won't be attending IU."
"How long have you known you were gay?"
"Since my early teens."
"Do you expect trouble now that you're out of the closet?"
"I have never really been in the closet. You don't go shouting about your sexuality, and neither do I. I have told some people over the years, but only when it was appropriate. Now that Charlie and I are living together, it was appropriate to be public about that. It was inevitable that it would be newsworthy; though I wished I lived in a place where my being gay wasn't newsworthy. But I don't know where that would be."
"Do I expect trouble? I hope not. I have been assured by many people that this is a community of great good will. Thus far nothing has happened to suggest otherwise...."
At that point the school bell rang. Tim excused himself and left. Dr. Olafsen explained where Tim had gone. They took the opportunity to ask me if I expected any problems. I assured them that I didn't, but that it was too soon to say for sure.
Tim returned and continued, "If all my classes are as supportive as the one I just visited, there'll be no problems."
The conference continued until noon. His parents and coaches were asked questions, but nothing unexpected. Norman was asked how long he had known Tim was gay. He replied, "Since Tim first wondered why he seemed to be attracted to boys. Tim, his mother, brother Carl, and I all sort of worked it out together. It wasn't our choice, and it wasn't Tim's. I think it was God's choice. We never thought to try to change him. Such an effort would have undermined our good relationship and very possibly could have hurt Tim deeply. Tim is who he is. Boy. Diver. Gymnast. Scholar. Lover. Our son. Charlie's partner. We all love him just as he is."
At that Dr. Olafsen stood, and suggested that there really wasn't anything more to add, and it was lunchtime.
As we left the stage Susan came forward with one of the reporters-one who had asked no questions. She said to Tim, "Can we talk a few minutes? It's important."
She, Tim, I, and the mystery reporter went back to Dr. Olafsen's conference room. The reporter introduced himself as Mick Jacobs, staff reporter for Sports Illustrated. To my shock he said that Tim, and I, would be the cover story for the next issue. He would like to have an in depth interview with us in the afternoon.
I asked, "What picture is going on the cover?"
"The poolside kiss, what else?"
I looked at Tim, "Mike's first professional picture is going to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated!. He's at lunch. Go get him."
Mick seemed a little surprised. "The SI staff was afraid that you and Tim might be upset that that picture was getting the play that it has. There was some reluctance to choose it, since it has been widely printed. What they would really like is a collage of photos, the rest taken by a staff photographer today or tomorrow."
Tim returned with Mike, who didn't have a clue why he was being summoned. Mick turned to Mike and said, "You took the kiss photo?"
"May we have permission to use it on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week?" Mick had to know that the copyright release Mike had already signed meant that Sports Illustrated could use the picture, regardless. But asking this way was a real upper for Mike, and Mick sensed it.
Mike was literally speechless. Tim was used to this kind of situation; clearly Mike wasn't. He finally got out, "Yes. Of course. Really? You mean it?" Then he looked at Tim, "Are you cool with that?"
"Yes, Mike, and Mick, I'm cool with that, and so's Charlie. Look, Mick, yes, you can have your interview this afternoon. But we all need to go to lunch right now. I see you have met Susan. Here's the deal. She gets to sit in on the interview. She won't scoop the content, though she can use it after your article's published. But she's writing about the planning, and the background of all of this. She's going to want to write about how the Sports Illustrated article came to be. Perhaps you could fill her in at lunch. No, wait, I'd like to know as well. We'll start with that after lunch."
Mick was reluctant to have Susan present at the interview, but finally agreed, and we agreed to meet in Dr. Olafsen's conference room at 1:00. We headed to the cafeteria.
Mike said to Tim, "I don't believe you. The guy wants to interview you for a feature story in Sports Illustrated and you bargain and set terms?"
Tim said, "Of course. He was sent here to get an interview. He goes back without one at his peril. He quickly finds out he plays by my rules or he doesn't play. Since he has to play, he plays by my rules. Always think about where you stand in a bargaining situation, and only press for what you can get. He won't like Susan there, but that's tough. I want her there."
"I don't believe that picture's going to be on the cover. God, Tim, I owe you a lot."
"Do you have any idea what you're going to make out of that picture?"
"It's been used all over the place; it's on the AP. Your attorney friend called on Sunday and thought the fees would amount to several thousand dollars. The Sports Illustrated deal would be on top of that. I have no idea what they pay."
"They'll probably want some of the pictures from yesterday. Why don't you come along this afternoon about two and bring the portfolio?"
"Really? I'll get an excuse from Olafsen."
We arrived at the cafeteria and got in line. A lot of kids that I didn't know came up to Tim, and he introduced me to all of them. The comments were uniformly favorable, until someone across the room shouted "Fagot."
Before Tim could react a scuffle had erupted across the room, as a couple of students sought to silence the shouter. Two teachers stopped the whole thing immediately, but took no further action-following Dr. Olafsen's instructions.
Tim tried to take no notice and continued talking to his friends. A boy named Kevin Smith walked up and said, "God. You're queer. Who would've guessed!"
Tim looked at him and quietly replied, "Yep, queer means unusual, that's me. I guess that makes you ordinary." The small crowd that had gathered to see how Tim would handle it, got a good laugh at Kevin's expense.
We got our food and sat at Tim's usual table, with Tina and other close friends-all of whom had been at the ceremony yesterday. I was the center of attraction, as I was the unknown in this group. With Tim usually the focus of attention, it was fun to be in the center for a while. The kids were, of course, all very bright and enthusiastic kids, and were eager to talk to me. But in the middle of all of the excitement, serious conversation was impossible. About all that I could say was that I looked forward to more opportunities to talk with them.
The bell rang; lunch ended; and we headed for the conference room. Tim did superbly with the interview, and I handled my part OK as well. Mick asked to borrow Mike's whole portfolio, and it was clear that he would have more than one picture published. By 3:30 the interview was finished, Mick wanted photos taken. A Time, Inc. photographer was there and we went to the pool, the gym, a couple of rooms in the school, Tim's home, and the St. Paul Gymnastics Club. Tim insisted that Mike come along, and he shot most of the same pictures the professional took. Then Mick asked me, "Where do you shoot?"
"Of course, this is about both of you, and Tim says you're going to the Olympics with him. We need you shooting. Right now the only bow and arrow picture we have is the cake!"
We went to the club and I shot several rounds of arrows while they took pictures. I was delighted that in spite of all the fuss, my shooting was exceptionally good. Mick observed that and said, "You're good. When're we going to see you in competition?"
"I hope soon," was all I could answer. "I'm shooting over my head today, but if this keeps up I'll soon be ready for national competitions."
Tim wound the whole thing up with an announcement that his school day had been ruined, his diving practice after school shot, but he wasn't going to miss dinner. He thanked everyone for their interest, and he and I got in my car and drove home. Susan drove Mike home. On the way she told him, "Mike I'm doing a complete story on Tim's coming out. I want to include your story, and I want to use a lot of your pictures. It'll be in the Sunday Tribune Magazine. I'm eager to see the shots you took today. I'll bet they're as good as the ones that run in Sports Illustrated."
Carl and Carol were back at school; dinner was just Tim and me and Betsy and Norman. It was the first time we really relaxed since early Friday morning. Norman and Betsy hadn't known anything about Sports Illustrated, so that was the major focus of the dinner conversation. I said, "From the nature of his questions, I would guess that we're going to get a very sympathetic article; I hope so."
Soon Tim said, "I picked up homework in all my classes. I have to study." He was gone.
Norman looked at me and asked, "Charlie, how're you holding up? The focus has all been on Tim; how does it feel to always be number two to Tim's number one?"
"I'm fine. My days will come. We always knew that Tim was going to make a big splash before I did, and I was ready for it. I'm just in awe of the way Tim seems to take it all in stride. There has been enough pressure these past four days to kill the average person; Tim simply announces that he has homework to do."
Betsy said, "I think that the best thing you could do for him right now would be to go up and just be in the room with him as he studies."
"I think you're right. We'll see you in the morning."
"Oh no you won't. You know Tim'll get you up at 5:42, and I don't get up that early."
"I'll see you for breakfast around nine."
I went up and sat on the comfortable chair while Tim studied. He quit earlier than usual and came over and sat on my lap, hugging me. "Thanks for being there, Charlie. I love you. I always will."
"Me too, kid. Oh, Hell, that doesn't say it. Tim you're just terrific, and I love you so much I think I'll burst."
"I think, 'Me too, kid,' did it fine."
Bed and wiggle felt wonderful. 5:42 came early. His diving was outstanding the next morning. Clearly he thrived on pressure.
Evidently I do too. After breakfast with Betsy, I headed to the archery range and shot a personal best, 1164. Another hundred points and I would be ready for real competition.
This was Tim's first day of normal school since coming out. It would really be the acid test. We encountered no one at the pool, and no one while showering and dressing. Tina met him as he came from the pool. She and his teammates were determined not to leave him alone for the first day or so, until we found out just how his reception was going to be.
By the end of the day they concluded that they had worried needlessly. There were a couple of crude comments, but nothing really hostile.
One boy came up to Tim and said, "You fagot!"
Tim backed up a little and played to the little crowd around which was clearly waiting to see how he would react. "That's the best you can do? Why not something like, 'You half-baked little fagot, why don't you tell us what you do in bed at night with that little queer of a boyfriend of yours?'"
The boy was taken aback, and simply said, "Touché."
Tim shot back, "Touché, Hell, you've been stabbed to death!" Tina could hardly stop laughing as she told me the story after school.
Tina told us later that story had quickly made the rounds of the school. That Tim was willing to talk that way about himself, in fun, impressed a lot of the kids. By Wednesday the whole thing seemed to be history at Southwest High School.
Thursday was the scheduled special meeting of the School Board. There was a pretty big crowd in attendance, but Tim's friends had mobilized sympathetic folks and they filled most of the seats. Rev. Wilson and a group from his church were there, but school police who had been at the door had refused to let them bring signs inside.
The Chairman opened the meeting and noted that Mr. Phipps, who had requested the meeting, wanted to make an opening statement. Phipps spoke, and ranted about how Tim was an affront to God and shouldn't be in school, or at least shouldn't be representing the school on its athletic teams. Dr. Olafsen should be fired for his support of Tim. It went on for about ten minutes until the Chairman cut him off. The Chairman then turned to the Board and asked, "Would you like to hear from Dr. Olafsen?"
A member of the Board rose and said, "Mr. Chairman, I would be delighted to hear from Dr. Olafsen, except that he said everything important to say at the press conference Monday. I would be delighted to hear from Tim, except he said even more at the press conference. I don't really think there's anything more to say on the subject. I move we adjourn."
The Chairman, who I believe knew what was coming, asked if there was a second to the motion. There was. He then said that the motion was undebatable, so they would proceed to a vote. Mr. Phipps was on his feet protesting loudly, but the Chairman ignored him. "All in favor please raise your hands." All but two-Phipps and one other-raised their hands. "Opposed?" Two hands went up. "The motion passes. We are adjourned. He turned backstage and said, "Please turn off the microphones." It was all over, that fast. Phipps, Wilson, and the one other member of the Board that voted against adjournment stood together protesting, but the rest of the Board rapidly left. The audience clapped, and slowly got up and left.
Susan came up to Tim and me and said, "The good people of Minneapolis prevailed tonight. That was wonderful." She kissed first Tim and then me. As she did she said, "You're going to like my story in the Sunday paper. And guess what? Mike's pictures are as good or better than the ones in Sports Illustrated. Have you seen it?"
We hadn't but we stopped and picked up several copies (well, twenty to be honest) on the way home. Tim's face was all over the cover: diving, somersaulting, sitting in class (that was a Yearbook file photo-Mick had been more active than we realized), holding a press conference, exchanging vows with his partner, and kissing. The story didn't say anything new. They had talked to a lot of people, Tim's coaches, teammates, other Twin Cities coaches, people at both the Minneapolis and Des Moines archery clubs (I couldn't believe it), Rev. Millister, all of our parents. The story focused on sports, two top level athletes who fell in love (they got the sequence in reverse for me, but who cares?) and were brave enough to face the world with who they were. While the story acknowledged that there was opposition, and Rev. Wilson got his name (but no picture!) in the story, clearly the point of the magazine was, "Weren't these two young men honest and brave?" If we had hired press agents to write it, they wouldn't have done better.
The next day a Special Delivery letter arrived from Mick, with a special copy of the magazine, signed on the cover by him and the editors, thanking us for our cooperation. It was framed and is still on our wall. Tim, and I, would make the Sports Illustrated cover again, more than once, but it would never be as sweet as this. That night we got a phone call from Mike. He had gotten his own Special Delivery letter with his own signed copy. The three of us got together and all signed the cover of a new copy and sent it back to Mick. He called on the telephone to thank us for it. It was a friendship that would continue over the years, and one that turned out to be mutually beneficial.
The week ended with a Saturday afternoon trip to the newsstand to get copies of the Sunday paper. Amazingly Mike's kiss picture was not on the cover. Rather, it was Tim and me holding hands at the commitment ceremony-the same picture that had been on the SI cover. Susan's story was wonderful. It started at camp and moved quickly to Tim's eighteenth birthday, and then focused on all of our planning for "the weekend." And that, in fact, was the title of the story, "The Weekend, Two boys plan for a lifetime." There was good coverage of the ceremony and reception afterwards. Mike had taken a picture of our special SI cover, and that was printed. All of the pictures were by Mike, and they were very good. Mike came by the house and almost cried while he thanked Tim and me for all that we had done for him. Tim said, "Mike, you did it for yourself. You're a damn good photographer, and those pictures wouldn't have been sold or printed if they weren't good."
Mike just hugged us and then said, "Guess what? I have a date with Tina tonight." With that he was gone.
It took Tim a few minutes to absorb that. He finally looked at me and said, "Tina and Mike. They'll hit it off. But it's going to take some getting used to."
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