by Sue Wolinsky, Family Member, Army IL National Guard
A Survivor Who Gives Back
BY Sue Wolinsky (Family Member, IL Army National Guard)
A series of mental disorders and addictions have blurred and reordered the dates on the calendar throughout much of Timothy “Beach” Beauchamp’s life. His family was in the spotlight when his dad was a Major League baseball player. Beach was born in Oklahoma on opening day at the new Houston Astrodome; his father had just hit the first homerun there as a Houston Astro.
Beach had an extremely chaotic and abusive dysfunctional family. He was sent to his grandparents when his father moved the rest of the family to Georgia. He was bullied for mental disorders and lived the terror of a gay closeted boy growing up in a very red part of Oklahoma. They lived on a ranch; that toughened him up. All this had taught him how to survive.
He joined the Navy in 1984; he knew he needed health benefits. He mostly thrived in one of the most difficult assignments – nuclear Navy school and submarine duty. When his disorders and addictions surfaced in the Navy, he survived by talking his way out of disciplinary actions. But the Navy eventually let him down too, starting the Honorable discharge process after four years of service when they learned he was gay. He had been outed by his ex-wife. Though Honorable, his discharge was tarnished with the remark, “Member stated he or she was homosexual or bisexual.” That made it hard to find full-time jobs.
It’s taken him decades to put the pieces of his life back together – trying to find full-time jobs, seeking and staying with mental health treatment, and overcoming his addictions, one at a time. It’s taken all this time for Beach to construct a new narrative to guide his life; a narrative that focuses on giving back. “I use the bad experiences to share the light. I was strong enough, with the help of G-d and angels, to survive and bring the light back to serve others,” he reflected.
FAMILY: Baseball is in Beach’s family genes. He shares his dad’s nickname but not his avocation – baseball. His dad, Jim “Beach” Beauchamp, straddled major and minor league teams for 14 years, then coached in both leagues for decades. Learn about his baseball career here: https://sabr.org/biopro/person/jim-beauchamp/. Beach’s brother, Kash, was coached by their dad in the minor leagues and then managed a minor league team. Jim “Beach” Beauchamp died in 2007. “The Atlanta Braves created a team patch honoring him; they wore it for a year after he died,” he said proudly.
Beach was born in Tulsa, OK. “Mom and Dad wanted all of us kids to be born in Oklahoma,” he explained. Although the wholesome-looking family posed for sports team photos, dysfunction lurked away from the cameras. He and his father weren’t close. The family moved back and forth to the Dominican Republic, while his dad played winter ball to support the family and the ranch. While living in Santo Domingo, D.R., the young brothers inadvertently purchased alcohol from a soda machine in the casino next door, much to their mother’s chagrin. After their dad divorced his mother, his dad eventually abandoned him when the family moved to Georgia. “It was a blessing in disguise that I was abandoned,” Beach said, thoughtfully. “I had learned the lessons I needed to learn; and I would have just been disastrously exposed to experiences I didn’t need at all. Thank G-d I was done with all that.”
Two younger sisters were born when their father remarried. Their mom remarried several times and lived on ranches in Wyoming and Oklahoma. When Beach lived in Tulsa, he was targeted by a neo-Nazi group in Clairmore, OK, for leading a Thanksgiving celebration for the gay and lesbian community trying to become accepted by the United Methodist Church. “No mainstream denomination accepted LGBTQIA+ souls back then,” he said.
He and his mom are still close. He respects her toughness and her ability to survive. “I respect my current beloved stepdad,” Beach said. “He was awarded the Cherokee Warrior for his distinguished service in Vietnam. He fights through his PTSD and is a role model to young Cherokee. I am in awe of him.”
As the years went on, some of the siblings found that their upbringing left them less than capable to deal with the challenges of daily life. Mental disorders, addictions, and trouble with law enforcement ensued. He feels he’s the only family member who can talk to sister, to help her, as she battles her own demons today. The dysfunction of the family was aired in one episode of a short-lived television series on Spike TV, “Coaching Bad” https://youtu.be/s6CtaDTb-gc (warning: adult discussion of sensitive issues).
MILITARY: Yeoman (SS) (Nuclear Trained) Petty Officer Second Class Beauchamp joined the Navy after a college scholarship had fallen through. He had already taken the ASVAB in high school and entered the Navy delayed entry program. It was live on the street or join the Navy time. He was almost discharged in boot camp. Three trainees were questioned on suspicions of mental illness and possibly sexual orientation; two didn’t make it. Beach talked his way out of it.
The yeoman machinist mate struggled through “A” School for Machinist Mates Nuclear and then Naval Nuclear Power School at Ballston Spa. “That was the most intense, hardest school I ever graduated from. Class 8503! Rah,” he said.
After Navy Nuke School, he spent two more years at nearby Saratoga Springs, supporting the Ballston Spa Prototype School administratively. He could type an amazing 130 wpm. He then served on the USS Henry Clay Gold Crew for about two years. “They needed a yeoman who could handle a concentric ring slide rule in the forward part of the ship. I was the Contact Evaluator Plotter during battle stations missile and torpedo. It was almost as stressful as nuke school, but I did it,” he said proudly.
On the sub, he’d have occasional mental episodes that would interfere with his work. “I was lucky because I could talk my way out of problems by saying I was having a bad day, hiding my mental illness. I learned it as a kid,” he said appreciably.
While on the Henry Clay, he accepted his officer’s offer to serve as a lay Protestant reader and preacher, but not until he had a vision from g-d. “I felt a queer sailor had no business being a preacher,” he said, “but they didn’t know about my sexual identity then. My doubts vanished, but my fear did not. I was blessed for doing it, though to this day I say I was forced to do it.” A poem he wrote in 1988, “Sub Sailor’s Views on Glasnost,” was published and displayed in a Cold War submarine exhibit in the Smithsonian American History Museum in 2001.
While in the Navy, he married a girlfriend, hoping that would set him straight. It didn’t work out. Then he was discharged. He was furious about being called a “sexual monster that can’t be trusted on a sub” and that gay men posed a “security threat” when found out. “While waiting for my discharge to become final, I led the Sub Group Six word processing pool. In the end, the Navy added insult to injury. “I got discharged for being gay, not for my mental health issues, which I’d struggled with all my life,” he said.
“I was going to make the Navy a career because I was all about the health care. I knew if I got kicked out, I’d get back on the street,” Beach lamented. “My dad hated me worse after I was outed. He told me to kill myself. Oh, I’ve reconciled it and love him as an incredibly damaged man, but it was unbelievably difficult after that. It was a reverse blessing from him and it did a number on my already messed up psyche.”
SURVIVING AS A CIVILIAN: It was hard to get a full time job after employers learned the reason for his discharge. This was in 1988, when gay bashing had become a national pastime and five years before the US military started its controversial Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.
“I worked for the US Bankruptcy Court as a systems administrator. The only reason I got that job was because a very progressive woman court clerk at the Northern District of Oklahoma Bankruptcy Court said I had all the qualifications and thought the remark was no one’s business. I owe Clerk Dorothy Evans for saving my life back then. She blanked out the reason for my Navy discharge so I could be approved without question. I kept that job for almost 10 years, but finally walked off the job due to mania from bipolar disorder,” he said.
If his sexual status made it difficult to get hired, his mental disorders and addictions made it almost impossible to keep a job or steady relationships. He then worked on the help desk for AMOCO in Tulsa, OK, for three years until his gambling addiction and mental illness got in the way.
He struggled with dissociative personality symptoms, manic behavior, severe depression, psychosis, alcoholism, and drug addiction. He was a homeless vet. “I had several mental illness suicide attempts. I’ve been on life support. I’ve had angels defending me, obviously. I had to file for bankruptcy after leaving my job as bankruptcy systems administrator because of psychiatric hospital bills. I developed amnesia due to dissociative identity disorder. I was already using alcohol to treat my mental illness,” he said. “The VA was a lifeline when I was identified as ‘homeless vet’ in Washington, DC. My Army sharp shooter boyfriend dropped me there at the VA emergency room as a drug addicted, alcoholic, sex working psychotic mess. It’s been quite a journey,” he reflected.
He overpowered his alcohol addiction on 9-11-2003, choosing that date in gratitude for surviving living on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on 9-11. Next, he went off drugs. Then he tackled a gambling and sexual addiction that resulted from his complex mental illnesses. He kept moving forward.
FINDING HIMSELF & GIVING BACK: While struggling to overcome PTSD and other triggers during therapy, Beach took several major steps forward in his quest to give back. He delved deeply into his own spirituality. He earned an Associate’s Degree in Education for Ministry, from the University of the South. He found his path to god, he developed his spiritual philosophy, and he found he doesn’t need to be in a church to pray. “12-step groups are “of g-d”; a lot of them have helped me. I’ve even run 12-step groups and I would be happy to do that again,” he said. He expresses his spirituality by serving the community, as this 18-minute NPR Story Corps interview shows. https://archive.storycorps.org/interviews/gina-blanton-timothy-beauchamp-and-manda-adams/
In 2000, he joined a LGBTQIA+ church because he had friends dying of AIDS; the “Community of Hope” – United Church of Christ supported them. Through them, he served the people of Nicaragua, in part because of the long-term impacts of past US wars there. He went there to build homes for the poor, supporting the work started by Sister Joan Uhlen and the Maryknolls in Leon.
He has given his voice to political and social activism.
- After being gay bashed, he and his partner went to Washington, DC on behalf of the Human Rights Campaign to testify before the House Judiciary Committee. Their goal – to get the James Byrd – Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act passed.
- He is a member of VoteVets – https://votevets.org – and aired a viral TikTok and YouTube ad on their behalf. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5-VFFe-Afs “I lobbied Congress with them in 2018 about ending “Forever Wars“ in the Middle East. I also had a video go viral when the Texas Democratic Caucus walked out of the Texas chambers and cloistered out of state in 2021,” he said. He continues to speak out against unjust practices on a variety of social media today.
- He and his partner have a son in the Air Force. He was part of Beach’s motivation for threatening Sen. Tommy Tuberville, who has been holding the Defense Department hostage because of their funding for service members seeking abortions; that and, he admits, his uncontrollable rage over anything that could threaten their son’s life. ”I am not afraid to put my life on the line. “My reaction shows how military families are so furious over what he (Tuberville) is doing.” The FBI investigated his threat and found no basis for further action. “I do regret what I said, but our son’s life is at stake while serving overseas in the Air Force…. We are their last line of defense against our political leaders who are deliberately weakening our military…. As much as my father and I butted heads, I’m quite sure Army Guard Vet and Coach Jim Beauchamp would rip Tuberville for what he’s doing.”
- He is now a voice for sex workers, addicts, alcoholics, and adult survivors of domestic abuse. He is currently helping to start the Santa Fe housing initiative in Santa Fe – https://s2santafe.org. “This successful template has already been accomplished in two states. I have seen all these groups being pushed aside. I have a debt to repay to society,” he said.
- He is a member of the Veterans and Military Families Caucus of DPNM, which advocates for legislation to improve the quality of life for veterans and military families.
- He is also active in the Santa Fe County Democratic Party.
His creative instincts have come to life, too. He has credits as a successful song writer and is awaiting publication of his memoir, “From Insanity to Infinity”. He and his partner also own a wholesale women’s clothing business in Dallas, TX.
Beach ‘s new narrative led him to find peace. “I finally came to believe that my dad was not a father to me. He was like an older brother who challenged me, which in the end, made me better, and served my life purpose. He unknowingly helped me get through the military. He would force us to stand for inspection when he put a quarter on my and my brother’s beds. I am the better for it…. Oh, and I am running 8-18 miles for fun on Santa Fe’s amazing trails, at age 57! It would not have happened without his elite athletic genes. Thanks, Dad,” he concluded