Change the World

Don't Call My African American Son 'Aggressive'

When another parent referred to his son as "aggressive" in school, Will armed himself with facts and data to make sure that term appeared no where on his school's record.

There are a ton of words people have used to describe my son: handsome, funny, polite, and even a handful at times. To say that I was unprepared when I arrived at his daycare one Friday last year and was told that another parent had used the word "aggressive" to describe my son would be an understatement.


We first met Deacon when he was 4 weeks old and an unnamed foster baby in the NICU. Born at 28 weeks, we spent the first 97 days in the hospital where he underwent two surgeries before coming home as a healthy, happy 7 pound, 4 ounce baby right after Christmas.

As I stood in the office that day while one of the professionals told me that a parent had used this term to describe my child, thoughts of our little boy fighting for his life in that tiny incubator at the hospital ran through my mind. I thanked the professional for the information, signed a form saying I acknowledged the conversation, and picked up my happy, smiling 2-year-old and headed to my car. On my drive home, Deacon sang songs, asked questioned, and shrilled with glee when he saw a bus pull up next to us at a red-light.

That evening was just like any other. We got home, he played until it was time for dinner and a bath, and then I tucked him into his new toddler bed and kissed him good night. By this time, my shock had turned to concern and frustration. Concern because we know very little about Deacon's birth family medical history and are hypersensitive to his actions and emotions. Frustration because I didn't know exactly what had happened and knew I wouldn't get answers until Monday morning at the earliest. Had I failed as a father? Did I miss a chance to discuss emotions with him which lead him to the alleged "aggressive" description?

In my professional and academic career, I have completed and authored research so my mind naturally went to evidence-based facts. What I found armed me with information that helped me better understand the struggles that my son would face as an African-American. Throughout the weekend, I feverishly created talking points, gathered data, memorized cited sources, and did everything short of creating a PowerPoint presentation to prepare for the discussion I would be having with the Director of my son's school on Monday.

On Monday morning, I walked Deacon to his class and kissed him goodbye before heading up to the Director's office. I started the conversation by stating that the word "aggressive" should not be used to describe my son going forward and I wanted to be sure that it wasn't marked on any records for him.

Will with his son Deacon

I then went into the facts regarding the situation as I saw it:

"As the white father of an African-American child, I must be vigilant in protecting my son from bias that I've never had to personally face. I also have to balance bias from situations where Deacon does need to be corrected and held accountable. As my son's father, I know that he will be 3 times more likely to be suspended or expelled than I was, based solely on the color of our skin (U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, 2012).

I'm also aware that Black elementary, middle, and high school students receive disproportionate punishment for the same offense as White students (Okonofua & Eberhardt, 2015). Finally, research has proven that White students are more likely to be referred to the office for objective offenses like smoking or vandalism, compared to Black children who are more likely to be referred for subjective offenses like the expression of disrespect or threat (Skiba et al., 2011).

This directly correlates with the perception of racial stereotypes about Black people and that Black boys, in particular, are aggressive and dangerous. I tell you this to explain why the term "aggressive" concerns me. In the past, any report about Deacon's behavior has been objective and transparent, but suddenly we get a report that only stereotypes my son and doesn't offer evidence or reason."

Once I had finished my speech and provided solid evidence to support my concerns, I waited for the Director to respond. Ready to overcome any objection she may have, I allowed the awkward silence to continue while she gathered her thoughts. Instead of defense, the head of my son's school said, "Thank you."

She completely understood my concern for him and stated that we should always stand up for him if we feel that he is being treated different. She went on to tell me that she wasn't aware of all of the information I provided and guaranteed that she had personally witnessed Deacon in class and he was no different than any other 2-year-old at the school. Sometimes he got pushed down, and sometimes he pushed someone down. She guaranteed that Deacon was not seen as "aggressive" to his teachers or any other professionals at the school. She then explained that, as his parents, we had a right to know about any concerns another parent mentioned but that it was only an opinion.

Finally, she let me know that none of her staff members could label any student and that if there were any concerns, it would be a process that I, as his dad, would be a part of. I left his school that morning feeling better. Not because I had "won" or "proven my point," but because the process had helped prepare me for the reality of issues my son may face as an African-American male. With this knowledge, I will be able to identify bias toward my son and have conversations with him about how, just because of what he looks like, he may be considered "aggressive" when the reality is that he is like every other student in his class, only a different skin tone.

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Change the World

One Gay Dad's Fight Against Hate in Superior, Nebraska

Brian Splater is refusing to let homophobic and transphobic elected officials in his town go unchecked

Millie B. Photography

Guest post written by Brian Splater

No one ever should feel they will have a very lonely and secluded life as a child. But that is something me and many other gay kids believe as they are growing up.

The truth of the matter is there are people who will try everything in their power to have our rights go back in time instead of forward. It is very disheartening when these people are elected officials, or they are people who use their place of employment to spread their disgust and hate.

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Popular

"Under Their Spell": Congrats to all the Gay Dads Whose Families Grew in June!

Wishing all of these gay dads whose families expanded in May and June a lifetime of happiness! Congrats to everyone in our community on their recent births and adoptions!


Congratulations to dads Ben and Chris on the birth of their daughter Elizabeth!

Seattle husbands Ben and Chris welcomed daughter Elizabeth, May 18, 2019.

"We started our adoption plans last August an after getting all signed up with our agency, we were so lucky to match after only about a month and with a mom pretty close to us geographically!" shared Ben. "We've loved getting to know the birth mom and to go through this journey together, including being with her for her C-section and recovery."

Although the time in the hospital was exhausting emotionally and physically, the new dads couldn't have asked for better care or more accepting and accommodating medical staff. "When we finally met her and got to hold her, we were both in awe of how perfect she was. We're over the moon and under her spell 👨👨👧❤️"

Congratulations to dads Lance and Trevor on finalizing the adoption of their daughter Ava!

Lance and Trevan met in college in 2004 and knew right away that they were soul mates. "We always knew we wanted to be dads and started our adoption process in 2015." The Santa Monica dads welcomed little Ava into their lives in 2018.

"In our minds and hearts, she was ours from the moment we laid eyes on her," said Trevan. "Signing the final adoption papers was very emotional as it was the last step in a very long process. Seeing the smile on her face and her sweet baby giggles is the best thing about being her dad. She makes it easy and we are so lucky to be her dads."

"Our sweet Ava was worth the wait!"

Congratulations to dads Melton and Thomas on finalizing the adoption of their sons Gabriel and Braiden!

On May 17, Florida dads Melton and Thomas celebrated the adoption of their sons Gabriel and Braiden, who join sisters Summer, Kendra and Ashanti. This loving family was created through foster to adopt.

"They are siblings and have been with us since August 2017," said Thomas. "It's been a long journey we have been on with all the kids. But a sense of relief from all of the court hearings, case manger visits, guardian ad litem visits, but all worth it in the end to be able to serve as advocates for the kids."

"Most of all, adoptions provide permanency which every child deserves."

Congratulations to dads Paul and Ken on the birth of their daughter Charlotte!

A new family of four! Paul and his husband Ken welcomed daughter Charlotte in May and their dog Gigi is already a big fan.

"All we can say is that our journey to fatherhood was a true adventure which ended in the best possible way," said Philadelphia dad Paul. "We feel so blessed to be Charlotte's dads, and are inspired by all the other gay dads who paved the way before us."

"It felt so amazing to hold Charlotte for the first time - truly an awe-inspiring experience. The feelings of love are indescribable. She is a true "rockstar" and we are so proud of her."

Congratulations to dads Ned and James on finalizing the adoption of their son Aiden! 

DC dads Ned and James have been together 8 years and always knew they wanted to be fathers. Although the adoption process talk longer than they expected - about two years - Aiden arrived very suddenly, with less than a week's notice. "We were so excited to expand our family, all the short night and everything are so worth it."

The finalization was an exciting day for the family. "It was surreal, after all the waiting, to know he was official our son," said Ned. The celebrated with a nice lunch, and they're planning for a party with close friends and family soon.

Congrats to this forever family!

Congratulations to dads Ryan and Marcin on the birth of their daughter Lexi!

Baby Lexi joins older brother Liam and their dads couldn't be more thrilled! "Lexi joined our family through open adoption, but it was a pretty unique journey," shared Ryan. "We'd only been waiting three weeks when we got a call at 5pm Saturday that a little girl had been born at the hospital closest to our home and her birthmother had chosen us."

The dads weren't expecting to be matched so quickly and literally had nothing for a newborn. "Our village of friends rallied and bought us everything we needed to welcome her home." Twenty three hours after the initial call they brought her home. "The feeling of wholeness and total love was so intense the first time we held her. We knew she was meant to complete our family."

Congrats to this Houston family!

Congratulations to dads Mike and Sean on the birth of their daughter Emilia!

Mike and Sean always knew they wanted to be dads so they started their adoption journey last September. "It has been an emotional roller coaster until the time we were selected by our birth mom," said Mike. "We are so grateful to our birth mom because of her selfless love of this child made our dream come true, especially during the pride month of June."

"The first time we held our little one, it was love at first sight and we knew that it was all worth it and it was the best feeling in the world."

Congrats to this family of three from Orlando, Florida!

Congratulations to dads Adam and Taylor on the birth of their son Sawyer!

Adam and Taylor live in Lehi, Utah, and they began their fatherhood journey through the foster care system. After four years, they decided they were ready to adopt. Their adoption journey moved very quickly, and within a week they were matched. Baby Sawyer was born six weeks later!

"Having Sawyer has been the best," shared Adam. "She is so perfect and we could not be happier! Knowing that she is ours is something that is overwhelming and so exciting! The emotions that come with the journey are a roller coaster...but when she came there has been piece of mind!"

Congratulations to dads Billy and Joe on finalizing the adoption of their son Caleb!

Billy, Joe and Caleb with mothers / grandmothers and great-grandmothers.

Billy and his husband Joe live in Union Beach, New Jersey, and they recently finalized the adoption of their son Billy. "A friend of mine from high school found out she was pregnant and did not want more children and could not care for him so wanted us to adopt," said Billy.

The dads had let folks know that they were looking to adopt so it was, as they said, a "match made in heaven."

"It was a long journey but we were in close contact; we got to go to all the doctors appointments and I was the first one to hold him, skin to skin, in the hospital when he was born and haven't left his side since."

When the adoption was finalized, it felt like a weight had been lifted off their shoulders and a lot of anxiety melted away. "

When we finally got to the finalization date it was just a weight lifted off her shoulders and a whole lot of anxiety taken. "We were just so happy to know that this beautiful baby boy will be ours forever and always"

Coming Out

How Coming Out Helped This Gay Man Find the Strength to Be a Dad

Steven Kerr shares the moment he came out to his ex-girlfriend. "From that moment on," he writes, "my strength and purpose have grown."

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Entertainment

How Fatherhood Has Impacted Tom Daley's Diving Career for the Better

British diver Tom Daley, and new-ish gay dad, is looking to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in South Korea.

British diver Tom Daley is currently in the running to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in South Korea, his fourth if he competes, at the young age of just 26.

But he also has another concern that most young gay men his age couldn't fathom—fatherhood. He and his husband, filmmaker Dustin Lance Black, recently welcomed Robbie Ray via surrogacy in June 2018.

In an interview with the Independent, Daley explained how fatherhood has changed his routine and training, which he says is often for the better.

"It has changed my life completely in all of the best ways possible," Daley said. "It has changed my perspective, the way I think about things. [My son] is the most important thing in my life, everything I do is for him, everything I think about he is at the forefront of everything."

With respect to his diving career, Daley continued, "if you have a bad day at training, or a good day, you are grounded immediately when you get home through the door because you are having cuddles or you are having to change a dirty nappy. It is the first time that I have been able to leave diving at the diving board and not think about what I need to the next day in the pool."

Whatever the challenges he faces while training, he said, "I can leave it there because you don't have time to think about diving when you are looking after a kid under one."

The strategy seems to be working in Daley's favor. He recently enjoyed his most successful FINA Diving World Series ever this past Spring in Canada, winning 12 medals across five events. And barring any major catastrophe, he is overwhelmingly expected to qualify for South Korea 2020.

And we can't wait to cheer the young dad on!

Politics

America's First Gay Dad Governor Heads Into the Lion's Den

Colorado Governor Jared Polis recently became the first elected Democrat to speak at the annual Western Conservative Summit in Denver

Last Friday, American's first gay dad Governor, Jared Polis, became the first elected Democrat to speak at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver, where he urged the Republican crowd to help him build a "Colorado for all."

"While we should never gloss over the things that divide us, there is a lot more that unites us," Polis said. "When we close ourselves off from discussion or debate, and we reject the possibility of hearing and understanding other perspectives, it threatens the fabric of our democracy."

If he was hoping for a Kumbaya moment, he didn't exactly get it. As he was called to the stage, he was greeted with a smattering of applause—while others booed and shouted for a "recall" of the Governor.

"It was almost unbearable for me to sit there to listen to his talk," Abby Johnson, one of the event's attendees, told the Denver Post. "And I'm going to tell you why. He kept talking about equality for all persons, yet we live in a society where 60 million innocent human beings have been slaughtered in the name of choice. Where is their justice? Where is their equal rights?"

Polis was also criticized from his left flank for attending the same event that refuses to let the Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay GOP members, participate—and that featured Donald Trump Jr. as a speaker the same day. "To me it feels like vanity," Katie Farnan, a staffer with progressive group Indivisible, told the Denver Post. "He can go and be a hip Democratic governor who isn't afraid to go into GOP sanctuary. Or maybe it's recall insurance. But unless he was there to hold them accountable for their support for fascist and racist policies, what's the point?"

In response to the criticism from both sides of the political aisle, Polis told the Colorado Sun: "I think it's very important that Coloradans of different ideologies, different races, different geographies, different orientations and gender identities all really celebrate that we're all part of what makes Colorado great."

The event is hosted each year by Colorado Christian University to bring together conservatives from around the state, and the larger West.

What do you think, dads? Was Polis's decision to speak at the event a savvy political move or mere pandering?

Entertainment

Hate Group Boycotts 'Toy Story' for Featuring Lesbian Moms—Hilarity Ensues on Twitter

"One Million Moms" announced a boycott of the latest Toy Story movie for *very briefly* featuring lesbian moms. Twitter's response was swift and hilarious.

One Million Moms, which is affiliated with the anti-LGBTQ American Family Association, recently called for a boycott of Toy Story 4 for (very, very briefly) featuring (interracial!) lesbian moms in the animated film. The angry, hateful moms affiliated with this group must have watched the film VERY closely because you could easily blink and miss the moment that apparently "blindsided" viewers.

The Internet reacted with a collective facepalm to the ridiculous boycott. Here are some of our favorite hilarious Twitter reactions to the hateful group:

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Travel

The Golden Age of Vacationing With Kids

WARNING: BUCKLE UP, YOU'RE ABOUT TO READ WAY TOO MANY GOLDEN GIRLS REFERENCES.

Ever feel like you need a vacation from your family vacation? For years, we did too. But I'm happy to report that we don't anymore. So what caused the big shift? I'll get to that. First, a little background.

For years, taking our son Max on road trips had its fair share of, shall I say, challenges. From New York City to London to San Francisco to Vegas… we traveled down the road and back again. And while we made wonderful memories along the way… these trips weren't entirely wonderful. Whether it was Max's inflexible sleep schedule, his limited food palate, potty training, his disinterest in walking or his inability to fully express himself, it never quite felt like a real vacation because we never got to actually relax. But now that Max is almost nine years old, we decided to give it another go… and so we booked a much-needed respite in Florida with one goal in mind — cheesecake — okay, two goals: we wanted to catch our breath!

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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