Personal Essays by Gay Dads

An All-Boys School: One Gay Dad's  Short-Lived Experience in the Traditional Environment

"The most dangerous phrase in the language is 'we have always done it this way.'" —Rear Admiral Grace Hopper

The process of entrance to Manhattan's elite private schools can be similar or even more rigorous than college admissions. And you can take that and multiply it tenfold when you're dealing with an all-boys environment. I know this from experience, as my partner Andy and I have spent the last year and a half dealing with one such establishment, that has been in existence for "136 years," and touts the cliché slogan of "educating boys to become scholars and gentlemen."


The legacy of a name. What does that actually mean? I call it the "Harvard Syndrome." Everyone knows that, right? We all have worked with some brilliant minds, as well as some absolute disasters, from these prestigious institutions, some of whom we question how they were even able to walk down the aisle for graduation without tripping over their own feet. And on the flip side, there are unbelievably talented individuals from unknown schools who rise among the ranks and make a name for themselves. But just like high-end fashion and retail brands serve as a symbol of status, we find similar institutions in education, starting as young as preschool. However, I do believe our generation is starting to finally call this "enlightened traditional" approach into question. I know my partner Andy and I are, especially when it comes to our son, Sebastian.

Disclaimer: This piece is from our perspective only and specifically references our experience over the last year and a half. I am writing this piece to share our experience, in hopes of giving other parents an understanding of potentially what they are entering into or the information out there that can skew public perception. Everyone's circumstances and expectations are different, and for some, this could be exactly what they are looking for in an academic institution. If that's the case, all the power to you. But each child develops differently, both academically and behaviorally, and not every environment is well suited for your child's success. That was indeed the case for our family and let me tell you why.

First and foremost, we are not at all saying that our son is a perfect specimen. We have had ups and down, and trials and tribulations, to get Sebastian to the front of the pack, or even just within the pack. Please take that into account. But it starts with a team and support and positivity from the time he wakes to the time he goes to sleep. Even when he is dreaming, I want positivity. But during the admissions process, we were sold on the all-boys experience. The "we know how to take care of all boys—all of them!" The "we help every boy achieve his best potential!" Are you sure all of them? Even my boy Sebastian? "YES! YES! Even Sebastian!" Awesome, we said. Sign us up! But wait one second…before we do, let's sit down and collaboratively understand his shortcomings, making sure that the support he needs is available for his success. And that indeed is what we did and, with the contract signed, we sent him off into the abyss.






Let's be honest—I could complain about so many situations that we encountered, which were all completely suboptimal and subpar. But that doesn't do anything for anyone. Believe me—the first draft of this was simply a big "Screw you!"; however, that iteration, although beyond necessary for my own mental health, allowed me to see a more mature approach, taking the high road in this unfortunate situation. Consider it an ode to the grown daddy in me. Are you proud of me? Or did you want the big "bite me" response? Well, after much thought and introspection, I decided the most constructive criticism would be to cite what one should look for or look out for in a school, specifically an all-boys one. From this list, I am sure you can only imagine those internal tests that plagued our family. So here we go.

General Questions:

• What are the overall class and grade sizes? What about the student-teacher ratios?

• Is the staff relatable? Energetic? Willing to change with the times and/or provide individualized learning? What about just being plain ol' happy?

• Do they have smaller breakout sessions and for what subjects? What are those sizes and how are they proctored?

• Besides the usual parent-teacher conferences, what other communication tools are in place?

• How do the children transition from place to place and who supervises and oversees this maneuvering?

The What Ifs:

(Pay attention to these specifics—you never know how your child will fare due to their needs and this can change rapidly at any time throughout the educational process)

• What happens if your child needs more help academically? What is the protocol and what resources are available?

• What happens if there is a behavioral delay? What's the support internally? How would the school handle it? And, more importantly, do they support children with these needs?

• Do they have an internal child psychologist on staff or one available for consultation?

• If your child shows signs of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), what is the standard protocol? What is the support or accommodations for thriving?

• If the situation gets beyond rough, do they allow push-in outside support?

The Final Question (specific to traditional environments):

• Understanding your traditional values, how have you adapted to the modern ways of educating in these complex times?

Now, clearly you can get a sense from my questioning as to what situations we encountered. Unfortunately, our school's shortcomings became quite evident early on during our first year, and halfway through the second year, we saw the writing on the wall. No, we didn't get pushed out or counseled out. We decided, as we have always done, to look out for our child's best interests. We pulled him out immediately, placing him into a school with a modernized and individualized approach to academia. One that truly embraces a child's style of learning, with the support that would benefit every single child. And more so embraces outside assistance to form an all-inclusive team for his success in the most precious times of his life. Whew. That was a lot. I got it out. That was exactly what I needed.

As I look back with a different lens, I can appreciate how a "we have always done it this way" traditional approach has worked year after year—an organized chaos of education that targets the children in the middle. Those kids will do just fine, specifically embracing the legacy of the institution. But could they do better in an environment that fosters more? What about a kid who needs help both academically and behaviorally to not only enhance his overall academic career, but also his overall character? The ones that all-boys school made sure to include in their mission—the 5-10% who need some specialized and individualized learning.

Remember the "we know how to handle boys—all of them"? Clearly, the answer is "no," they, unfortunately, do not have the capacity to handle everyone and one shouldn't be fooled into thinking the resources are going to be present in all schools. So should you ask them directly? Or talk to the current parents? Or ones who left and ask them why? Every school has different philosophies and both the school and you should want to make sure that it is indeed the best match possible to allow for not only a successful academic career, but also creating a life-long gentleman. Our advocacy for our son, Sebastian, will continue throughout his entire life, and there are for sure going to be more ups and downs (hopefully more of the ups), but it is our duty as parents to lay the appropriate foundation for our kids' success. With that comes an awesome responsibility to do constant research, evaluations, and re-assessments of all things that come into contact with our family dynamic. Our success, and your successes, are of the utmost importance.



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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Things I've Learned in the Decade Since Celebrating My First Father's Day

This year will be John Hart's 10th year celebrating Father's Day as a dad. Here's 15 things he's learned in that decade.

I celebrated my first Father's Day as a new father a decade ago. And while some sleepless nights, whining phases or the Gangnam Style-era seemed endless at the time, the years have gone by quickly.

Here are some of the things that I've learned about since 2009:

#1. Learning is Constant

I have discovered so much more about hockey, hip hop and slime than I ever knew before. And just because I love musicals, singing and Tiana (my favourite Disney princess), doesn't mean my kids have to enjoy the same. Plus my kids tell me that just because I can do the Floss and Orange Justice, doesn't mean I should, especially in public.

#2. When it's quiet...

Just because it's quiet doesn't mean everything is ok. I've let the two kids play on when it was quiet, only to realize later they were playing with postage stamps as if they were stickers or were unrolling condoms onto their fingers ("these balloons are kinda slimy...."). On the other hand, just because it's quiet doesn't mean everything is wrong: I once checked on them in the other room to find them counting each others' toes and in the car I turned around to see them looking out their own windows but holding hands in the middle.

#3. Speak Out When Necessary

I have advocated – sometimes wisely, sometimes passionately (read angrily) for my kids while trying to navigate the education, health, social services and adoption systems. I am much more outspoken on their behalf than mine. I will go all daddy bear on you if I must.

#4. New Perspectives

I have looked at life anew through my children's eyes, especially Christmas, theme parks and board games. Also, however, sexism, racism and homophobia – while I want to protect their innocence and curiosity as much as possible, I need to prepare them for the real world. I feel they need to know what might happen, how to respond and how irrational it all will be.

#5. Old Perspectives

There are times when "when I was a kid..." stories are fascinating to the two kids – landlines? Antenna tv? VHS? And there are times when "when I was a kid..." is just not relevant to how they live their lives today.

#6. Curiosity 

The kids have questions – so many questions – but they're not looking for overly complicated answers, simply something they understand and hopefully an analogy to their own experience or to a character they know.

#7. An Extensive Family

We have grown our family by multitudes with our children, their blood siblings and their blood siblings' adoptive families. It is amazing to celebrate special bonds with them all and have so many people we now consider family.

#8. Love and Pain


I find ways to let my children know that they're wanted and loved every day, while also acknowledging the trauma of the separation from their birth families. Sometimes my love isn't enough because they have questions I can't always answer. We talk to them about their adoption stories, and to ensure their sense of permanency, I had tattoos of their initials inked onto my arms.

#9. Learning From Mistakes

I try every day to provide the structure, security and safety my kids need, but also room to grow and to express themselves. They need to discover who they are, explore the world and make their own mistakes.

#10. Learning From Mistakes (Daddy Edition)

I have found myself failing as a father, yet I have never given up completely. These kids are mine and I'm responsible. I need to learn from my mistakes and do better. I also need to admit my mistakes, apologize and show that we can persist, forgive and move forward.

#11. The Importance of Saying Less

There are times when "you're having a hard day, let me give you a hug" is all I need to say and all they want to hear.

#12. Creating Community 

We have met and bonded with many gay dads, sharing similar experiences of adoption, confused or inquiring looks, and times we need to out ourselves yet again. We have also met and bonded with many parents of whatever sex and orientation as we share the same experiences of trying to do the best for our children (and retain some sense of sanity), trying to register for programs with waitlists and swap helpful hints of how to get the kids to sit down and eat their dinner.

#13. Sharing Our Story 

I've spoken with dozens of gay men, both individually and while on panels, about becoming parents, offering advice, wisdom and encouragement. There are usually so many questions – How? How long? How did you...? When did you...? But also sharing our photos and stories that show the results and rewards of pursuing parenthood.

#14. An Online Community 

I've written for Gays With Kids for five years, offering insights and a personal perspective. I enjoy hearing from other families too and seeing photos from around the world. It is so wonderful to find a small but growing international community to encourage, support and inspire each other.

#15. Pride for All

It is important for our family of four to attend Pride together. Sure they've seen some things that make them giggle or prompt conversation later, but they need to partake as well. They need to see others like them – and others not like them – and be seen; they need to feel that they belong; and that they are equally deserving to stand tall and proud too. They're part of the community too.

Gay Dad Life

Gay Dad Settles Discrimination Suit Against LA-Based School

A single gay dad claims an LA-based school did not adequately protect his two daughters who were reportedly bullied on account of his sexual orientation.

According to MyNewsLA, a single gay dad settled his suit against an LA-based school, Pressman Academy of Temple Beth Am. The man, who is unidentified, alleged that his two daughters were discriminated against in the school on account of his sexual orientation.

Identified only as "John Doe" in the complaint, the single gay dad reportedly grew up in Israel and chose Pressman Academy for his daughters "because it is supposed to be the best school that would instill those same values in his children." The school apparently took issue, however, with John Doe's sexuality.

According to the suit, teachers and other staff members at the school repeatedly asked the sisters to bring a "woman figure" to the school's Mother's Day celebration, for instance. School staff also did not intervene to prevent bullying of the daughters, one of whom was reportedly called an "orphan" because she lacked a mother, and teased to the point of telling a school therapist that she was contemplating suicide.

The terms of the settlement were not made public but the girls, thankfully, now attend another school.

Change the World

Kids Raised by LGBTQ Parents Do Better in School, Says New Study

Even when controlling for income and wealth, children raised by LGBTQ parents were found to have slightly higher test scores

According to new research at the Belgian university KU Leuven, children raised by same-sex couples may actually do better in school, by some measures, than those raised by heterosexual parents. In the research, which was reported on by the Washington Post, the study's authors used government tracking data in the Netherlands to find that children raised by same-sex couples achieved better test results, and were 7 percent more likely to graduate from high school, than children raised by different-sex couples.

As reported in the article: "The results indicate that children from same-sex couples outperform children from different-sex couples on standardized test scores at the end of primary education by 0.18 standard deviations," the researchers wrote in their paper. "Our results suggest that children from same-sex couples are 6.7 percent more likely to graduate than children from different-sex couples."

This study is unique in that prior studies of the educational attainments of children raised by LGBTQ parents often had small sample sizes of only a few dozen kids. This study, however, included the academic achievements of 1,200 kids raised by same-sex couples, and more than a million children raised by opposite-sex couples, born between 1995 and 2005.

Part of the benefit may be related to age and wealth of the parents included. "The researchers found that same-sex parents are often wealthier, older and more educated than the typical different-sex couple. Same-sex couples often have to use expensive fertility treatments to have a child, meaning they are very motivated to become parents and tend to have a high level of wealth. This is likely to be a key reason their children perform well in school, the economists found."

When the economists controlled for income and wealth, however, there were a much smaller gap between the test scores of children of same-sex parents and children different-sex parents. However, the study notes that children of LGBTQ couples still had higher scores.

The article concludes by noting that this research supports the findings of a 2014 study from Australia that found "children of same-sex couples are generally happier and healthier than their peers, possibly because gay and lesbian couples share parenting and home work more equally."

Read the entire article here.

Adults

Why This Adopted Gay Man Will Never Have Children

Do we have a biological right to parenthood? Kevin Saunders, a childless 52-year-old gay man, says no.

Guest post written by Kevin Saunders.

Two dear friends of mine, each partnered, capable gay men of relatively sound mind and body, have recently decided to become fathers, and I could not be more unnerved. The expense, the risk, the potential for disappointment, the logistical complexity that they must navigate leave me baffled and at times enraged with the lingering question that I have, out of respect, refrained from asking, "WHY, WHY, WHY do you want to do this?!" These feelings toward what most would consider a happy occasion beg a reciprocal enquiry: "Why do you care?" The answer is rooted in a disposition and a history that has left me skeptical of the innate right to biological parenthood that many, gay or straight, seem to feel entitled to.

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Gay Dad Life

Gays WITHOUT Kids (If Just For a Day...)

Andrew Kohn explains why he decided to leave his kids at home this Pride

I'm not a monster. Yes, I saw the wagons carrying lovely toddler children waiving their flags and eating their graham crackers. The children were plentiful wearing their Pride family shirts, bejeweled in rainbow. The weather was perfect and the crowds were as prideful as ever. But my husband and I had a day where we didn't have to worry about someone else, not on the constant lookout for the next available bathroom or calming emotions because we could buy one unicorn costume and not every unicorn costume. We had a day without kids.

Yes, Pride has become commercialized. Some companies want my gay money, but others march and have a presence because one gay voice spoke up and asked why the company hasn't marched. I marched in the parade with my employer – who marched for the first time this year – because I started the conversation about why we hadn't marched before. My husband and I were present. We honored Stonewall. And praised Nina West. And we did it without carrying a bag with extra panties and a couple sippy cups.

Believe me, I get sharing the day with your children. With your family. But in my house, we live Pride every day. Two white dads caring for two black kids makes us walking billboards for equality, love, and acceptance. I don't need a day to celebrate my family with my children. We do it in the grocery store. We do it at preschool. We recognize our uniqueness and celebrate it. My children don't need a meltdown and a long walk to tell them about their history and their fathers' connection to the past.

Instead of worrying about where we would find lunch and, again, where the closest bathroom was, I saw beauty that took me by surprise – and I was able to be in the moment with it. Trans men waking boldly and bravely around only wearing only their bindings. Watching high school kids sitting in the grass, wearing crop tops and eating french fries, literally carefree looking up at the clouds. We experienced a community that was free and uninhibited, if just for one afternoon, where who you are isn't odd or something to be hidden. But rather something that is a definition of you and should be your reality 365 days a year.

I know that being gay and having kids can be overwhelming at times. We ask ourselves if we're representing our community adequately (or have we become too heteronormative?). If we have children of a different race, are we giving them the experiences they need to know who they are, as well as navigate that world with gay parents? Are we so embraced at school functions because of our contributions to community or are we a token family? And yes, I'll ask it, are we good enough for acceptance by all gay families, who as if we're single again, judge each other on wealth, looks, and status? No family is better than any other, and gay parents certainly have opportunities to be better towards one another.

Our Pride ended in a small fight while walking to the car, like all good Pride's should. But it wasn't about kids bickering, or kids getting upset they didn't get the right treat. It was about us centering ourselves in a community that isn't exactly welcoming in certain spaces to gay families other times of the year. It was about us catching up with our past while also seeing our collective future.

And the kids didn't seem to mind. They had fun with a babysitter and lived their Pride out loud when they shopped for daddy and papa gifts for Father's Day. That's our Pride. Maybe when the kids are older, and really get the meaning of Pride, we'll start marching together in solidarity. But for right now, daddies needed a little time alone to reconnect with their LGBT family. And while there may be too many beer ads and not enough voter registration tables, we celebrate visibility and love. And my husband and I had time together, reminding us of who we are, who our original family was, and how we will connect who we are now, and our children, with that family as it grows.

At the end of the day, we're all in it together. And my children will be enriched by the experience. Just not this year. This year, we fertilized our roots so that our branches can grow.

Antwon and Nate became dads through the foster care system. Nine months after becoming licensed, they received a call on a Tuesday, and two days later, their daughter moved in. "It was very quick," said Nate. "Honestly, it was more just shock and nervousness for me."

As new parents, Nate took unpaid leave for two weeks, before going back to work part-time. Antwon didn't receive any leave.

"It's definitely important to have time off to bond, but it's also important to be financially stable when you do it," said Antwon. "I don't think you should have to choose between staying financially afloat or showing your kid love... and I don't think anyone should have to make that choice."

Only 15% of dads in the U.S. have access to paid paternity leave. We want to change this.

Watch Nate and Antwon's video to find out how:

Sign the pledge: www.dovemencare.com/pledge

Like Antwon and Nate, we're helping Dove Men+Care advocate for paid paternity leave for *ALL* dads! Over the next three months, we will be sharing stories of gay dad families and their paternity leave experience. Our goal is to get 100,000 folks to sign the Paternity Leave Pledge.

Dove Men+Care has collected over 30,000 signatures on the Pledge for Paternity Leave in three short months, in a mission to champion and support new legislation for federally mandated paid leave laws in the U.S. With the conversation growing on Capitol Hill, Dove Men+Care will target key legislators to drive urgency behind paid paternity leave policy and provide a social proof in the form of real dad testimonials, expert research and signature support from families across the country.

Our goal is to help Dove Men+Care bring 100,000 signatures to key policymakers in Washington, D.C. for their Day of Action on the Hill, and drive urgency behind this issue.

If you believe *ALL* dads should receive paid paternity leave, sign the Paternity Leave Pledge.

Gay Dad Life

Gays With Kids Turns Five!

Wow! Time certainly flies when you're busy becoming the world's biggest online resource and magazine for gay, bi and trans dads!

As if we don't have enough going on this June (Stonewall's 50th anniversary! Father's Day! Taylor Swift rounding up all the gays in West Hollywood for her latest music video!) we're also celebrating another milestone here at Gays With Kids: we're officially turning five this month. (And we don't look a day over two, right?!)

To celebrate, we took a look back at some of our most popular essays, photos, news stories and more. What do you want to see us cover in the NEXT five years? Let us know at dads@gayswithkids.com


#10. The Hardest Part of Foster Care? The Wait, Say These Dads-to-Be

Several years ago, we brought you this article: The Hardest Part of Foster Care? The Wait, Say These Dads-to-Be. The article included a video of Antwon and Nate, who were in the midst of their process to become foster dads, which quickly became one of our most popular posts of all time. In this video, they shared how difficult it was waiting for "the" call from the agency letting them know their lives would be forever changed once a child came to live with them.

Want to see how the dads are getting on several years later? Check out this updated video here!

#9. Famous Gay Dads and Their Kids!

Our article, Famous Gay Dads and Their Kids, featuring well-known gay dads from Neil Patrick Harris to Ryan Murphy, quickly became one of our most popular. In the years since, as the ranks of gay dads has continued to grow, we've brought you MANY more stories of gay men in the limelight who are venturing into fatherhood. Check them all out here!

#8. The Story Behind America's Youngest Gay Dad

The Story Behind America's Youngest Gay Dad, which ran back in 2015, is also one of our most popular posts of all time! The post explores the story of Brian Mariano, who became a father with an ex-girlfriend while still in high school. "Everybody in my life is really supportive of me," he said. "If it's someone new and a friend mentions I'm a dad, they will stop. 'Wait, what? How are you a dad? You're gay.' It's like that 'Mean Girls' quote sometimes. You know – 'if you're from Africa, why are you white?'"

#7. When His Son Got a Tattoo, He Freaked Out. Then He Saw What it Was

This article, When His Son Got a Tattoo, He Freaked Out, definitely plucked the heartstrings of our readers! Which is why it's one of the most popular articles on our site of all time.

"Guess what dad I'm getting a tattoo," Richard's son, Jonathan, texted him. "Don't you dare," was Richard's response. But Jonathan went ahead with it anyway. At first, his dad "fumed." But then he found out what the tattoo was.

"So I got my first tattoo!!" Jonathan wrote on Facebook, of his roman numeral tattoo on his side. "This date is the day that my life changed. This is the day my dads adopted me. The greatest day in my life knowing that for the rest of my life I would finally have a loving family that loved me for me!" (Another one of our most popular posts is this photo essay of gay dads who explain the meaning behind their tattoos.)

#6. 8 Black Dads Share What Black History Month Means to Their Families

Last year, during February's Black History Month, we ran an article titled 8 Black Dads Share What Black History Month Means to Their Families. To create the post, we asked our community a simple question: as a Black gay dad, what does this month mean to you, your family, and your community? The answers we got back were reflective, poignant and deeply moving, which is why this article became one of our most-viewed ever.

Check out the story here.

#5. 19 Photos of Matt Dallas & Blue Hamilton That Will Make You Green with Parenting Envy

Ok the popularity of this article, 19 Photos of Matt Dallas & Blue Hamilton That Will Make You Green with Parenting Envy, doesn't need that much explanation. Gorgeous, talented, successful and good dads? What's not to love! Also check out this more recent post, Things Husbands (and Gay Dads) Do According to Matt Dallas and Blue Hamilton, which is also quickly climbing the ranks of our most popular!

#4. A Gay Dad's Message From His Heart to his Facebook Friends

This article, A Gay Dad's Message From the Heart to his Facebook Friends, by gay dad Michael Anderson, ran in the troubling aftermath of the 2016 Presidential election, when so many LGBTQ people, our allies, and other vulnerable communities looked (and continue to look) towards an uncertain future.

"Suddenly I don't feel secure anymore," Michael wrote. "Vice president-elect Pence has an extensive anti-gay record from supporting gay conversion therapy on kids that literally includes trying to (but failing to) electro-shock the gay out, to signing legislation in his state in 2013 to jail any same-sex couple who attempted to get a marriage certificate. All of the progress that we have made that gives my family a sense of belonging and security is very likely to be erased."

For more of our ongoing political coverage, including the 2020 race, check out these articles as well.

#3. Helping Gay Men Afford Adoption Through Sizable Grants

Our third most popular article, Helping Gay Men Afford Adoption Through Sizable Grants, features our good friends Help Us Adopt, an amazing non-profit organization that helps adoptive parents offset the substantial costs associated with the process. They are also dedicated to inclusivity, and are one of the few financial resources available for gay adoptive parents. Check out this great profile of their work!

#2. 9 Times Gay Dads Crushed Their Pregnancy Announcement Pics

Gay dads love a good photo opportunity. So obviously this photo essay of gay dad pregnancy announcement pics is high up on our list as well. This photo essay, 9 Times Gay Men Crushed Their Pregnancy Announcement Pics, is our second most popular. Check out this most recent roundup of pregnancy announcement pics, which is also climbing the

And Our MOST Viewed Article of All Time Is... 

Gay dads do Halloween right! So it's no surprise that this article, 13 Dads Giving You Major Family Halloween Costume Goals, is our most viewed of all time! And though Halloween may still be months away, why not prepare early with a look at some of our other most popular Halloween articles!

Gay Dads Snap Pics at the Pumpkin Patch
Nobody Does Halloween Like Neil Patrick Harris and Fam
31 Gay Dads Serving Major Halloween Costume Inspo (and Where to Get The Looks!)
Get Your DIY Skills On for Halloween, Dads!







THANK YOU!

Lastly, a big thank you to all of our readers! It's thanks to you that we now can claim the biggest online community of gay, bi, and trans dads in the world (not to mention two GLAAD award nominations ;) We can't wait to see what the next five years bring!

Fatherhood, the gay way

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