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

Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Working:​ One Father's Plea for Gun Reform

One gay dad's plea to our leaders to enact sensible gun control

My articles on GaysWithKids aspire to be lighthearted, helpful and humorous. This one won't be any of those things. Because I'm feeling heavyhearted, helpless and sad. Last week I woke up to news of yet another mass shooting. This time at a family-friendly Garlic Festival in northern California. I don't know if it's because this one hit so close to home, or if it's because the headline included a picture of the innocent 6-year old who was among those killed, but I am overcome with emotion. But mostly I am angry. And I don't know what to do with my anger.

Then, just a few days later came two additional horrific mass shootings that stole the lives of at least 32 more innocent people, many of them children. And then there's the "everyday" gun violence that plagues American cities like Chicago, where guns injured another 46 people this past weekend alone… creating so much turmoil, a hospital had to briefly stop taking patients.

How does one verbalize the collective sadness felt around the world? One can't. And that's why I am asking everyone reading this article to commit to getting involved in some way, to help end this epidemic once and for all. Even though the solution is so obvious, we can't allow ourselves to become numb to mass shootings. Because becoming numb isn't going to save anyone.

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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.

Fun

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"They kept trying to hatch fish and stones," Jaeger said.

So the zookeepers loaned the penguins an egg from a female penguin, who is apparently uninterested in hatching eggs on her own, according to the BBC.

Unsurprisingly, the gay penguins are killing it as parents. "The two male penguins are acting like exemplary parents, taking turns to warm the egg," Jaeger said,

Read the whole article on DPA here.

Change the World

Hungarian Company Raising Money for LGBTQ+ Organization with a LEGO® Heart

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Guest Post from WE LOVE WHAT YOU BUILD

WE LOVE WHAT YOU BUILD is an innovative startup venture that sells LEGO® parts and unique creations. The core values of our company include social equality regardless of gender identity or origin. As LEGO® is a variety of colors and shapes, so are the people.

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You might know that gender equality and the circumstances of LGBTQ+ people is not the easiest in the former communist Eastern European countries like Hungary so this program is in a real need for help. For example a couple of month ago a member of the government said that homosexual people are not equal part of our society.

The essence of the campaign is when one buys a Pride Heart, a custom creation made of brand new and genuine LEGO® bricks the organization gets $10.00 donation so they can continue their important work. This Pride Heart is a nice necklace, a decoration in your home, and a cool gift to the one you love.

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Entertainment

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For a couple of years now, Hollywood has been obsessed with gay dad characters (and who can blame them?) But the latest show to get hip to a story line featuring gay man raising kids is Netflix's GLOW, which explores a female wresting troop in the late 1980s.

But GLOW is helping represent a gay character that rarely gets time in the limelight:the single gay dad. In Season three of the hit comedy — which stars Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, and Marc Maron — actor Kevin Cahoon joins the case as Bobby Barnes, a single gay father who plays a female impersonator. (80s divas only, of course — Joan Collins and Babs among them)


"I've never done female impersonation," the openly gay actor told OutSmart Magazine, "so I tried to learn really quick. You will know them all; I was very familiar with all of them. There were plenty of talk shows and performances on YouTube to study. I learned that their breathing was very informative."

A single gay dad AND drag queen on television? It's about damn time if you ask us.

Read the full interview with Cahoon here.

Politics

Utah Court Rules Gay Couples Can't Be Excluded From Surrogacy Contracts

The Utah Supreme Court found in favor of a gay couple attempting to enter into a surrogacy contract.

DRAKE BUSATH/ UTCOURTS.GOV

Earlier this month, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that a same-sex couples can't be excluded from entering into enforceable surrogacy contracts, and sent a case concerning a gay male couple back to trial court to approve their petition for a surrogacy arrangement.

As reported in Gay City News, the case concerns Utah's 2005 law on surrogacy, which was enacted prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state. As a result, the content of the law is gendered, saying that surrogacy contracts should only be enforceable if the "intended mother" is unable to bear a child. When a gay couple approached District Judge Jeffrey C. Wilcox to enter into a surrogacy arrangement, he denied them, arguing that the state's law only concerned opposite sex couples.

"This opinion is an important contribution to the growing body of cases adopting a broad construction of the precedent created by Obergefell v. Hodges and the Supreme Court's subsequent decision in Pavan v. Smith," according to GCN. "It's also worth noting that same-sex couples in Utah now enjoy a right denied them here in New York, where compensated gestational surrogacy contracts remain illegal for all couples."

Read the full article here.

Fatherhood, the gay way

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