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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Gay Dad Photo Essays

Gay Dads Keeping Their Cool for 'Back to School' Pics

Summer is almost over, which in the world of parenthood means one thing — our little nuggets are headed back to school! Here's a roundup of gay dads gallantly keeping it together (for the camera anyway) as their kids head off for the first day of school.

Summer is almost over, which means our kids are heading back-to-school. And, like all parents, many gay dads managed to wipe away their tears for long enough to memorialize the moment with the obligatory "first day of school" Instagram pic. And if we're smart, we even remember — like these guys did — to snap a couple of family pics before the waterworks kick in...

We rounded up some of our favorites in the photo essay below. Enjoy! And don't forget to send your own first day of school pics to us at dads@gayswithkids.com!

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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.

What to Buy

Shop with a Purpose with Our 2019 Holiday Gift Guide

Want to find amazing gift ideas while *also* supporting LGBTQ-owned and allied businesses? Look no further than our 2019 holiday gift guide!

'Tis the season to show loved ones you care. And what better way to show you care, by also supported our LGBTQ+ community and allies whilst doing it! Shop (LGBTQ+) smart with these great suggestions below.

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Diary of a Newly Out Gay Dad

A Newly Out Gay Dad Feels 'Demoted' After Divorce

Cameron Call showed up to his first family Thanksgiving since coming out and getting a divorce — and struggles to find himself "stuck with the singles."

Cameron Call, who came out in summer 2019, has generously agreed to chronicle his coming out journey for Gays With Kids over the next several months — the highs, lows and everything in between. Read his first article here.

Denial is an interesting thing. It's easy to think you're potentially above it, avoiding it, assume it doesn't apply to you because you'd NEVER do that, or maybe you're just simply avoiding it altogether. After finally coming out, I liked to think that I was done denying anything from now on. But unfortunately that's not the case.

And this fact became very clear to me over Thanksgiving.

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Resources

New Report Details the 'Price of Parenthood' for LGBTQ People

A new report by the Family Equality Council takes a deep dive into the current state of cost for becoming a parent as an LGBTQ person

Parenthood is expensive. But parenthood while queer is still prohibitively costly for so many segments of the LGBTQ community interested in pursuing a family, according to a new repot by the Family Equality Council, titled, "Building LGBTQ+ Families: The Price of Parenthood."

Among the more interesting findings was this one: the cost of family planning is relatively similar for all LGBTQ people, regardless of income level. This shows "that the desire to have children exists regardless of financial security," the report's authors conclude.

Research for the report was conducted through an online survey of 500 LGBTQ adults over the age of 18, and was conducted between July 11-18, 2018. For comparison, the survey also included 1,004 adults who did not identify as LGBTQ.

Other interesting findings of the report include:

  • 29% of all LGBTQ+ respondents reported an annual household income under $25,000 compared to 22% of non-LGBTQ+ respondents.
  • 33% of black LGBTQ+ respondents, 32% of female-identified LGBTQ+ respondents, and 31% of trans/gender non-conforming LGBTQ+ respondents reported annual household incomes below $25,000.
  • Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have volunteered to participate in online surveys and polls. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to multiple sources of error, including, but not limited to sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, and error associated with question-wording and response options.29% of all LGBTQ+ respondents reported an annual household income under $25,000 compared to 22% of non-LGBTQ+ respondents.
  • 33% of black LGBTQ+ respondents, 32% of female-identified LGBTQ+ respondents, and 31% of trans/gender non-conforming LGBTQ+ respondents reported annual household incomes below $25,000.
  • Regardless of annual household income, 45-53% of LGBTQ+ millennials are planning to become parents for the first time or add another child to their family. Those making less than $25,000 a year are considering becoming parents at very similar rates as those making over $100,000.
  • Data from the Family Building Survey reveals that LGBTQ+ households making over $100,000 annually are considering the full range of paths to parenthood, from surrogacy and private adoption to foster care and IVF. The most popular options under consideration in this income bracket are private adoption (74% are considering), foster care (42%), and IVF or reciprocal IVF (21%). At the other end of the economic spectrum, for LGBTQ+ individuals in households making less than $25,000 annually, the most commonly considered paths to parenthood are intercourse (35% are considering), foster care (30%), and adoption (23%).

What to Buy

A Gift Guide for LGBTQ Inclusive Children's Books

Need some ideas for good LGBTQ-inclusive children's books? Look no further than our gift guide!

Every year we see more books released that feature our families, and we're here for it! We're especially excited for the day when diverse and LGBTQ+ inclusive books are less of "the odd one out" and rather considered part of every kids' everyday literacy.

To help us reach that day, we need to keep supporting our community and allies who write these stories. So here's a list of some of the great books that need to be in your library, and gifts to the other kids in your lives.

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