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

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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.

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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.

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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."

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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.

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Millie B. Photography

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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?

Fatherhood, the gay way

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