Town & Country: Two Gay Dads, Two Gay Homes
Deciding where to raise your kids is always a challenge. Do you go with the city and all the culture and excitement that urban life brings? Or do you opt for country life, living in a suburban area where there is less noise and traffic, and more open space?
Add the gay equation, and there’s more to consider. Both settings offer unique challenges for gay families, as the rules are being written as we move forward. I spoke recently to two gay dads, one who lives in the city, one in a country setting, to get their take on their home of choice. Enjoy the trip.
Andy, 55, lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his husband of 15 years and their two adopted girls, both in high school. He laughed at my suggestion that New York City might be too hectic a place to raise children.
“When we first adopted our children, it was still a little new,” says Andy. “We moved out of Manhattan only because our apartment was too small for children. Brooklyn is wonderful for kids because there is so much culture, both close by and across the bridge. Now, we see same-sex couples with children all the time. It’s a true community here.”
Andy, a novelist, continues: “I grew up in Manhattan and I want my children to have that same sense of culture. We go to the museums, we go to the theater. And my children grew up around smart, liberal, educated people. As for any safety concerns, this neighborhood is great, and having street smarts is good for any child. We love our high school, and my daughters, now that they’re young adults, appreciate the city-life education they received growing up.”
While Andy says he did initially have concerns about other children and families not accepting his family, he believes he would have felt the same way anywhere he chose to take up residence. “I’m sure if we ended up in some small community in Cape Cod or Maine, we’d be worried we’d be the only gay dads, and have nightmares about being run out of town. That’s part of being a parent.”
One a final note, Andy adds, “Like many kids, when our children were little they would always tell us they wanted to live in some rural area, but I think all kids envy what the other have. When I was a kid I dreamed of living next to the Brady Bunch. That’s just life.”
Jessie, 49, lives in the Catskills, in Upstate New York. He has a three-story home that he shares with his partner of 20 years, and their 14-year-old son. Their nearest neighbor is about a five-minute walk away, and they’ve never said more than hi to him and his family. “But, despite that, he loves his home.”
“I grew up on Long Island,” says Jessie, a freelance artist. “I had a good childhood and my whole family still lives there,” he says, adding that it’s close enough to visit on holidays and other occasions. “I’ve never been a big city person, and though I worked in New York for a long time, as soon as my partner and I decided to adopt a child, it was only a question of where, outside of the city, would we live.”
Both Jessie and his husband work from home, so that’s never been an issue. For their child, he says there are obviously cons to country life, but he’s very happy with the situation.
“The nearest store is a five-minute drive, and sometimes I think our son gets tired of the quiet,” he says, adding that solace is his own dream. “He has friends from school and we drive them back and forth, and, like I said, we do get into New York as much as possible. Also, our families love to come out here. Everyone wants to escape the city and get to the country.”
Jessie said that he did fear homophobia in the “boondocks,” and has been surprised to see how much attitudes have changed. “The nearest gay bar is about thirty minutes from here, and it’s always vacant,” he laughs, before admitting that he and his husband go there on occasion. “This is also Wal-Mart territory, but our friends are other parents from school and lots of artist types who come here for the weekends or all year-round. And it’s amazing how many gay couples now live in this area.”
“Yes, every once in a while you see guys in this area who are a little creepy, but that far outweighs all the great people in the area and the wonderful environment of nature and everything that encompasses.”
As for his son and, perhaps, lack of girlfriends in the area, “He does love girls,” laughs Jessie. “He doesn’t have a girlfriend now, and he’s very concentrated on school. But he’s made it quite clear that when he goes to college, it’s going to be a long, long way from here.”
Does anyone else feel the sudden urge to watch an episode of “Green Acres”?
+ Photos with modifications: Millennium Park, by timsackton on Flickr, country street scape by Leifern at English Wikipedia [CC-BY-2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.