Editor’s Note: Dr. Dennis Jacobs and his partner were among the first openly gay couples to adopt a child in Michigan. This editorial piece is a continuation of Jacobs’ original submission to BTL which detailed the first part of his story and ran in our July 26 issue. To read the first part of this story go online to pridesource.com.
My partner and I adopted two special needs children in 1994. Raising two little boys as gay men was a challenge, but raising two little boys with disabilities in a homophobic environment was even harder. Both boys, each in their own way, had serious behavioral problems.
Our 2-year-old refused to speak, preferring to point and grunt, while his 4-year-old brother was very verbal — and a real mischief maker. We enrolled both boys in a Montessori school, and I would get a call almost daily that our older son had called somebody a name or hit someone. Thank God for Miss Mary, the school’s director who went way above the call of duty to support our family.
Yet, troubling as our start was, it’s amazing what a good haircut will do, some Gap Kids clothes and a healthy diet. What helped the situation was that we were living in our dream home called Thistle Brook Farms. It sat far back from the road and overlooked an ever-changing marsh. We had horses, goats, chickens and dogs, along with a terrific organic vegetable garden. As the boys began to settle in to their new life, they could take advantage of the exploration-worthy 17 acres on which our farm sat. And once the boys felt safe, they quickly adapted to their new life. It was truly magical. To this day, the boys talk about the time they spent on the farm. Unfortunately, as perfect as our time was, it wasn’t permanent.
Both boys ended up staying in Montessori for as long as they could, and when it was time to graduate we had to make a decision: should we try to send them to public school or find a private school? In the end, we chose the public school option. We figured that because my partner was an attorney and I was a psychologist, it would be easy for us to deal with any problems if they arose. Boy, were we wrong.
Our older son in particular was harassed from the beginning. Not only was he biracial and darker than most of the kids who attended his school, but he also had two gay dads. One time, some kid stood up in the back of the bus and yelled at the top of his lungs, “Your dads are fags!” Another time, he came home in tears saying that all the kids on the playground were calling each other fags.
I had had just about enough, and called the middle school principal. When I described to her what was going on, her response to me was, “Well, that’s just what fifth graders do.” I simply asked her, ‘What would happen if they were calling each other the N-word?’ She almost dropped the phone. It was at that point that I knew my partner and I were fighting an uphill battle; one we weren’t going to win.
The final straw was at the school’s Christmas pageant. Both boys were cast in the play, and when we drove over to see the show we arrived a little late. We were forced to stand against the gym wall, and it became increasingly uncomfortable as one teacher after another poked her head around the curtain to get a look at us as if we were aliens from another planet. We learned later that we were the first and only gay parents to ever enroll their children in this school.
We decided to sell the farm.
Dr. Jacobs is a retired clinical psychologist and the former CEO of a large behavioral health organization.