It is the season for high school seniors to begin thinking seriously about applying for college or university admissions. Grades from years’ past, all the activities of students engaged in — from student government and plays, to sports and civic service credits — are being counted. Credit for these activities are neatly placed into application forms. SAT and ACT tests are taken at least once, if not twice. And, letters of reference are being gathered, proof of a student’s ability to relate well with adults.
And, then there is the letter for application to the college or university’s office of admission. Having worked in institutions of higher education as a faculty member, I know that this is often the “make or break” for many high school seniors: if the essay is interesting and novel, standing out from among the pack of other applicants, even students with lower GPAs have a shot in some schools for high achievers…or, at least, that’s the hope.
This hope was recently discovered when I found out that my son’s college-university essay is about growing up with a gay dad. Like his sister before him, his essay is about the joys and challenges of growing up with a gay dad. My daughter’s essay detailed the interaction she had with a family member who attends an evangelical church and is opposed to the ordination of gays and lesbians in ministerial positions. In gentle prose, my daughter carefully outlined the conversation, sticking up for dear ol’ dad. She ended her letter with the acknowledgement that she is a stronger person, a person whose very character embodies both charity and honesty.
My son’s essay is different: he and I play the dance of male egos in a culture that demands that we, who are men, are naturally competitive and tout our masculinity in ways that keeps us apart. Individuation is a must in order to survive and more importantly, thrive. His essay speaks of the challenge of living with a dad whom he loves, who happens to be gay, in a culture of high school machismo, in which being gay is not a virtue among his peers. An athlete, with charisma oozing from every pore of his skin, a natural-born leader, active in student government, a willing volunteer for those in need, high school culture has been challenging for him with his gay dad. As he has said to me numerous times, “You don’t know what it’s like to have a gay dad in high school!” He is correct. The burden that he carries is not one that I shouldered. I am quiet. I am learning from him about the joys and challenges of having a dad who is gay. He is my teacher. I am his student. And, that has made all the difference.
I think he’ll be fine in college. Much of what he has learned that will bode him well he learned not in high school per se, but from the great classroom of life well and deeply lived…especially with a dad who is gay. : :