Philip served as the former Director of Equity, Justice and Community at the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC. He is a proud father and author of two books: Every Child Deserves and Independent Queers: LGBTQ Educators in Independent Schools Speak Out. He is currently the Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Philip McAdoo Diversity and Inclusion Consulting, LLC (philipmcadoo.com). He lives in Atlanta with Sean, his partner, Zaden, his son and Bart-ley, their wondrous dog.
As an LGBTQ activist, Dr. McAdoo has worked tirelessly to combat homophobia in his personal and professional life by fiercely advocating for himself, his family and the rights of LGBTQ youth, families, and educators as well. He wrote his book Every Child Deserves with his son, Zaden, as an extension of his LGBTQ and adoption activism.
- What lead you to becoming a writer?
Wow, well I think it was by accident actually. I was a performer – I spent the early part of my career working on Broadway shows and living in New York. Then I met my partner and we started talking about having a family.
Actually, even before I met my partner I had a bit of a career in education. I was really excited about the interactions I was having in schools with young people and how I could facilitate their dreams. I went back to school and finished my undergrad and got my masters and went on to get my Doctorate. I believe that you have to think you’re some-what of a good writer when you enter into a doctorate program. One of the first things my advisor told me when we met was that I was a decent writer, which cemented this idea.
As a same sex couple with a biracial kid there just weren’t many stories that showed our experience. We started to travel the world and live our life and we started thinking, this is what every child deserves. I used to think that my son had this beautiful sense of entitlement where he could relax and just know that we will always have his back. Now that he’s thirteen, every child deserves to be a pain in the butt teenager. Nobody should have to internalize that nobody wants you or that you don’t have value.
Even with my son’s class we constantly had to keep educating. We saw a lightbulb go off in one of my son’s friends where he said, “Well I thought that is you daddy”, and Zaden explained, “They’re both my dads.” We wanted to be able to provide that kind of lightbulb moment for other children and families. We wanted to educate others about what it means to be in foster care and to also be in a same sex family.
- What motivated you to start writing children’s books?
Again, it was thinking about my son and thinking about what types of resources were available to him when he was six years old. There was really nothing that he could look at and say, “hey that’s me” or “that’s my family.” It was just a lot of thinking about what we could we contribute for him.
. We were on a trip in Puerto Rico and I was being hypnotized to get over my fear of snorkeling. I looked over and saw my son starting to internalize my fear so I said “Yeah, yeah I’m cured.” I wanted to make sure he didn’t have the same fear so I went with him and at one point I realized he had let go of my hand and we could see everything around us.
I went to the illustrator because I thought it should be included that in the book. I think that every child deserves that sense of entitlement that they are cared for and loved and I wanted to make sure that it was clearly shown in Every Child Deserves.
- Why do you have such a strong focus on foster care in Every Child Deserves…?
Because that’s what we know. My partner and I were sitting around our house thinking we had more space than two people need. We had always talked about a family – even on our first date we both said that not wanting kids would be a deal breaker.
I always knew I wanted to be a father and a parent. To have Zaden in my life and to see what all of the kids are doing in foster care and to say yes, I can open myself to these kids is everything. There are thousands of children out there waiting for that sense of entitlement.
It hurts to look back and realize someone hasn’t reached their full potential because nobody said yes. I always think about who is doing this work on a day to day basis for kids who don’t have these resources. I started doing advocacy at Family’s First, a service organization and I had two group homes that I oversaw. for youth in foster care. Writing Every Child Deserves as a resource for kids and families was just another step in my advocacy work.
- Why do you place an emphasis on family in all of your works?
I think because it was the thing that we weren’t really supposed to be. When I was growing up as a gay person, there were no examples of family or what it meant to live a normal life. We couldn’t model the types of relationships we saw in our own life.
Now there are several ways for us to be in the world and I think it is really important to have a model of parenthood or of family. There are so many ways to be a family and the more ways we can be examples of LGBT families and the ways we can be in the life of a child, the better. There are still stigmas that exist around sexual identity and I think it is so important, as many as times as we can, to stand up for ourselves as well as children.
- Upcoming Projects:
Well, I am finishing my book, my dissertation that I started at UPenn, about the experience of LGBT individuals in education. 40 individuals who share their experience are represented and the book will be out next fall.
Several weeks ago Zaden and Philip went out to the White House to go before the senate and house to advocate for the Every Child Deserves Act. We are going to continue to share our story and advocate for LGBT families and to give children options.