Clint McCormack always wanted to have kids. But neither he, nor his partner Bryan, ever expected to raise 10 boys.
With Mark, 20, Cooper, four, Garret, 18, Kenny, 20, Keegan, 14, Seth, 17, Graeme, 19, Liam, eight, Hayden, seven, and Caleb, 13, they may well be the biggest gay family in the world.
As the Supreme Court puts gay marriage at the top of the news agenda, I asked Clint how he ended up with such a big family and what its like living with 10 growing boys.
How did you start your family?
Bryan and I met through a mutual friend of ours. We talked about having children the first night. I always wanted kids. He never really thought about it. I sort of convinced him I guess…
We started talking about having our first child in 1995 and we actually got our first child in 1998.
How did you find your first son?
I found this place out of California that matched you with birth mothers looking for adoptive families and they started trying to match us right away. We went through six potential birth mothers who kept on changing their minds.
Our birth mother was the seventh from that agency. She was from California and didn’t want to have the child in California and we were in Michigan at the time. I talked to her, she flew over the following week, stayed with us, had our son [Keegan] and flew home the day she got out of hospital.
What was it about having children that appealed?
I have five brothers and sisters and my parents were foster parents, so we always had infants at our house when I was growing up. So it was just automatic.
Back in the 70s they did this airlift from Vietnam, all these kids, and my parents had two foster kids from Vietnam. That was the time that really convinced me I wanted to have kids.
And when I got older I thought being gay is not going to stop me having a child.
You had your second child because you wanted an older sibling for your first?
I didn’t only want to have one child. I wanted to have at least two or three. After Keegan had his first birthday, I contacted this place called Adopt America. They matched children in the foster care system with prospective adoptive families.
A few days later one of their workers said she couldn’t find what we were actually looking for but could find twins in New Jersey. New Jersey being one of the first states that allowed gay couples to adopt together, so I was really interested in trying to find a child there. She sent our paperwork in and they selected us.
After Mark and Kenny’s adoption was finalized, I told the worker in New Jersey if they ever found an infant we could adopt, we would be interested. And I said that without telling Bryan.
Anyway, she contacted us and initially it was another set of twins and, without even talking to Bryan, I said, ‘sure, submit our names’. She called the foster family to make arrangements for us to come and visit the boys.
Once they heard we were a gay couple, they called the agency back within 15 minutes and said they want to adopt the kids after being offered numerous times to adopt them. So we lost out on those two kids and I was upset about that. But within a week the caseworker called and said she had this three-year-old boy, would we be interested? And I said sure.
It took a lot of convincing Bryan to move forward with it. But we went over to New Jersey to meet and [Caleb] very briefly. The foster family, he was a pastor for some Baptist church in New Jersey and we got the impression he didn’t want us in their home. And then they flew him over for a weekend for us to get to know this kid. That was when I noticed he had braces on his legs, no one told us that.
When Bryan came home he said let’s get him into our pediatrician.
So I got him to see our pediatrician on Saturday morning and the doctor takes one look at him and said ‘obviously he has this, he is malnourished, and a failure to thrive’ so we went home and I said to Bryan ‘I am worried about adopting this kid, he’s going to die on us’. He was three years old and weighed 19 pounds, the kid wasn’t right.
And Bryan got really mad at that and said ‘if we don’t adopt him, this kid will probably never get a family’ so we adopted him. He had cerebral palsy, failure to thrive and we were also told he was going to be severely mentally handicapped.
For the next two years we were running to the doctors every other day for this and that. Today he’s 13 years old, he’s in regular classroom, he is not special-ed, he only has 70% brain function, the rest is just a white mass so the 70% has compensated for the 30% that doesn’t work. He does fine at school, he is a regular kid. He is quite frail but all the doctors said he’ll lead a normal life.
After we got Caleb, Bryan and I were talking and I said let’s try to go for one more kid. I called New Jersey and they came back and offered us a set of brothers and said if we did not adopt them they would have to split them up to find homes for them. When I heard that I said ‘no, we will adopt them’ and I didn’t even ask Bryan.
They send you the histories of the kids you are looking to adopt – that night when the paperwork came, that’s when Bryan found out it was three. So he wasn’t too happy, but after I explained things he said we could check it out.
Instead of us flying over to New Jersey, because we had other children, they flew the boys over here. They were only to come for a weekend visit but that day we were informed they are moving in with us. So that’s how we got Garret, Graeme and Seth.
After their adoption was finalized, I approached Bryan one day and said I would like to get another infant, as we only have one infant. He was dead set against it but it took a lot of… scheming on my part I guess you would say.
I went ahead without really making sure he was with me. I got in touch with an agency, paid the fees and all that stuff but before they started the update for the home study I had to tell Bryan and I said, if we don’t follow through, we don’t get the money back. And that was quite a bit of money and Bryan is cheap and there was no way he was going to forgo that money so he went along with it.
Within a month we were contacted by a birth mother who wanted a gay couple. She had the baby, I flew over to Reno to pick him [Liam] up. I told the lady at the agency if you ever get another birth mother that wants a gay couple, call us, and she called us a few days later and we got Hayden. And then, without telling Bryan, I told the agency to call us again if they got a local birth mother who wants a gay couple, and that’s how we got Cooper.
Bryan, wasn’t always thrilled, but after we got the child and he was placed in our home he totally rethought his position and he was fine with it. So that’s how we got our 10 children.
Do you get any reactions to having such a large family?
The first thing is ‘why do you have 10 kids?’ and we just say ‘it just happened’.
When we take the kids out for dinner or whatever people will come up and ask us if we are a church group. A lot of times people will buy us dessert, so we get a free dessert. The kids like that.
Our friends will roll their eyes and say they could never do it but we have quite a few friends who only have one child and I would rather have our 10 in a restaurant compared to having their one. Ours are so well behaved.
All our children our African American, and obviously we are white. When Keegan was about a year old people would stare because I am white and I have this black infant. Back in 98, 99 it was sort of an oddity. And he would see people stare at us and he would cower. And I didn’t want him to grow up thinking he had to be ashamed to have us as his parents.
So I started to teach him, when people stare at us, to hold up his middle finger. I would say Keegan, give me your finger, and he would hold up his finger. [laughs] You have never seen old women turn around so fast when a baby was flipping them off. He was talking by then and I would say ‘say F you, F you’ and he would scream ‘F you’ as he was flipping them off. [laughs] It was so funny. Obviously I’m joking and exaggerating.
It might not be the best thing to do for a child but I wanted him to know it was ok to be in the family he was in. I didn’t want him to have any negative feelings because we are white and he is black. We laugh about it now and people might have a problem with that but I had a reason for doing it.
Is it purely coincidental you have all African American kids?
When we first started the process we went to six birth mothers. And some of them were white and some were black and it just happened the seventh birth mother was biracial. And she didn’t care about the color of the skin of the adoptive family.
It was never an issue for Bryan and I as to the color of our kids skin – as long as the kid was healthy, that’s all we cared about. And if people have problems with it, that’s never been our problem.
Have you enjoyed being a full-time dad?
It is never a dull moment. My youngest is four and my oldest are 20 so they are all going this way, that way and there is going to be drama any day with any one of them.
My philosophy, and Bryan’s, is we try to laugh at everything we can laugh about. My kids all have a great sense of humor. It’s been the best thing I’ve done – hell it beats working.
Do they all get on well and do the older kids help with the younger ones?
My oldest are twins and I call one of them my wet nurse as he is so good with the little ones and has always been a great help, especially with the babies. All my kids help out.
Sometimes when our youngest was an infant the older ones would try to cook dinner or help the younger ones with their homework. Sometimes I feel I’m not needed except when they want money or something, so it works out [laughs].
It’s a completely male family, did you chose that?
Hell no, I wanted girls. Every time they offered us a child it just seemed to be a male. They did offer one girl, she was 13 years old and we were seriously looking at adopting her.
The day before we were supposed to fly out to spend the weekend with her, the caseworker asked if we smoke. And we both smoke but we don’t smoke in our home. And she goes, ‘when she comes to visit you, hide your lighters’. So I said ‘why would you say that’ and she said ‘she tends to light fires in the house’. When I told Bryan he said ‘we’re not even going to visit this girl because she’s a fire-starter’ and that was the last girl we were offered.
Boys can be very competitive. Has that ever been an issue?
They all compete about who is the best football player. That is an ongoing, everyday topic of conversation.
Our oldest was offered free football scholarships to college but he plays with kids in the yard. We have three in high school who think they are the best players for the individual teams. Our little ones all want to play football now in the spring and even the baby, he keeps saying he’s the best one.
I personally can’t stand sports so I try to tune out but Bryan is right there with them because he loves football. I, on the other hand, wish they would learn to crochet or knit and then I would have a lot in common with my boys.
People who are critics of gay marriage often say it will lead to children being bullied or having a harder time, do you agree?
The schools know where I stand with bullying. They know I could be an extreme pain in their ass if it happened to my children so I think they take special precautions and if anything does arise they nip it in the bud.
So I don’t feel our children are bullied any more than any other kid. I have always taught the kids let someone hit you once but never give them the chance to hit you again and make sure they know that. Because then you beat the shit out of them. And that’s how we’ve brought up our kids.
All the kids have a really nice group of friends they hang around with and they really don’t have much bullying in the schools to begin with.
How much difference would same-sex marriage make to you?
I wish we could get married, so does Bryan. In New Jersey we are allowed to adopt our children together. But we have two children who were born in Michigan, a child that was born in Nevada and a child that was born in North Carolina. And I was unable to be put on the birth certificates of those children. I’ve always kept it a secret.
Our son Keegan, our first child – I was not allowed to be on his birth certificate. When we got his birth certificate I just made a copy of it and typed my name on it. So he had seen the fake one, he had never seen the real one. Two years ago he needed it for some sports thing at schools. So when he saw his birth certificate, that’s when he discovered I wasn’t on it.
That was devastating to him. The pain he has gone through – I don’t want to have to do that three more times. I don’t want to put our children through that pain because it means a lot to them. It’s very hurtful that because we are a gay couple it sort of singles them out.
What advice do you have for other parents?
For those who are looking to adopt, I think they should give older children a chance. The children in foster care get a very raw deal. People have this misconception they have major issues and it’s not necessarily the case. What a child has on his history form may not fit the child.
My oldest children, prior to adopting them, we were told one was a self-cutter and another one was mentally handicapped. The one who was listed as mentally handicapped is gifted. He was designated gifted in math and sciences in the fourth grade. The one that was designated as self-injurous has never done anything. He’s a bright kid, an outgoing kid, a good kid.
But these are the labels these children come with and you have to really read between the lines. Don’t always believe what the state says because it’s not always true.
When we got our first child, we didn’t know anything about raising him. New parents are so leery about everything, if a pacifier drops on the floor or whatever. I was so leery with Keegan but by the time we got our 10th child, Cooper, if a dog licks the pacifier it’s not going to kill him, you know [laughs].
Bryan and I have always had a very good life. We have traveled and we could have anything we ever wanted. That life we had prior to having children means nothing because of what our children have given us in return. It compensates for everything we don’t have.
You had a documentary made about your family. How has that worked out?
A production company contacted one of the agencies we dealt with and they were looking for a gay couple with kids. They wanted to do a teaser reel to see if they could get a reality show going but nothing really happened.
Then one of the guys went to another production company and called us. They did a teaser reel and took it to all the networks. Oprah was really interested and it was just going to be a one-hour episode. They aired it and we are hoping something might come out of it. We are also hoping for a book deal right now.
The kids had a blast doing it. It was a really good experience. We would love to do a series because there isn’t anything like us on TV here in the states and it would help the stuff going on politically if more people could see us raising kids and being a family.
See their OWN network trailer here: