Out From Under: The Impact of Homosexual Parenting
By Dawn Stefanowicz
Annotation Press, 2007
245 pages, $14.95
To order: annotationbooks.com
Dawn Stefanowicz’s autobiography lets us glimpse through a child’s eyes how it was to live as a little girl whose father was a practicing homosexual.
Stefanowicz grew up amid the “gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgendered” subcultures of Toronto in the 1960s and ’70s.
Her upbringing took a tremendous psychological toll on her, one she didn’t talk about for years.
Out From Under: The Impact of Homosexual Parenting lets readers peer behind the façade of mainstream normalcy that homosexual activists project with the help of a willing media.
It opens with Dawn, age 9, at a summer cottage with her family.
“‘Will you come with me to the end of the pier?’ Dad asks. Ordinarily there is nothing I long for more than times alone with this man I too rarely get to be with. But tonight his question fills me with foreboding,” she writes.
“The old wooden pier stretches out into the inky blue lake to a depth where the water that laps against its weathered posts is well over my head. I’m a pretty good swimmer, but even so, his request unnerves me. It would be one thing to walk out there with a father who loved me unconditionally and could be depended on to protect me, but more and more, I am coming to understand that this is not the kind of father I have.”
What she did have was a very ill and passive mother and a deeply troubled father, who died of AIDS at 51. She loved him despite his inability to love back.
Even when her father was in what looked liked monogamous relationships, he continued cruising for anonymous sex, so the family was at high risk of exposure to contagious STDs.
By age 10, she had visited a nude beach, a sex shop and a homosexual cruising area. The boundaries between private and public sex were broken.
As a teenager, she had to shield her boyfriends from her father’s advances, and she once stumbled upon her father having relations with another man. Some memories took years for her to understand and face. For example, at age three, she and her twin brother were sexually abused.
“We were too afraid to speak about any of this to adults,” she said. “At night, I began having different paralyzing nightmares that lasted seven years. These were strange, mystifying dreams …”
Stefanowicz’s style is easy to read, but her accounts are disturbing because the events she lived through were themselves disturbing.
So troubling was her upbringing that for years she struggled with her own sexual identity and feelings of worthlessness. Finally, she confronted her past, sought therapy, and, with the help of her husband and her Christian faith, emerged “out from under the wreckage created when sexual boundaries are obscured.”
At times I wanted to speed-read through details of how the innocence of Dawn and her brothers was violated so early on. Then I realized: That’s the point. I was uncomfortable just reading about how these children were graphically exposed to sexuality, yet they had to actually live through it.
Out From Under is riveting reading. Hopefully, Stefanowicz’s courage in sharing her painful journey will help other adult children and spare more children from having to experience similar suffering.
Gail Besse writes