Sunday, April 14 2024

Dawn Stefanowicz. Out from Under: The Impact of Homosexual Parenting, Annotation
Press, 2007

Brothers Thomas and Scott; a homosexual father, “raised in an extremely
dysfunctional family where sexual barriers were violated and incestuous
relationships occurred”; and a weak, subservient mother. These are the
protagonists in Out from Under, where Dawn Stefanowicz
narrates an open, honest account – at times raw and harsh of her troubling
times from being a young girl to young adulthood. It is a personal life
story told with no holds barred “so that the reader can fully understand
how parents and family structure can have a negative impact on children”.
It is like a cathartic re-elaboration, of great psychoanalytic value, where
words of forgiveness and hope unexpectedly emerge where the most traumatic
moments are touched on.

Cynthia Dawn (her complete name) was raised in Toronto in the 60s
surrounded by personal and family hardships. To a large extent, she was
ignored by teachers at school and the external world in general.

She was emotionally betrayed by an absent father who was in a continual
search of occasional gay relationships. Her mother, morally weak and a long
sufferer of diabetes, was unable to give the adequate care and attention a
child needed. She quickly entered in a spiral of conflicts, confusion and
shame caused by the vivid and explicit sexual experiences in her family
setting.

This state of annihilation of personal and human dignity was emphasised
dramatically during her turbulent adolescence and greatly prejudiced her
early years of youth. To add to this depressing picture those years were
marked by mood disorder and suicidal thoughts. Years of psychoanalysis and
profound faith in God have permitted Dawn to reconcile with a past so
cumbersome and traumatic, so heavily marked by humiliation, deceit and
oppression. Analysis and faith have helped her to find sense in life and
regain an inner balance. Yet, it was only after her father passing away
(died of AIDS like many of his partners) and her mother’s death that this
woman, now a mother of a girl and a boy, has found the courage to make
public her terrible experience in order to “show to everyone how much
parental and family relationships can influence negatively on the
development of children”. Dawn, now 50, has taken on a true and proper
mission, to travel the world to bear witness to the reasons of her writing
this book. Her battle is to lobby the legalization of gay marriages and gay
adoptions to safeguard children’s welfare by promoting the importance of
the family as a natural institution founded on marriage between a man and a
woman.

Out from Under
is a book which will stir opinions and discussion and not just because of
Dawn’s painful personal story but also because it raises questions about
the definition of parenthood and whether a child should be raised solely by
his or her biological mother and father. The gay community and supporters
argue that the “biological” aspect is not necessary in order to become a
parent. However, if this definition is changed then one of the primary
rights of a child is denied. It is a subject which regards issues on a
moral and sociocultural level that we cannot ignore or take lightly. Future
legislations should be made to protect and safeguard the interests, the
rights and needs of children. The function of family is essential, it is an
irreplaceable one which is not only sustained by the Catholic Church but
also by recent studies published by the Social Science Research
journal.

If the views supporting heterosexual parents are hastily defined as
homophobic or misleading and false, then public debate will be stilted and
will not have space to grow. If there is no change in direction (of views)
there is a risk of sliding into fruitless ideological controversies.
Moreover, a recent study – published on the famous Daily Telegraph
and on the italian paper La Stampa – by ComRes agency on
behalf of Catholic Voices in the UK states that many gays and
transgender alike do not consider gay marriage a priority.

On the eve, therefore, of choices destined to inevitably rekindle
controversies – the new French government has already confirmed its
intention to legalise same sex marriages and adoptions-, Dawn Stefanowicz’s
strong and courageous testimonial is all too welcome. It provides us with
concrete elements to reflect on regarding our identity, parental
responsibility and for once it is something which keeps our feet firmly on
the ground.

(*) Caterina Saccà is a Child Neuropsychiatrist

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