Monday, February 16, 2009

Out From Under More Anti-Gay Propaganda

A few weeks ago, I noticed some "marriage defenders" salivating over a book called Out From Under, by Dawn Stefanowicz. According to the author's website (from which all quotes in this post are taken), this book is the alleged testimonial of a woman raised by a "promiscuous homosexual" man. Generally, the book is a statement against same-sex parenting and marriage. Using her claimed personal experiences, the author expresses concern that:

"If same-sex marriage is legalized, a person, couple or group who practice any form of sexual behavior would eventually be able to obtain children through previous heterosexual relationships, new reproductive technologies, and adoption due to the undefined term sexual orientation."

I have been hesitant to bring this book to your attention for two reasons. For one, I haven't read the book. (Although, I'd also be willing to bet that most "marriage defenders" promoting the book haven't either). Yet, the author does go into some depth about her personal experiences on her website. Reading the testimonial on this site, some flaws of her reasoning are readily apparent.

Two, Ms. Stefanowicz's "promiscuous homosexual" father is deceased and unable to speak for himself. When people promote thoroughly one-sided testimonials, especially when doing so to support a controversial policy position, readers should remain aware that the information is being filtered through only one person's experience. I read the comments and links below this promotion of the book, and I'm just not convinced that "marriage defenders" think about how this testimonial is only one person's side of things. I'm also not convinced that many "marriage defenders" know that one person's testimonial is not necessarily indicative of the norm.

To begin here, assuming everything in Ms. Stefanowicz's testimonial is true, I do think it's unfortunate that the author had negative childhood experiences. According to her website, Ms. Stefanowicz's father struggled with
"depression, control issues, anger outbursts, suicidal tendencies, and sexual compulsions."
I think that any parent with those issues, no matter his or her sexual orientation, would have difficulty raising a child. She also claims to have been
"exposed to all inclusive manifestations of sexuality including bathhouse sex, cross-dressing, sodomy, pornography, gay nudity, lesbianism, bisexuality, minor recruitment, voyeurism and exhibitionism."
This statement is vague, but if it's true that this woman's father exposed her to explicit sexual situations and porn when she was a child, that's not appropriate. That's kind of a given, though. Using my own anecdotal experience, since that clearly counts for a lot with this crowd, I would argue that most gay and lesbian parents would say the same. When it comes to parenting, the needs of children should take priority. Parents should take into account how their actions, addictions, and "issues" affect their children.

And that brings me to my biggest beef with, at the very least, her website testimonial. Ms. Stefanowicz uses her single experience of having been raised by an allegedly mentally ill man who happened to be gay, happened to be "promiscuous," and who exposed her to explicit sexual situations to make generalizations about all parents who happen to be gay. While testimonials can serve a general purpose, by definition they are representative of only one person's experience. Anecdotal evidence can be captivating and even titillating, more on that later, but it is a logical fallacy to use anecdotal evidence to make generalizations about groups of people. The thing is, anecdotes are not necessarily typical. All that Ms. Stefanowicz's testimonial tells us is that she had a crappy childhood; it tells us nothing about what other people's childhoods were like who were raised by gay parents.

So, while this woman's childhood experiences were likely very powerful and painful to her, and in that regard I certainly feel for her, I wonder if some people are missing some sort of logic chip that enables the rest of us to know that just because some gay people are x, not all gay people are x. This one person's story, no matter how intense and emotional, does not magically trump the evidence that shows that all scientific research to date "has consistently found no inherent deficits among gay parents, and their kids have proved to be as well adjusted as children with heterosexual parents." It doesn't work that way.

To end, I am sad for Ms. Stefanowicz's childhood experiences. Yet, I can't help but wonder if she has been somehow preyed upon by a predatory anti-gay industry. As the Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters blog writes, her personal story is tailored to promote "pretty much every stereotype, talking point, and lie the anti-gay industry spreads about us." This book confirms what many anti-gays already (think they) "know" about gay people. In their eyes, we're all selfish sick slutty perverts who will only harm the children we come into contact with.

Yet, think about something for a minute. Is it really gay people who are the ones who write the most about sex, sexual deviancy, and other people's possible sex practices; or is it anti-gays? I am reminded of a saying: The difference between people with tattoos and people without them is that people with tattoos don't care that people without tattoos don't have tattoos. Maybe it makes people feel better about themselves to point out how other people are "deviant" in some way.

Or, and I don't mean this to be some sort of cheap shot, I do wonder if it is titillating in some weird way for anti-gays to read about deviant sexual behavior that they themselves would never engage in. Ms. Stefanowicz claims that she was "exposed to all inclusive manifestations of sexuality including bathhouse sex, cross-dressing, sodomy, pornography, gay nudity, lesbianism, bisexuality, minor recruitment, voyeurism and exhibitionism." If you read some comments, you too may notice that many of the "marriage defenders" noted that they couldn't wait to read this book. Considering that a single woman's testimonial is not representative of any sort of trend in same-sex parenting and that logical people know this, I do wonder if some people are perhaps hoping to get their hands on more graphic details about these behaviors and "deviant" lifestyles. Peter LaBarbera of Americans For Truth [sic] About Homosexuality, for instance, probably knows more about gay male sexual sub-cultures than 99% of gay people in America do. I don't think anti-gays are necessarily secret gays themselves, I just find the constant focus on other people's sex lives to be, well, kind of perverted in its own way.

Is opposing homosexuality an alternative to consuming pornography? Is anti-deviance an acceptable fetish that allows people to track and read about the sexual deviance of others? Is anti-homosexuality an obsession, and actively opposing LGBT rights its concordant compulsion?

I do wonder sometimes.

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