RIVKA EDELMAN, BOBBY LOPEZ, DAWN STEFANOWICZ
In this edition of La Joie de Vivre, we continue where Part One of our four-part series left off.
In part one, Dawn, Rivka, and Bobby spoke about whether they felt their experiences were reflected in the highly public research into same-sex parenting. They also delved into the ways that they coped with the absence of a stable parent of the "missing" sex in the home.
In this, the second part, they tackle some of the questions about the impact of their upbringing on their later sexual choices and point of view.
|Bobby = B|
R: For me, my mother, you know she had some of that pornography around and the books and stuff. What I found even more distressing than all that – I didn’t realize then, but I realize now, she was very invested in trying to figure out what my sexuality was. A boy would be over and she’d be like, “you know, I think he wants to kiss you.” And I’d be like, “yeah, well so what? He can go kiss a doorknob.” I literally just completely closed down that way. I was just completely androgynous. I never flirted with a boy ever, in my life. And then, in a sense, the way I got married was sort of perfect. We were like, “do you want to live in this place or that place? Do you want to have this many kids or this many kids? Who’s going to work and who’s going to stay home? Okay, done deal. See you in four weeks, under the huppa.*"
B: You had something to add, Dawn?
D: Well it’s interesting. You know, I had very low expectations of marriage. What I was looking for was stability in my marriage partner. My husband and I, now we’ve been married for almost 30 years.
D: And he’s a very moral, good man. And we’ve never had a lot of money. But we’ve always had stability in our relationship and in our home. And I didn’t see that growing up. My father had a lot of disposable income. We did travel to very nice vacation spots and I loved hotel swimming pools because I would have the whole pool to myself, while my father was off gallivanting with his partner in the gay cruising area nearby. We would actually switch hotels 50 miles out. It could’ve been Ft. Lauderdale, and my father would find out about another gay cruising area, and we’d actually switch hotels 50 miles down the road. There there’d be a swimming pool so I could have that pool all to myself while my father was out again. So this is where our vacations were very interesting for my brothers and I; and I loved that pool looking up at the starry night sky. I didn’t realize how lonely I felt inside at the time, how rejected and abandoned I felt inside. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that my father had chosen very selfish vacation spots that would meet his needs. But you know, going to Disneyland, or going to beautiful gardens once, was great, but out of the whole vacation, a lot of it for me was spent alone.
B: It sounds like it was kind of a byproduct of, sort of, the culture of –
R: Well I think there’s two impulses in the culture. Dawn is hitting on one of them, you know, get in as much “gay fun” and gay sex as possible in four days, and then the other part of the culture was, “We’re better than they are.” And they could be – “They” was any heterosexual that walked by you. Which was everybody. “They” was the teacher, the librarian, and everybody else. You know, “we’re better, we’re smarter, we’re more advanced, we’re more honest.” It was for a couple of years, a buzz, every woman’s a lesbian. “You’re really a lesbian. You just don’t know it.” And then there was the hierarchy with them, of lesbianism. Who’s more of a lesbian, who’s been a lesbian longer. Who cashed out and got married and did the hetero thing. There was status in certain things. [----break off]
B: So you were saying there was a difference in the way they dealt with your brother versus the way they dealt with you and your sister.
R: Yes, me and my sister. I mean, my sister was cute. She was a cute child and she’s much younger. So she was sort of also a trained dog, being cute and adorable and accepted. Because there was a point when the whole thing sort of collided and merged into the hippie culture and the music culture. My mother got hooked up with some hippie people and also with some people in the music industry, you know, like the New York Dolls. These gender bending – I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the New York Dolls. But they all dressed in drag. She was really into the drag scene. And having these guys over. Most of them were just mean and dumb. My sister and I were just invisible at one point. We just sort of didn’t exist. And my brother was more gregarious. He would be the one to make the drinks and serve them to everyone. He learned very early how to please. But I think that what Dawn was saying is that no matter which way you slice it, whether it was the social or the political or the sexual, it was always about them. When you sent me the questions, I looked up some stuff. One thing I found was this tiny quote from this woman, somewhere in New England, some scholar in New England, and she says something to the effect of, “gay parents tend to be more motivated and committed than heterosexual parents, because they really want those kids.” And I thought to myself, that just shows how this woman supposedly – I guess she’s heterosexual, I don’t know – this woman academic absorbs the gay community’s hatred of women. And even the lesbians, in a weird way, they hated heterosexual women.
B: Yeah, there was a definite – I felt, I always felt that both gay men and lesbians had a similar misogyny. Because lesbians want to be more like men and then gay men want to be hypermasculine.
R: So she said, they’re going to be better parents because they want it. And what I sort of saw her actually saying is that because heterosexuals can get pregnant by accident, or in the back of the car and they didn’t mean it, that they didn’t want those kids. And to me, there’s a huge aspect that they’re missing in this picture, called sacrifice. You get pregnant in the back of the Chevy, and you have a baby, that’s a sacrifice. And that’s where parenting comes from and they didn’t get that. They so did not get any of that. And their research shows and their statements show even now, that they don’t get it. Everything – there was no concept of childhood. There cannot be a concept of child or childhood when the only identity is sexual.
D: Can I add something, Bobby?
B: Yeah, sure, go ahead.
D: For me the environment was very sexualized from infancy forward. A lot of sexual experimentation was going on in the home. And in the subcultures where I was taken to, my father was involved in all different aspects of experimentation. I wouldn’t limit it to just “gay.” When I say the GLBT umbrella, I am including every form of sexual experimentation you could fit in there. He was into Craig Russell big time by the time I was 8 or 9 years old. And everything was about Craig Russell.
B: Who’s Craig Russell?
D: Pornography, you know, these kind of underground men’s magazines. Where they’d be pornographic but you could be wearing scantily clad underwear. My father was actually an underground male model for underwear in a community magazine. So what I picked up was that he and his partner also had an affinity for underage boys. I have to say this –
|Bobby = B|
B: You know, I have to jump in and say something. You know, I saw that so much in the gay male culture and you know, you get viciously attacked when you even allude to it by GLAAD and by HRC. But I think that finally with this issue of Tom Daley, that diver, the 19-year-old who got preyed on by that 39-year-old screenwriter, and then –
R: After his father died.
B: Yeah, and then the Huffington Post defended it. I think that finally the gay community can’t deny it anymore.
R: You can’t shame anybody. I saw that too. My mother would have all these gay guys come over. There was one guy, his name was Joe, who was supposedly a travel agent. And every time he came over there was another boy he brought. Not a little boy. Maybe 14, 15, 16. I don’t know exactly. They were always very thuggish. You know, monosyllabic. Like street kids. You know, always with a Bronx accent. Petulant, surly, street kids. And he’d buy them a new pair of sneakers, and everything was Quaaludes and Nebutol. And those popper things.
B: Yeah, the poppers.
R: And it wasn’t until years later that the dime dropped in my head about what was going on, ‘cause I was like eleven, maybe. And I realized what was going on and I said to my mother – because she let my brother go off with him, I said to her, “how could you have done that? How could you have let him go off with him?” And my mother said, completely, without batting an eye, she said, “your brother was seven then. He only likes twelve and up.” Like this is okay?
B: Oh my God.
B: Oh my God.
R: And it was a fixed like, twelve and up, not six, not five, not three not four. Twelve and up.
B: Well, you sent me that thing that Apple has a new app for twelve-year-olds to find sex.
D: Yes, Bobby, what my father was afraid of, this is him very involved in other gay men. Whenever he brought other gay men to the home, he had a fear that any one of his gay friends could hit on my brothers. And so he was a bit guarded when he found out, he would come from working late, and he was wondering why one of his partners was sitting at the kitchen table playing cards with my brothers and I. He was very upset about it.
B: Well at least he had a fatherly impulse.
D: He did. The other thing, I was afraid to bring boyfriends home, even in my young teens because my dad would hit on the good-looking ones.
B: Are you serious?
D: He would actually – he and his partner at the time actually hit on a very good-looking boy I brought home that was about fourteen or fifteen. And they wanted 3-way sex with him up in the bedroom. This all happened right before my eyes; I couldn’t believe it. Even though I’d seen so much already, I would still be stunned by there being no boundaries around sexuality, around the number of partners, around age, around various types of sexual practices. There were no limits.
B: Right, and you know, they just broke another story from Alabama with the same thing.
*Huppa is a special canape used in traditional Jewish weddings.