Friday, August 24, 2007

Outing the Dead

Would you ever "out" someone in an obituary? Why or why not?

Also, if the deceased is public about his/her sexual preference, would you publish the name of a same-sex partner in the survivor list?

1 comment:

Alana Baranick said...

Of course, I'd publish the name of a same-sex partner in the survivor list, if the deceased was public about his/her sexual preference and the two of them lived together.

If they didn't live together, but it's clear that they were committed to one another, I would try to quote the partner and explain that person's role in the deceased's life.

It would be the same with a heterosexual couple. Live together? Get listed as a survivor. Recognized as the significant other? Get quote.

Please understand. I'm not saying I wouldn't get a quote from the live-in love interest. I'm just saying that's what I'd do, given the other scenario.

Outing someone who didn't tell the world, "I'm gay," while alive? No way.

I did a story on a 40-something fellow, who was gay according to all the friends I interviewed.

But the guy, who was supposed to be his longtime companion, said that he and the deceased were simply best friends.

He said that, when he was down on his luck, the decedent gave him a place to live. He said he was able to return the favor when the guy got sick. He described himself as his late friend's caregiver.

How could I say he was gay, when the guy who was supposed to be his lover wouldn't say it?

How can you prove it?

I think that the "friend" had gotten religion and was denying his own homosexuality. He made a point to tell me how the dead guy had gone up for an altar call at church to be forgiven for his sins.

I asked the dead guy's mom whether he was gay. She told me, "I didn't ask, and he didn't tell."

And that's just one story. Some elderly supposedly gay couples are reluctant to open up about their relationships.

I give these people all kinds of opportunities to spit it out, so I can feel like I've done my bit for diversity on the obit page.

But if they're not willing to talk about it, what can I do?

When I write an obit for a person who seems to have been heterosexual, I might name the spouse, but do I ask about who the dearly departed slept with? No.

So why should I do this for someone with a different bent?

Finally, I have this philosophy about a living person's sexual preference. Unless I intend to engage in sex with someone, why would I need to know?