Tuesday, August 30, 2005

"When to Out the Dead"

Recently several deaths of gay personalities who were or weren't really out have sparked the debate about when obituary writers have the obligation to out their subjects over the objections of friends and family.

This week's Washington Blade has an interesting perspective on this issue.

Various obituary writers and editors were interviewed for the story. One, Kay Powell of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, says that some local older gay couples have worked hard to keep their sexual orientation closeted. She honors their request and says that it would be "disrespectful" to out hem against their wishes.

Others have chimed in from around the world. Nigel Starck from Australia who is an expert on the subject feels that there is a world wide obsession to include spouses, regardless of gender as survivors listed in obituaries.

However most of them feel that rumors have no place in the obituary. It has to have been published before to be credible, according to some of them interviewed.

Next month, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association will address the issue during a panel discussion. "the Closet, Six Feet Under", durng their annual conference in Chicago.

Eric Hegedus, president of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalist Association points out that "Part of the problem is if someone hasn't lived openly or spoken openly, you're not going to be able to prove it journalistically."

However others feel by leaving it out, the obit writer is telling a "half truth". Some feel that leaving out a person's know sexual orientation allows for segregated reporting.

Taking that secret to the grave, however, is something very important to various closeted indiviudals. Only time and the truth will free these gay souls in the long run.

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