I picked up a copy of the new freebie community newspaper last night at the laundromat. They’ve decided to print the headlines in Arial Rounded MT Bold for some reason, but it was otherwise unobjectionable. Unobjectionable, that is, until I got to the obituaries.
The first one on the page had a picture of a relatively young guy. Turns out he was 50. As I read the family roll call I realized that he must’ve been gay. The list of survivors began with the sentence Jeffrey is survived by his friend, Ronald S. Ronald was followed by a listing of Jeffrey’s living brothers and sisters, who were followed by a listing of Ronald’s living family.
I thought that was sweet. Sweet that the obituary had been written to include both of their families, just as you see in many obituaries of straight married people. Sweet that Jeff and Ronald were comfortable enough with their homosexuality to do that so publicly in rural Ohio. It’s a real sign of progress. But something bothered me about it, and as my clothes hit the final spin cycle I figured out what it was.
Friend. Ronald was identified as Jeff’s friend. That’s not typical use even in a small town like this one, especially when you make it clear in the same paragraph that you consider each other’s family your family. An out and proud person generally doesn’t willingly downgrade his apparently long-term, committed relationship to friendship.
Later, I checked the funeral home’s website for the original version. It didn’t say friend. It said Jeff is survived by his partner, Ronald S.
I checked the websites of two other newspapers, one in the nearest city and one where Jeff had lived. Both used the word partner. Clearly someone at this little community newspaper made the change on his/her own. I sent an email requesting clarification on the change this morning, but I don’t expect to hear anything.Â 1
This is one more reason that civil marriage equality needs to happen. We need to be permitted to marry just like straight folks do and finally use the terms that they do.
It was easy for some small town editor to cross off the word partner and substitute it with friend. Would it be as simple or as accepted to cross off the word husband from a man’s life?
As a final insult, the reality of Jeff’s life was whitewashed even after he died. Presumably it was done for the comfort ofÂ people reading the obituary. But Ronald didn’t bury a friend last week. He buried his long-time companion, his lover, his partner.
1 Less than an hour after publishing this post, I received the following response from the editor of the New Carlisle (Ohio) News:
Thank you for contacting the New Carlisle News.
The editing of Jeffrey [redacted]’s obituary was an editorial decision.
New Carlisle News
(Here’s a screencap of the email.)
Just so everybody’s clear, Mr. Grimm censored an obituary to hide the fact that the person who died was gay. Unbelievable. I find more than a little pathetic that Jeff’s pride and honesty in life was trampled immediately upon his death.
Dale Grimm, who also owns ISP KBAnet.com, can be contacted at 1-877-652-2638 or (937) 284-2715. Or if you prefer email, contact him through this contact form at NewCarlisleOhio.net or this one at his hosting business, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see that disappear again (like it did a few minutes ago). â‡§