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Site Columns

By Michelle
March 10, 2004 - 11:32 PM

Hello World!

Yesterday, to my regret, I wrote an obituary for actor Paul Winfield, who had appeared in Star Trek twice during a long and illustrious career that included an Oscar nomination and several Emmy nods. I was curious why, as I read through dozens of articles in major newspapers, none of them mentioned the fact that he had been predeceased by a long-time male partner, something I had read in several places.

In fact, the only major publication I could find which included that information was The Advocate, a gay and lesbian news magazine. A web search revealed a history of his activism for gay rights, but when it came to the sort of information one would expect to find in the obituary of a heterosexual person who had been in a long-term relationship, whether married or partnered, it was absent. Today two different people mentioned that they had seen an article stating that that information was kept out of the media by the request of Winfield's sister, the survivor named in the obituaries.

Here's what The Advocate said, in part:

Actor and author Jack Larson, a friend, told Advocate.com that Winfield, who was openly gay in his life if not in the media, had been distraught over the past two years following the death of his longtime companion, Charles Gillan Jr. Larson produced the 1984 drama Mike's Murder, written and directed by gay filmmaker James Bridges, in which Winfield gave one of his finest performances as a gay man distraught over the death of his onetime lover.
This makes me sad. I'm sympathetic to the privacy issues - I'm sure there are many actors who don't want their partners or spouses named in the media, gay or straight - but I think it's a pity that a man who supported gay rights and was openly gay is mentioned as neither in what will probably be the last articles written about him for a wide audience. I'm sorry that gay teenagers, and black teenagers, and gay black teenagers who probably wonder whether anyone in Hollywood could overcome prejudice against both those characteristics won't know it.

I've no idea what Winfield's own wishes would have been concerning his obituary, but I'm going to take the chance on assuming that a man who did not hide his sexuality in life would not necessarily have gone along with the decision never to mention it after his death, and post this column.

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