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Coming Out Posthumously

June marks LGBTQ Pride month, and fifty years since the Stonewall riots. In the past five decades, the conversation around gay rights has moved so quickly that it can be hard to remember where it was in the very recent past. 

After the 2012 death of Sally Ride, the first American woman to go to space, the world learned something new about the pioneering astronaut: she was gay, and was survived by her partner Tam O'Shaughnessy. This previously unknown detail of Ride's life was mentioned in one line at the end of a lengthy obituary in The New York Times, and the reaction from readers ranged from criticism for posthumously outing Ride to criticism for not honoring the detail enough. Bob spoke with Bill McDonald, the obituary editor at The New York Times, about the ethics and obligations of obituary writers in creating a bigger picture of the lives of the dead. 

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