Main | Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Los Angeles Times on Gay Heroes

Today an editorial in the Los Angeles Times compares Arizona shooting hero Daniel Hernandez with Oliver Sipple, the semi-closeted gay man who in 1975 wrestled a gun away from Manson family member Sara Jane Moore, saving the life of President Gerald Ford. Sipple's outing as a gay hero, to his mind, ruined his life. Thankfully, it's a different world for Daniel Hernandez.
Sipple was known to San Francisco’s gay community, where he had taken part in some events, but he was not "out" to his family or to the larger world. News reports, including some in this paper, discussed his sexuality -- perhaps disclosed, some speculated, with a nudge from gay activist and future San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk (who would himself be assassinated in 1978).

Milk also opined that Sipple’s sexuality got him only a letter of thanks from Ford, rather than an invitation to the White House. The Times quoted Milk in 1989 about Sipple’s actions: "For once, we can show that gays do heroic things, not just all that ca-ca about molesting children and hanging out in bathrooms." Sipple sued the San Francisco Chronicle’s Herb Caen and several newspapers for invasion of privacy, but his case was dismissed. By taking the action he did, the courts found, Sipple, and thus his sexual orientation, had become news. Sipple’s mother never spoke to him again, and Sipple died in 1989.

Daniel Hernandez wasn’t even born when Oliver Sipple died. His heroism, too, is incontestable -- and this time, his sexuality is apparently uncontroversial, which may be one of the few hopeful things to come out of these murders and attempted murders. At least we won’t add character assassination to the actual ones.
While Hernandez' sexuality is indeed "uncontroversial" in 2011, to my mind it's important that we keep his gayness as an integral part of the story.

Labels: , , ,

comments powered by Disqus