Homo The “L” Word: Verboten in Newsweek
Newsweek apparently decided its readers wouldn’t cotton to hearing a lesbian couple honestly described as a lesbian couple in this week’s (US) cover story about photographer Annie Leibowitz. The story lingers for several pages on the relationship between Leibowitz and her partner for 15 years, the late Susan Sontag. Newsweek, apparently not wanting to promote the icky lesbian lifestyle, skirts the issue, referring to Sontag as “the person [Leibowitz] was closest to for [a] decade and a half.” Newsweek does, however, take pains to note (in helpfully coded language) that the “most controversial aspect of Leibowitz’s book” may be “the intimate pictures from her relationship with Sontag.”
The story continues:
They never lived together, though they each had an apartment within view of the other’s. But their many trips—to Paris, Venice, Capri, the Nile, the ruins of Petra in Jordan—are recorded here. […]
Sitting in her Greenwich Village office, wearing jeans and sneakers, Leibovitz explains how Sontag’s death in December 2004—followed only weeks later by the death of Leibovitz’s father—propelled her to make this book. “It totally came out of a moment,” she says. “I had already done some looking at photographs of Susan—that was very hard—for a little memorial book. I had never taken the time to see what I had, really.” She would weep and pin the pictures up on the long walls of an old barn at her country place in upstate New York. “And then, I got very excited, trying to look from 1990 to 2005, as if Susan was standing behind me.” Leibovitz tears up and reaches for a box of tissues.
“The person she was closest to”? Here are some less awkward terms Newsweek could have used instead: Lesbian; partner; lover; couple. Instead, the magazine that has built its empire on stories about Jesus and the imperiled American middle-class boychose to pander to good old-fashioned American prejudice. Bravo.