King 5 TV
Let's hear it for Cheryl Chow. The former city council member and Seattle School board president revealed this week that she is dying of brain cancer. In an interview with King 5 TV, she also, finally, declared herself a lesbian.
King 5 TV
Chow hasn't always commanded the respect she deserves. When she served on City Council in the '90s, she was inevitably compared to then fellow council member Margaret Choe, who seemed more polished and went on to become an executive for the Gates Foundation. Chow was scrappier, and let her emotions show.
In 1997, Chow ran for mayor only after ascertaining that Choe, rumored also to be considering a run, said she wasn't interested. Chow lost her bid.
After a hiatus from politics, the onetime principal got elected to the school board in the aughts. She took on a leadership role at a time of particular contentiousness. Meetings got ugly. A parent making accusations about institutional racism called her a hypocrite. A clash with fellow board member Michael DeBell had her fighting back tears.
"The reason why I'm sponsoring this amendment is not because I'm stubborn," Chow said at the time, when a cost-saving transportation plan was being debated. "It's because it's the right thing to do, and children and families in District 7 trust me to do it."
Chow really did seem like she was following her heart, rather than any particular agenda. At 66, she has devoted much of her life to public service; in addition to her elected roles, she has for decades coached the Seattle Chinese Community Girls Drill Team.
And now facing the last chapter of her life, she wants to accomplish something else.
In the King 5 interview, she said she wants to encourage others to come out about their homosexuality. "Parents and kids, don't be afraid of saying that you're gay," she told the station. "I was afraid for over 60 years and those 60 years were wasted. "
It's a sad thought, but one leavened by the fact that those years weren't entirely wasted. For the last 10, she has had a partner, an assistant principal named Sarah Morningstar. They have an adopted 4-year-old daughter.
While she's waited many years to reveal the truth, it could do some good at this particular moment. Some might remember the poignancy of her story as they vote this November on a referendum to defeat gay marriage legislation.
Cancer has obviously taken a heavy toll on Chow. In the King 5 interview, she looked painfully thin, her face contorted as she talked.You'll be holding back tears yourself as you watch Chow and Morningstar express their love for each other.
But Chow was funny too. She had said she kept her lesbianism a secret all these years because she feared the reaction from the Chinese community. So King 5 asked her if she still worries about the community's reaction. "No," she said. "They can't do anything to me now. What are they going to do, kill me?"