Pat Loud, the matriarch of the Loud family of Santa Barbara, CA has died at the age of 94.
While younger generations may not know her name, they will surely recognize her influence. Loud and her family were the subject of An American Family, a PBS docuseries broadcast on the network in 1973. The show is often recognized the very first reality show on television.
More than its innovation in terms of television formatting though, the 12-part series also deserves recognition for a watershed moment in LGBTQ representation. Pat’s son Lance Loud, aged 22 at the time of the series, came out as gay on the program. The show then followed his foray into gay life, and the family’s struggle to understand and accept Lance at a time when being queer was still very taboo.
Pat Loud, however, never stopped loving or championing her son. She went on to pen the memoir Lance Out Loud in 2012, recounting the story of her son’s life. Lance Loud died of Hepatitis-related complications from HIV in 2001.
The Loud family released a statement upon the announcement of Pat Loud’s death on January 10.
“Pat Loud passed away peacefully in her sleep of natural causes,” the statement read in part. “She was snuggled up safe in her comfy home, attended by loving children Michele, Delilah, Kevin and Grant.”
“When eldest son Lance was diagnosed as HIV+, she returned to Los Angeles, where she became an indefatigable advocate for his health through the 1990s,” the statement continues. “Pat Loud was a fierce, inflexible, forthright matriarch and loyal champion of outsiders and iconoclasts. Her door was never locked and there was always room at her table. Never one for regrets or reflection, she moved forward in life with enthusiasm and courage. A letter from her often closed simply, ‘Excelsior!'”
Pat Loud used her celebrity to pave the way for countless other parents of queer children to continue to love, accept and champion them no matter what the opinions of society. We salute her courage and love, and thank her for her service and her example.
Rest in power, Pat.