Sarah Pettit, a journalist who helped found the nation's largest gay magazine, Out, died Wednesday. She was 36.
Pettit, a lesbian, died at a New York City hospital from complications related to lymphoma, said a spokesman at Newsweek, where she worked after leaving Out. She had been on leave from the newsmagazine since last March, battling the illness.
Born in Amsterdam to American parents, Pettit co-founded Out magazine in 1992, four years after she graduated from Yale. Out reports on culture, travel and fashion and features opinion, advice and reviews with a gay perspective. The monthly has a circulation of 110,000.
In 1997, when comedian Ellen DeGeneres' character came out as a lesbian in the TV series "Ellen," Pettit wrote in Out that a TV show exploring "the full and funny complexity of our love would be a first."
She left the publication in 1998 after a disagreement with a new publisher, said Judy Wieder, editorial director for LPI Media, which publishes Out and the Advocate, another national gay magazine. LPI bought Out magazine in 2000.
Part of the disagreement was about how to balance content for gay men and women readers so that lesbians would not be shortchanged, she said.
"She really kicked down doors and made people sit up and take notice," Wieder said. "She was absolutely a pioneer."
Pettit had worked as Newsweek's senior editor of the Arts and Entertainment section since 1999, editing features, reviews and profiles. Her appreciation and knowledge of arts and pop culture made her a valuable asset, Editor Mark Whitaker said.
"She always had lots to say -- often it was quite contrarian," Whitaker said. "It always forced us to sharpen our thinking about what we were doing."
Survivors include her mother, Jane Pettit of Washington, D.C.; her father, Frederick Pettit of Burlingame, Calif.; and two brothers, Benjamin Pettit of Washington, D.C., and Bare Pettit of London.