Monday, July 30, 2012

Sally Ride, our nation's first female astronaut, is also our nation's first Woman-Loving-Woman QUEER astronaut!

Sally Ride's obituary in the New York Times

After 27 years in a relationship with another woman, Sally Ride came out last week.  In her obituary.  With the single phrase:

"...Dr. Ride is survived by her partner of 27 years, Tam O’Shaughnessy..."
Now we don't know if Sally identified as a lesbian, or as a bisexual, because she's not around to ask, having died of cancer at age 61 last Monday.  But,

"As details trickled out after Ride's death on Monday, July 23, 2012, it became clear that a circle of family, friends and co-workers had long known of the same-sex relationship and embraced it. For many millions of others, who admired Ride as the first American woman in space, it was a revelation..."

The now-that-I'm-dead-I-can-tell-you-the-truth-about-who-I-love coming out sparked a debate about privacy versus being out, about the responsibility of role models, and about the public's right to know.

Andrew Sullivan of the Daily Beast, wrote:

"She had a chance to expand people's horizons and young lesbians' hope and self-esteem, and she chose not to," he wrote. "She was the absent heroine."

Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, who in 2003 became the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican world, noted that both he and Ride were baby boomers who grew up

"in a time when coming out was almost unthinkable."

"For girls who had an interest in science and wanted to go places women had not been allowed to go, she was a tremendous role model," Robinson said Wednesday. "The fact that she chose to keep her identity as a lesbian private — I honor that choice."

I wish Sally had chosen to be a role model for members of our queer community, too.  I mean, she was the first American woman in space.  The youngest astronaut in space (at age 32!)  She was awesome, and what an impact for the good it might have had if she had stood up as authentically herself in front of the world...

What's your take on it?  Should Sally Ride have come out before her death? 


ps - I'm glad that we finally know Sally was part of our Queer History!  And maybe her partner, Executive Vice President for Content at Sally Ride Science, can develop a new a unit on lesbian and queer youth empowerment. 


Anonymous said...

Personally, and respectfully, I disagree. Im tired of the Quiltbag community pushing for everyone to come out. I know my own coming out wasn't easy and in my mid teen years I felt incredibly guilty about not being out in public because so many website from the quiltbag communities were preaching how important it was for everyone to be out and represent the community and be counted. The reality is, no matter if you are a star, role model or an ordinary teenage, coming out is *your* choice. In fact, Im so tired of people scrutinizing public figure. If they do terrible things we should know, but frankly the whole debacle in England should be proof that we are going a little too far with the whole… “public‘s right to know“ already.

Do I think it would have been awesome if Sally Ride had been out? Of course! But I am neither disappointed or judging her for choosing to do it the way that was right for her. And the reality is now the next generation that is interested in space and science will know her not only as the first USA woman in space but also the first queer one and I think thats fantastic.

Anonymous said...

There seem to be two main reasons people stay closeted: fear of discrimination, and desire for privacy. When it's the former, I think we all wish people could come out who want to, that nobody would have to live their lives in fear and in wishing they could be more honest. But when it's the latter, who can judge anyone for just wanting to keep their private lives private?
The more people who come out, the less of a problem it will be, but it's hard to say that individuals (even if they are famous) "owe" the world anything.
The only famous people I think we have a right to know about are those who presume to create prejudicial public policies. In that case, I think the public has a right to know if there is a double standard involved.