Andrew Sullivan criticizes Sally Ride for being a closeted gay

The other day I posted about the untimely death of Sally Ride, the first American woman in space.  I didn’t include this bit from the New York Times obituary:

Dr. Ride married a fellow astronaut, Steven Hawley, in 1982. They decorated their master bedroom with a large photograph of astronauts on the moon. They divorced in 1987. Dr. Ride is survived by her partner of 27 years, Tam O’Shaughnessy; her mother, Joyce; and her sister, Ms. Scott, who is known as Bear. (Dr. O’Shaughnessy is chief operating officer of Dr. Ride’s company.)

Well, I didn’t know who Tam O’Shaughnessy is—the name certainly doesn’t give away the gender. It turns out, though, that Tam is a woman (CEO of the Sally Ride Science organization) and Ride, being in a relationship with her for nearly three decades, must have been gay. Even had I known that, I doubt that I would have mentioned it, since Ride was, by all accounts a private person. As the NYT notes:

Dr. Ride was known for guarding her privacy. She rejected most offers for product endorsements, memoirs and movies, and her reticence lasted to the end. At her request, NASA kept her illness secret.

So she apparently didn’t want to be known as The First Lesbian in Space.  And is it all that important these days?

Well, it apparently is to Andrew Sullivan, openly gay writer of The Daily Beast website. Over at the Beast, he criticizes the muted discussion of Ride’s homosexuality in a piece called “America’s first woman in space was a lesbian.”  There Sullivan decries not only the Times‘s failure to make a bigger deal of Ride’s homosexuality, but also goes after Ride herself for remaining in the closet.

First he excoriates the Times for its too-brief mention of Ride’s partner:

Now talk about a buried lede! The only thing preventing the NYT from writing an honest obit is homophobia. They may not realize it; they may not mean it; but it is absolutely clear from the obit that Ride’s sexual orientation was obviously central to her life. And her “partner” (ghastly word) and their relationship is recorded only perfunctorily. The NYT does not routinely only mention someone’s spouse in the survivors section. When you have lived with someone for 27 years, some account of that relationship is surely central to that person’s life. To excise it completely is an act of obliteration.

First, I wouldn’t be so quick to play the homophobia card, since the Times is, after all, run by liberals.  And, to my knowledge, the Times does routinely mention the survivors only in a brief sentence at the end of an obituary.

More important, Ride’s sexual orientation may have been central to her life in the sense that she loved another woman, and love is one epicenter of life. But that doesn’t mean that Ride wanted to it to be a publicly central part of her life. She obviously didn’t.  And if that’s the case, why should a newspaper?  Ride’s gender was obvious to all, so she had no choice but to be The First Woman in Space, but her sexual orientation is not so obvious, and why should she even have brought that up?

Finally, the Times‘s treatment of Ride’s homosexuality is perfectly in keeping with the way it deals with gay partners these days. Sometimes in the Sunday wedding section I find an announcement of a gay marriage, and even a picture of the happy couple, but they don’t dwell on the homosexuality, or even mention it. That, I think, is healthy: it’s time for us (and especially religious homophobes) to recognize that many, many people fall in love with or are drawn to people of the same sex, and it’s no big deal. What, pray tell, would Sullivan have the Times write?

Indeed, one could say that the paper’s failure to make a big deal of homosexuality is not a sign of homophobia, but an attempt to legitimize it, bringing it into the mainstream. That’s precisely the feeling I get when I see a gay wedding announcement in the Sunday paper: I smile and think, “Well, it’s not a big deal any more.”

There’s only one proper moral stand on homosexuality between consenting adults, and that is this: it’s a private matter that should not be seen as immoral and should be given civil legitimacy in the same way as heterosexual unions. We all know where the opposition to that stand comes from!

And remember that even in the Eighties, when Sally rode, being gay was something that could bring society’s opprobrium upon you.  It was Ride’s choice to keep her life private, perhaps because it might have hurt her fledgling company designed to excite children of both sexes about science. An admirable thing to do, but would it have been harder if she was openly gay?  At any rate, it’s someone’s choice to keep their beliefs, their faith, and their sexual orientation private. I don’t demand that gays be “outed” any more than I require closeted atheists be “outed.” It is not our choice, but theirs, regardless of the salutary public effect of open homsexuality or atheism.

But even if you agree with Sullivan that the Times should have highlighted Ride’s sexuality more strongly, he becomes shameless when he goes after Ride for hiding it herself.  He considers a remark by one of his readers:

But assuming that she was not out before her death, I don’t think we can judge this as a failing. We all do what we can, and play the role we are most comfortable with. Now that the information is in the open, the LGBT community has another heroine to claim as our own and celebrate posthumously.

Fair enough. But Sullivan doesn’t like that:

I’m not so understanding. We can judge this decision in the context of Ride’s life. Her achievements as a woman and as a scientist and as an astronaut and as a brilliant, principled investigator of NASA’s screw-ups will always stand, and vastly outshine any flaws. But the truth remains: she had a chance to expand people’s horizons and young lesbians’ hope and self-esteem, and she chose not to.

She was the absent heroine.

That’s not only self-serving, but completely unfair.  There may have been many reasons, not the least her mission as a public advocate of science for kids, to keep her sexuality secret.  Yes, she may have been an “absent heroine” to young lesbians, but she was a heroine to children of both sexes through her rides in space and subsequent academic work and public advocacy of science  And, as a professor in two institutions, she certainly served as a role model to women in academics. Given the homophobic climate of America, especially in the Eighties, she made what I consider a fair choice.

We have no moral right to criticize someone for keeping their beliefs private, so long as hiding those beliefs has no potential negative impact on the public. (It is fair game, for example, to ask a politician if he was ever a member of the Klan, or if he accepts the fact of evolution).

In an ideal society—and in this respect I think it’s one we’re moving toward—nobody would have to apologize for or hide their sexuality, for that would be a matter of no import to anyone else.  But we’re not yet there, just like we’re not yet there for atheism.  And until we are, it’s simply churlish to go after someone for trying to keep their privacy.  And do recall that the public denigration of homosexuality, and the consequent need to keep it private, comes largely from religion—in fact, a major cause of that disapprobation comes Sullivan’s own Catholic Church.

Sullivan himself, then, is a hypocrite, for he has the chance to become a hero to many people by leaving the Catholic Church that bears so much responsibility for that demonization of gays he so abhors. Presumably he has his private reasons to remain Catholic, just as Ride had her private reasons to remain in the closet.  He has a chance to expand people’s horizons about the moral failings of his Church, and he chooses not to. (Yes, I know he criticizes some of their stands, but a man of his beliefs should not be in that Church.)

Sullivan is the absent hero.

189 Comments

  1. Posted July 25, 2012 at 4:46 am | Permalink

    This is an ongoing issue in queer politics, and should be understood in that context. I may not entirely agree with Andrew’s position – it’s not like her lesbianism was a big secret – but I find it quite understandable.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted July 25, 2012 at 4:58 am | Permalink

      Yes, I’m perfectly aware of the conflicts among gays about whether to “out” people, and I am on the side of not outing. You shouldn’t force people who want their privacy to divulge their sexuality. As I said, in an ideal society this wouldn’t be a problem, but we don’t live in that society.

      Do we think as well that everyone who is a closet atheist should be outed: that I should publish their names on this website?

      I don’t find Andrew’s position understandable at all. He may want public outing as a way to bring homosexuality into the mainstream, but an individual’s right to remain private trumps that. And, at any rate, we’re inexorably moving toward the goal of equal rights for gays without having to out people. They’re outing themselves, just as atheists are beginning to out themselves.

      • gbjames
        Posted July 25, 2012 at 5:43 am | Permalink

        I would agree with this exception: any gay-hostile or atheist-hostile closeted public figure should be outed at the first opportunity. When attacking others, they give up any right to keep their own situation private.

        • SLC
          Posted July 25, 2012 at 5:50 am | Permalink

          I agree. IMHO, closeted gays who gay bash or associate themselves with gay bashers deserve to be outed. Those who don’t deserve to have their private life kept private.

        • whyevolutionistrue
          Posted July 25, 2012 at 6:09 am | Permalink

          I agree here too. Blatant hyprocrisy like that does deserve exposure.

      • Posted July 25, 2012 at 5:53 am | Permalink

        “I don’t find Andrew’s position understandable at all.”

        You literally don’t understand it at all? Surely that’s not what you mean. Treating “understand” and “agree” is for those who are suspicious of any hypothetical.

        • Posted July 25, 2012 at 5:54 am | Permalink

          treating them as synonyms.

          • Bruce S. Springsteen
            Posted July 25, 2012 at 6:16 am | Permalink

            He understands in the sense that he “comprehends” what Sullivan is saying, but not in the sense that he “can relate to” Sullivan’s perspective. Understand has two senses, and Jerry is using the second one, which is clear from his context and perfectly reasonable.

        • JonLynnHarvey
          Posted July 25, 2012 at 7:38 am | Permalink

          All groups in the San Francisco Bay Area involved in gay consciousness-raising for straights generally take the line that you don’t out anyone. For example, SR might have a family reason, such as a homophobic aunt or grandmother, for not coming out.

          Of course to out gay priests or politicians who are publicly anti-gay would be different from outing those who are not.

      • Cruella deVille
        Posted July 25, 2012 at 8:17 am | Permalink

        I think Sullivan is a self-serving crybaby most of the time, but we need to make distinction between arguing that Ride should have been outed by others and that Ride should have come out herself.

        He’s arguing Ride should have come out herself.

        Ride’s adult lifespan exactly corresponds with the most dramatic changes in gay rights and acceptance: So in 1985, it would likely have been catastrophic to Ride’s career to come out. And now, less than 30 years later, Coyne can say that it’s good (and I agree) that NYT equalizes and doesn’t make a big deal about gay/straight relationship difference. Both can be true and right.

        But you’ll have to forgive gay people–especially those of us over 40–if they mistake the new “equalizing” for marginalizing. It’s what we’re used to. (I came out in 1984).

        • Posted July 25, 2012 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

          Agreed. It would have done SR no harm, and a lot of young people a lot of good, to have ridden in a GLBT Pride parade in the last few years – with George Takei, YES! – or taken the stand with Ian McKellan or Stephen Fry or some such at any of the functions where they have appeared in support of GLBT issues. To stay closetted when she didn’t have to was to tacitly support the myth that “There are no gay astronauts.” and implicitly “Astronauts can’t be gay.”

          Takei said, “It’s not really coming out, which suggests opening a door and stepping through. It’s more like a long, long walk through what began as a narrow corridor that starts to widen.”

          (I began coming out in 1986 – at 2150 on Wednesay July 9 in the gallery of Parliament, to be precise, the moment the NZ Homosexual Law Reform Bill was passed – and pretty much completed the process by 1991, when I started going live on a gay radio programme.)

          • gbjames
            Posted July 26, 2012 at 5:57 am | Permalink

            Do you see no difference between being closeted and not riding in parades?

            Why do you say she was closeted? Because _you_ didn’t know she was in a long term same-sex relationship?

  2. gbjames
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 4:52 am | Permalink

    sub

  3. E.A. Blair
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 5:01 am | Permalink

    “…so she had no choice but to be The First Woman in Space…”

    First American woman in space. Valentina Tereshkova piloted Vostok 6 over twenty years before Dr. Ride went up, and Svetlana Savitskaya was flight engineer for Soyuz T-7 in 1982.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted July 25, 2012 at 5:07 am | Permalink

      Yes, I made that perfectly clear in the first sentence of my piece.

  4. Stephen Ryan
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 5:15 am | Permalink

    I haven’t read Andrew Sullivan’s original article, only the excerpts posted above, but surely he should take into consideration the other person in the relationship, Tam O’Shaughnessy. She may not wish her relationship with Sally Ride to be detailed in the obituary or in any other article concerning Sally. She also has a right to her privacy.

    • Cruella deVille
      Posted July 25, 2012 at 8:18 am | Permalink

      Excellent point.

    • suwise3
      Posted July 25, 2012 at 9:35 am | Permalink

      When Sagan died, I read many pieces on how he may have “reconsidered” his atheist stance when he was dying. People who try and use someone’s death for their own gain are contemptible. (And cowards.)

  5. Dominic
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 5:16 am | Permalink

    I do not think it is anyone’s business what someone may or may not do in regard to their sexuality, unless they choose to make it an issue. Andrew Sullivan has made his sexuality into a big thing – fine for him, but not everyone wishes to define their ‘personhood’ by pigeon holing where they belong in certain categories like left/right etc.

    • Cruella deVille
      Posted July 25, 2012 at 8:19 am | Permalink

      Hold on there, cowboy. It’s the rest of culture that makes my orientation a big deal, not me. I just want equality and to be left alone. It’s everyone else putting their nose in my business that makes it necessary for me to be out. I’d love to live in your post-category world, but we’re not there yet.

      • Dominic
        Posted July 25, 2012 at 9:00 am | Permalink

        “I’d love to live in your post-category world” – I prefer to call it Dom-world! Now where did I leave my cow…? :)

  6. Posted July 25, 2012 at 5:20 am | Permalink

    What? Someone extraordinarily accomplished was IMPERFECT and fell short of his (Andrew Sullivan’s) personal expectations by walking in different behavioral footsteps than Sullivan would have had her walk (or himself perhaps would have walked in her shoes), and made an issue of that by publicly criticizing Sally Ride as “the absent heroine” for the mote in her eye of that particular judged imperfection?

    I would have thought Sullivan’s own life-forged perspectives on the diversity and potency of personal human experiences ran deeper and broader than that (which shows you how wrong I can be).

    In any event, it seems to me that Sally Ride’s potential for favorable public influence as a heroine serving Sullivan’s understandably preoccupying cause does not die with her, but may well be just getting started.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted July 25, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think we can know whether an individual is ‘imperfect’. As you hint at, such expectations (rather than meaningful measures) are individual (and very constrained to boot).

      Well done.

  7. goodforyou
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 5:35 am | Permalink

    O Yawn. Seems to me Dr. Ride wasn’t so much in the closet as she wanted her personal life to remain private. Nothing wrong with that, but in our reality show society, many seems to think they should know everything about a stranger’s private life. Dr. Ride lived her life the way she wanted. Good for her and her partner.

    • BilBy
      Posted July 25, 2012 at 5:38 am | Permalink

      Exactly: damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted July 25, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

        And damned if you procrastinate.

        Damn.

    • RFW
      Posted July 25, 2012 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      Judith Martin, under her nom de plume “Miss Manners” harps on this repeatedly. You are not obligated to divulge the details of your personal life to strangers. To insist that another person tell all is rude, and to think that you are obligated to tell all is mere ignorance.

      Among other things, this is why discussions of politics and religion are unwelcome at dinner parties.

    • E.A. Blair
      Posted July 25, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      There are some celebreties who just have to see every detail of their lives splashed on every front page and blog in the country, and there are some who don’t. I tend to feel more respect for those who don’t.

    • Posted July 25, 2012 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

      dam right. I’m an atheist but I try not to be obnoxious about it. If someone asks, I tell ‘em, but if they don’t ask, I won’t tap them on the shoulder & say, “Hey, by the way, I’m an atheist. Whatcha gonna do about it?”

  8. Posted July 25, 2012 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    I see why a gay writer might want more gay people to be open about their sexuality but I still find it a strange idea. A person’s sexual orientation has nothing to do with anyone other than their chosen partner. Perhaps it’s not as effective a strategy as pushing a gay agenda but I would rather people lived in a way that set an example. To me that’s not a world where people proclaim their sexuality to strangers but a world where they just get on and do whatever it is they want to do. Being gay shouldn’t be such a big deal so other gay people shouldn’t make a fuss when another gay person doesn’t treat it like a big deal.

    • Cruella deVille
      Posted July 25, 2012 at 8:24 am | Permalink

      Wow. I can’t believe this thread.

      Gay people would be HAPPY to be left alone. But we’re not. I can’t get married. IN CALIFORNIA, that “land of fruits and nuts.”

      I can’t visit my partner in the hospital without special documents drawn up.

      Yes, I long for the day when being gay is as remarkable as being left-handed.

      But we are not there yet, and the main reason we’ve come this far is that people (like Andrew, like me) have been out and have shown that we deserve equal rights.

      I’ll gladly become invisible again when there’s no longer a reason to be visible.

      And I have to say I’m disturbed by what I’m seeing in this thread.

      • gbjames
        Posted July 25, 2012 at 8:50 am | Permalink

        Be careful that you don’t react to things that aren’t there, or at least aren’t there to the point of dominating entire commentary on this page.

        Most of us (I think… but I’ll just speak for myself) would prefer that all gay folk were unclosed, just as we would prefer that all non-believers be out. However, it is one thing to desire such a world and another one to recognize that the world remains a sometimes perilous place for many. It isn’t fair to insist that other people “out themselves” according to your or my desire.

        Andrew Sullivan is getting heat (well deserved, IMO) for failing to respect Dr. Ride’s decision on this subject. It is particularly galling to those of us who advocate same-sex rights to watch his continuous support for an institution that is one of the chief impediments on that front.

        • gbjames
          Posted July 25, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

          *uncloseted

        • Posted July 25, 2012 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, being a gay catholic is an oxymoron if ever there was one.

          • RF
            Posted July 25, 2012 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

            The Catholic Church has no problem with gay people. As long as they remain celibate, and get counseling, of course.

      • Posted July 25, 2012 at 9:14 am | Permalink

        Those sorts of things should be challenged, which I have done. Not gay marriage so much since that’s been here for years but discrimination.

        However there is a difference between discussing gay rights and discussing people’s sexual preferences. One is an important social issue that should be discussed publicly and the other is your private business that should belongs in the bedroom (or elsewhere) and with whomever you choose to have sex.

        When people talk about how someone is gay or not I think the best response is “So what?” In high school I listened to Queen and someone was amazed I didn’t know Freddie Mercury had been gay. I asked what that had to do with his music. If you want people’s sexual orientation and practices to be something personal then I don’t think it’s good to try to push them out into the public sphere. That’s just reinforcing the idea that we should worry about someone’s orientation.

        • gbjames
          Posted July 25, 2012 at 9:32 am | Permalink

          Jason… that’s just really socially naive. Bigotry against gays (and atheists, for that matter) is reinforced by the commonly held idea that “those people are really different… in fact, I don’t even know any of them.”

          It is largely the “coming out” of large numbers of gay people that has produced the mostly-positive trends we see. Momentum is on the side of gay rights because more and more people recognize that they know and respect other people who, it turns out, are gay.

          • gbjames
            Posted July 25, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

            …more and more *straight people…

            (I sure wish I could edit things after clicking “Post Comment”)

        • Cruella deVille
          Posted July 25, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

          Really? “Out of the public sphere”? Then take that picture of your wife off your desk, stop bringing her to work functions, stop mentioning that you visited your in-laws over the weekend, STOP WEARING YOUR WEDDING RING.

          Private relationships have a public dimension.

          The unconscious straight privilege here is downright sickening.

          • Posted July 25, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

            Those aren’t public proclamations they are just people going about their lives. If you’re gay then put a picture of your partner on your desk, talk about when you visit them and wear a symbol of some sort. I’m talking about expecting people to make a public statement about who they are attracted to.

            It’s hard to say gays are just like everyone else when you’re treating it differently to everyone else. There’s no need to come out about it. If you have a gay lover and take them to an event then that is all the coming out that needs doing. It doesn’t have to be explicitly stated.

            That’s not about any sort of privilege, it’s about treating people equally.

            • gbjames
              Posted July 25, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

              Putting a picture on your desk (assuming at a worksite and not at home), wearing a wedding ring, etc. ARE public statements! That is the very nature of coming out!

              What sort of coming out are you objecting to? The kind where you make comments on blogs?

              • Gregory Kusnick
                Posted July 25, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

                I can’t speak for Jason, but clearly there are degrees of publicity. One can put a picture on one’s desk without holding a press conference about it.

                And that seems to be Sullivan’s beef with Ride. He thinks she should have been holding press conferences, when all she wanted was the picture on the desk.

            • Posted July 25, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

              Her point is that these are precisely public statements. You failing to see them as being things you are allowed to announce that other people are not is Cruella’s precise point.

            • darrelle
              Posted July 25, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

              “There’s no need to come out about it.”

              “It doesn’t have to be explicitly stated.”

              The evidence is solidly against you on this. You may want things to be that way, but things are not that way. In every case in history were civil rights have been contested, people standing up and identifying themselves as a member of the demographic being deprived of civil rights, has been a key, successful tactic in the fight to gain those rights.

              “That’s not about any sort of privilege, it’s about treating people equally.”

              I do not mean this to be in anyway derogatory, but that statement in this context shows that you have no idea what you are talking about. As in you don’t know what it is like to be denied the same civil rights as everyone else because of your sexual orientation because you literally have not experienced it. I would guess that you are heterosexual, or if you are gay that you have in some way been sheltered from the reality that most gay people experience. You posit an ideal society which does not exist, which is a worthy goal, but you need to come to the understanding that we are not their yet. We are still in the midst of the struggle.

              • Posted July 25, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

                Standing up and identifying themselves voluntarily, you mean.

              • darrelle
                Posted July 25, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

                Absolutely.

              • Posted July 25, 2012 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

                I’m not sure about every struggle. I doubt coming out as Black was particularly helpful in ending discrimination against Blacks. More seriously though, I’m not saying that you need to hide it,just live it. I’m trying to respond to both your and gbjames at the same time so here’s what I’m saying about coming out.

                If you want to consider photos and wedding rings public then alright I guess I’m fine with having it in public. What I don’t see a reason for is this need to announce it, to stand up and say, “I am gay.” To me that both is making being gay into an issue and saying that it is something that people should care about (not the rights but whether someone is or isn’t) while I think it’s none of the business of anyone not involved in the relationship. People identifying as gay might help people see that gay people are the same as them but that can also be done just by living it. Don’t make a big deal of it because it isn’t something that should be a big deal. If you go out with your partner then it shows, without needing to make a fuss about it, that you are just a normal couple. There’s nothing hidden, just keeping people’s personal lives personal. It’s about showing not telling.

                Maybe I am sheltered but I am also aware of what is happening around me. No there are no (legal) restraints to civil rights due to sexual orientation here so perhaps that does contribute to a different way of seeing things. Since you probably don’t know, I’m in South Africa where gay marriage has been legal since 2006 and in Cape Town which also has a large gay community so sure our backgrounds are different. However I’m also in the same place where “corrective rapes,” particularly against lesbians, are quite common, where many senior politicians have expressed instances of homophobia and where there have been a number of killings based on sexual orientation.

                So yes, I am well aware we are not in a perfect society but it’s also obvious we have different ideas of how best to get there.

              • darrelle
                Posted July 26, 2012 at 5:54 am | Permalink

                “What I don’t see a reason for is this need to announce it, to stand up and say, “I am gay.” To me that both is making being gay into an issue . . .”

                I don’t think our ideas on how to get there are too different, but we do differ on this one point. A gay person standing up and announcing to the public that they are gay is not making an issue out of being gay, being gay has long past been made into a major issue by the large majority of our society. And LGBT people coming out helps themselves and often others on a personal level, as well as raising awareness and acceptance in the general population.

                Other than that one point I think we are on the same page. I don’t think sexual orientation should be anybody’s business but the people in the relationship either, but at this point in history too many people feel justified in making it their business.

              • gbjames
                Posted July 26, 2012 at 6:25 am | Permalink

                “It’s about showing not telling”

                This is a distinction without a difference. Showing and telling are the same thing. I _think_ that what you are really arguing has something more to do with the style of showing/telling. It seems that you are comfortable with the styles that are more easily ignored…. One can look away from the picture on the desk. It is harder to ignore a rainbow lapel button.

                My response to you is that rainbow lapel buttons are needed as long as the “corrective rapes” and homophobic killings continue. It is important that people stand visibly against such horrors.

      • David T.
        Posted July 25, 2012 at 9:42 am | Permalink

        And this is your choice, respect other’s choice to not do this.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted July 25, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

        That is a good parallel, which I’m sure you intended, since “sinister” handedness was once suppressed and originally because of ‘sin’. (‘Them’ vs ‘ Us’.)

        My left-handed mother had to relearn for writing, and ended up ambidextrous. She still confuses map directions, because she has no reliable knob to hang them on.

        • Posted July 25, 2012 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

          my leftie brother was unable to make high right hand flow cursive & he wound up with poor penmanship in both hands.

          • jwthomas
            Posted July 25, 2012 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

            Me too.

      • RF
        Posted July 25, 2012 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

        “I just want equality and to be left alone.”
        Asking that people recognize your relationship is kinda the opposite of wanting to be left alone.

        “I can’t get married.”
        Sure you can. You just can’t have the state of California refer to it as a “marriage”.

        “I can’t visit my partner in the hospital without special documents drawn up.”
        Clearly, that is not literally true. Can you really not be bothered to state precisely what the situation is?

        • Nathair
          Posted July 26, 2012 at 4:57 am | Permalink

          “Asking that people recognize your relationship is kinda the opposite of wanting to be left alone.”

          Oops, you missed out on the “equality” half of that sentence. Equality AND to be left alone.

          ” “I can’t get married.”
          Sure you can. You just can’t have the state of California refer to it as a “marriage”.”

          And you’re 0 for 2. “Married” is a legal condition, if the law doesn’t recognize it, you don’t have it. More specifically, marriage is a legal condition entitling participants to a laundry list of benefits, if the law doesn’t recognize you as married then you do not enjoy those benefits. It is absolutely not about being able to just consider ourselves married.

          ” “I can’t visit my partner in the hospital without special documents drawn up.”
          Clearly, that is not literally true. ”

          And you’re out! Hospitals participating in Medicare must (beginning only last year) allow patients to draw up special documents declaring who has access to visit them and who has the right to make decisions for them. Such rights as are generally automatically applied to actual, legally recognized spouses.

          “Can you really not be bothered to state precisely what the situation is?”
          Right back at you.

          • RF
            Posted July 26, 2012 at 11:32 am | Permalink

            “Oops, you missed out on the “equality” half of that sentence. Equality AND to be left alone.”
            No, I didn’t miss it. Perhaps you don’t understand what the word “and” means?

            ” “Married” is a legal condition, if the law doesn’t recognize it, you don’t have it.”
            It’s not *solely* a legal condition.

            “More specifically, marriage is a legal condition entitling participants to a laundry list of benefits”
            Which are given to same-sex unions in California.

            ”And you’re out! Hospitals participating in Medicare must (beginning only last year) allow patients to draw up special documents declaring who has access to visit them and who has the right to make decisions for them.”
            Your claim was that you MUST draw up special documents, not that hospitals must ALLOW you to draw up documents. Do you have a cite for the claim that without special documents, all hospital visits by same-sex partners are barred?

            • Nathair
              Posted July 26, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

              Sorry, I guess I was mistaken about where you were mistaken. Is it the word “recognized” that is causing the problem? Perhaps it is since people can have the state recognize their relationship and leave them alone. That’s the default condition for straight people. Or maybe it’s “left alone” which is causing confusion? In this case means not to be unduly interfered with. Again, I refer you to straight couples as the example of how that works.

              Point: marriage not *solely* being a legal condition.

              The fact that it is partially a legal condition and that that legal portion of the relationship does not obtain means that you are not married. If you want to call it half-married, near-married or second-class-married then feel free.

              Point:Same-sex unions in California enjoy all the benefits of marriage.

              Again, only if you mean second-class marriage.

              Point:You don’t believe that hospitals deny visitation to same sex partners.

              http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/presidential-memorandum-hospital-visitation

              • RF
                Posted July 28, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

                You don’t want the government to recognize your relationship and then leave you alone. You want the government to recognize your relationship, and then give you rights that single people aren’t given. “left alone” does not merely mean the absence of negative interactions; it means the absence of interactions in general.

                When you phrase the situation as that you are not allowed to get married, the structure of that phrasing indicates that your actions are being restricted, not that the government’s actions are being restricted. People have been subjected to criminal prosecution for getting married to more than one woman, their close relative, and (in the past) someone of the same race. I don’t know of any case in which anyone was subjected to criminal prosecution for marrying someone of the same sex.

                As for the third point, I assume your intent in posting that link was to draw attention to this sentence: “Also uniquely affected are gay and lesbian Americans who are often barred from the bedsides of the partners with whom they may have spent decades of their lives”. As I have said, your literal claim was not that gay people are “often” barred, but that they are *always* barred. You have provided no citation for that claim. And really, given that Obama himself gives no source for his claim, and given that he’s proven himself to be a liar, you haven’t really given any proof that any gay people are barred from hospitals, let alone that this happens in California. Over and over again I’ve seen people make claims along these lines, and I’ve never been able to get anyone to clarify exactly what the claim is. Is it that hospitals are allowed to bar anyone they want, and some of them bar gay partners? Is it that they are not allowed to bar legal spouses, but they are allowed to bar anyone else? Is it that they are required to bar anyone who isn’t a spouse? Does this apply to hospital visits in general, or visits to someone who is in a coma or otherwise unable to express their wishes as to who should be allowed to visit?

              • Nathair
                Posted July 29, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

                “You want the government to give you rights that single people aren’t given.”

                That’s a pretty interesting way of putting it. How exactly would you apply spousal hospital visitation rights or spousal pension benefits to a single person? Nevermind, I don’t actually care since that is a completely unrelated issue. What I want, what I expect, is for the government to treat me in exactly the same way that it treats straight people, with no special rights or obstacles. Having one set of rules for straight couples and a completely different set for gay couples is shameful.

                “When you phrase the situation as that you are not allowed to get married, the structure of that phrasing indicates that your actions are being restricted”

                That is exactly correct. If I want to legally marry my romantic partner and can not, because the state refuses to issue a license to people like me, then my actions are being restricted. There is no need for a legal penalty to enforce something which has been made impossible.

                “your literal claim was not that gay people are “often” barred, but that they are *always* barred. You have provided no citation for that claim.”

                This is puerile hair splitting. That I must draw up special documents else my ability to visit my partner in hospital and make decisions on their behalf rests entirely upon the whim of some random hospital employee (a situation which has far too often ended in the most wrenching human tragedies) is not significantly ameliorated because, with luck, they might, maybe, decide to treat me as a human being all on their own. That you would rather wax pedantic than acknowledge the simple horror of this situation speaks volumes.

              • RF
                Posted July 29, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

                “This is puerile hair splitting.”
                No, it’s not. And if it were, I specifically stated in my first post that I was responding to your literal statement, and you continued to insist that your literal statement was true. If you do not wish to be called on a claim, if you find it “puerile hair splitting” for me to challenge it, then you shouldn’t insist on making it in the first place. Insisting that your statement isn’t the least bit hyperbolic, and then referring to my argument that it is hyperbolic as “puerile hair splitting” is just a load of dishonest bullshit.

                “That you would rather wax pedantic than acknowledge the simple horror of this situation speaks volumes.”
                I have asked you again and again to clarify just what the situation is, and you have refused to comply. The fact that you have claimed that there is some restriction, but adamantly refuse to engage in any reasonable discussion as to what that restriction is, and instead make dishonest attacks, speaks volumes. I know that your statement is not literally true. And given your utter lack of argument, I suspect it isn’t even sort of true.

              • Nathair
                Posted July 29, 2012 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

                “I specifically stated in my first post that I was responding to your literal statement”

                No, you didn’t because no, you weren’t. You objected to Cruella deVille’s statement about her own personal access to her partner in hospital. Apparently you have somehow been confused by the fact that some people have been allowed access to their partners without legal wrangling into thinking that therefore Cruella deVille is one of them.

                “I know that your statement is not literally true. And given your utter lack of argument, I suspect it isn’t even sort of true.”

                Someone so fixated on hair-splitting strictly literal interpretations should really try to keep better track of what was actually said and who actually said it. The claim that “all hospital visits by same-sex partners are barred” was just a strawman you set up. I did not say it. When you said to me “Your claim was that you MUST draw up special documents” that was also a strawman. I did not say that either.

                Absolute, 100% denial of all access at all hospitals in all cases nationwide is not the claim and not the issue. Bigotry and cruelty are not rendered harmless or insignificant because they are ‘merely’ commonplace, rather than absolutely universal. That is the childish idea I noted earlier.

              • RF
                Posted July 30, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

                “Apparently you have somehow been confused by the fact that some people have been allowed access to their partners without legal wrangling into thinking that therefore Cruella deVille is one of them.”
                I have based my posts on the assumption that there is not a nationwide conspiracy specifically targeting Cruella deVille, putting impediments in her path that exist for no other person in the country. A bit of a leap of faith, I admit, but I find it a reasonable one to make.

                “Someone so fixated on hair-splitting”
                I am not “hairsplitting”. You’re wrong. Period. Admit it. Enough with this bullshit “you’re hairsplitting” defense. When you make a point that’s wrong, and someone points out that it’s wrong, “you’re hairsplitting” is just a pathetic excuse to avoid admitting that you’re wrong.

                “strictly literal interpretations”
                You’re the one who focused on the literal interpretation. I stated that the literal interpretation was not true, and then prompted her to explain what the intended meaning was. I did not mention the literal interpretation for the purpose of pedantry, but rather to call attention to the fact that CdV presumably had some other, non-literal, meaning that she was intending, but refusing to explicitly present. You cut off that last part, and YOU fixated on the literal interpretation. I was fully willing to discuss with CdV whatever her actual claim, as soon as she actually said what it was.

                CdV said “I can’t visit my partner in the hospital without special documents drawn up.” You quoted me as replying “Clearly, that is not literally true.” Now, you could have claimed, at that point, that my statement was hairsplitting, and I could have pointed out that you were taking that quote out of context, and my focus was not in fact on the literal meaning. Instead, you indicated that you believed that my statement was wrong, and posted some stuff was only tangentially related to my point. When I pointed out that you hadn’t really supported your position, you posted an ambiguous characterization of my position and a link that yet again did not prove your point. When I pointed this out, you started whining about “pedantry”. I don’t see how clarifying an apparent misrepresentation of my position is “pedantry”.

                “The claim that “all hospital visits by same-sex partners are barred” was just a strawman you set up. I did not say it.”
                You’re just an endless source of bullshit, aren’t you? I said that not all hospital visits by same-sex visitors are barred. You disagreed with me. Therefore, you were saying that all hospital visits by same-sex partners are barred.

                “Absolute, 100% denial of all access at all hospitals in all cases nationwide is not the claim”
                Yes, it is. Because you chose to make that the issue.

                “and not the issue.”
                Then what IS the issue? Why do you REFUSE to state precisely what your claim as to in what circumstances people are refused access? You keep whining about me addressing what you ACTUALLY SAID, on the basis of “oh, that’s not what I really meant”, but you REFUSE to say what it is that you really meant.

                “Bigotry and cruelty are not rendered harmless or insignificant because they are ‘merely’ commonplace, rather than absolutely universal. That is the childish idea I noted earlier.”
                And when did I ever say that? The only strawmen in this discussion are yours.

              • Nathair
                Posted July 31, 2012 at 7:37 am | Permalink

                “a nationwide conspiracy specifically targeting Cruella deVille, putting impediments in her path that exist for no other person in the country. ”

                That is ridiculous. Nobody said that. Nobody said or suggested anything remotely like that. I am finished acknowledging your asinine strawmen. You want any response you quote what you want explained. Quote, not paraphrase.

                “I said that not all hospital visits by same-sex visitors are barred. You disagreed with me. Therefore, you were saying that all hospital visits by same-sex partners are barred.” No. 1) You didn’t say that. 2) My response did not say or mean what you apparently want it to have meant. 3) Read what I said, that’s what I meant.

                “Why do you REFUSE to state precisely what your claim as to in what circumstances people are refused access?”

                It is not complicated. People are refused access in the very broad circumstance that they are the same gender as their partner or the children of same sex partners or even the sister of someone gay and are unlucky in their “choice” of hospital. Like Janice Langbehn in Florida, Linda Cole in Maryland, Val Burke in Tennessee, Joao Simoes in New Jersey etc. etc. etc. I’m not your research assistant. Google doesn’t charge for searches.

              • RF
                Posted August 1, 2012 at 12:58 am | Permalink

                “That is ridiculous. Nobody said that.”
                I never said they did. I’d try to explain my point in posting what you quoted, but from your previous posts, it’s unlikely that you would be willing/able to comprehend.

                “Nobody said or suggested anything remotely like that.”
                You suggested that she was being treated differently from other gay people.

                ““I said that not all hospital visits by same-sex visitors are barred. You disagreed with me. Therefore, you were saying that all hospital visits by same-sex partners are barred.” No. 1) You didn’t say that.”
                I said that CvD’s literal statement was false. CvD’s literal statement (barring a massive conspiracy, which you just got pissed off at me for saying that I am assuming does not exist) was that all gay people are barred from visiting their partners at the hospital. Therefore, by stating that CvD’s literal statement was false, I was saying that not all hospital visits by same-sex visitors are barred. I also wrote
                “Do you have a cite for the claim that without special documents, all hospital visits by same-sex partners are barred?”
                I posted that. It’s right there. Posted July 26, 2012 at 11:32 am. I see no valid justification for you not acknowledging this point.

                “2) My response did not say or mean what you apparently want it to have meant.”
                Any reasonable person would have read it that way. When someone asks “Do you have a cite for the claim that without special documents, all hospital visits by same-sex partners are barred?” and you respond by posting a link, any reasonable person would interpret you as asserting that that link shows that without special documents, all hospital visits by same-sex partners are barred. If you meant something other than what your words plainly communicated, then that’s not my fault.

                “3) Read what I said, that’s what I meant.”
                How about YOU read what *I* wrote? When I have a conversation with someone, I generally proceed with the assumption that what they are saying is in response to what I’m saying. Under that assumption, you meant that gay people (or, at the very least, CdV) are barred from ALL hospitals. If, on the other hand, I am misunderstanding your posts because you were being a evasive asshole, well, that’s your own damn fault.

                Here is what happened in this thread:

                CdV wrote ““I can’t visit my partner in the hospital without special documents drawn up.”
                The literal meaning of that statement was that she is barred at EVERY HOSPITAL. I said that the literal meaning of that statement was false. I said that NOT for the purpose of being pedantic, but to point out that the actual meaning of her statement wasn’t explicitly stated. You expressed disagreement with my claim that the literal meaning was false. We had an entire conversation predicated on you disagreeing with that. When you first expressed disagreement with me, I clarified that I was saying that not all hospital visits by same-sex partners are barred. When you *continued* to express disagreement with me, I *again* clarified what I was disagreeing with, at which point you accused me of being “pedantic”, based on a complete misrepresentation of what I was saying. Now, I’m going to give you one more chance to explain your behavior before I conclude once and for all that you’re just a raging asshole. I think I’ve been more than patient in trying to remain as agnostic on that point as I can up to this point, but the evidence is becoming overwhelming.

                “People are refused access in the very broad circumstance that they are the same gender as their partner or the children of same sex partners or even the sister of someone gay and are unlucky in their “choice” of hospital.”
                So, there is a hospital where anyone with a gay sister is barred from visiting people in the hospital? Because earlier you said “Read what I said, that’s what I meant.” and so apparently I’m supposed to read what you say literally. But I’ll give you that you probably meant “There is a hospital where all lesbians are barred from being visited by their sister”. I will not, however accept “There is a hospital where a particular lesbian was barred from being visited by her sister”, because that is not what you said.

                “Like Janice Langbehn in Florida, Linda Cole in Maryland, Val Burke in Tennessee, Joao Simoes in New Jersey etc. etc. etc.”
                I’m asking you tell me what you claim the HOSPITAL POLICIES are, not give me particular cases. “A gay person was barred from visiting her partner” and “There’s a blanket prohibition against gay people visiting their partners” are two completely different things.

                “I’m not your research assistant.”
                When someone asks you to actually explain precisely what your assertion is, responding “I’m not your research assistant” is just an idiotic response. Google can’t tell me what your assertion is. Only you can.

  9. 1000 Needles
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    It’s a safe bet that, had Sally Ride been public about her sexuality, especially 20 or 30 years ago, she would not have been able to have the incredible impact that she did on science education and outreach.

    It isn’t far-fetched to imagine the homophobes and conservatives using her as “evidence” that women interested in science and space are just a bunch of bull-dyke lesbians trying to act like the menz.

    I think Andrew Sullivan is wrong, and it is likely that Sally Ride had the maximum positive impact that she could have with her life. She was a hero and a role model where ones were desperately needed, at the intersection of women and science. Now she is also a role model for the LGBT community, and a direct refutation of every shitty claim that homophobes make about same-sex relationships.

    What more could you possibly ask of one person?

    • Nathair
      Posted July 26, 2012 at 5:16 am | Permalink

      “It’s a safe bet that, had Sally Ride been public about her sexuality, especially 20 or 30 years ago, she would not have been able to have the incredible impact that she did on science education and outreach.”

      Let’s rephrase that. How about “It’s a safe bet that if Sally Ride had been public about her sexuality at any time in the last thirty years she would have had an incredible impact on human rights education and outreach.” That looks fair to me.

      Nobody is saying that she was required to hold a full press conference thirty years ago. What is being said is that she had an open opportunity over the last thirty years to have this impact on human rights education and outreach and chose not to do it. As Anderson Cooper said when he came (the rest of the way) out “while as a society we are moving toward greater inclusion and equality for all people, the tide of history only advances when people make themselves fully visible.”

  10. Bruce S. Springsteen
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    Sullivan shows a lack of strategic imagination and psychological insight. Ride could have come out early and alientated a large percentage of her potential fan base, never having the chance to break through their homophobia, or she could let people admire her for her character and accomplishments, then at the end of her life say “by the way, I was gay” and leave her anti-gay fans to twist in the cognitive dissonance, maybe giving them a boost into the kind of insight anti-gay parents acquire when a child they already love comes out. Andrew just isn’t arch enough in his understanding of how minds change. Sometimes keeping a poker face until the bets are down and the hand is called is the way to win.

    • darrelle
      Posted July 25, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      My thoughts exactly. I might be a bit biased though since I don’t like Sullivan.

    • Posted July 25, 2012 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

      what’s that they say about walking softly & carrying a big stick?

  11. David T.
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    I say respect her privacy, the only time I think an outting is acceptable is in the case of someone like Ted Haggard. If she didn’t want to make a big public deal about her sexuality then that should be respected not ridiculed.

    • Posted July 25, 2012 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, Haggard & that congressman in the airport — Larry ? something? Gay bashers deservedly outed.

  12. Voltaire 2
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    I had no idea Sally Ride was gay and I consider myself quite knowledgable about the space program. Which just shows it is none of my business and what mattered is whether Ride was a good astronaut or not, which she obviously was. And her promotion of science matters even more.

    Does Andrew Sullivan know how to fly a Space Shuttle? Didn’t think so.

    RIP Dr. Ride.

  13. Voltaire 2
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    And Dr. Coyne is right – if Ride had come out in the 1980s, she could have said goodbye to her career. Look at the previous posts with all those sexist comments by the media. We were still pretty backwards when Ride became the first American woman in space. Things are somewhat better, though much of it was still surface.

    Women are actually better suited for space travel than men. That’s one reason the Mercury 13 did as well and even better than the Mercury 7 during those rigorous tests in 1960. But only men could be test pilots, so a nice Catch-22 kept women out of NASA until 1978.

    Humanity has a lot of growing up to do.

    • lamacher
      Posted July 25, 2012 at 6:57 am | Permalink

      Exactly. And so does Andrew Sullivan.

    • RF
      Posted July 25, 2012 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

      “Women are actually better suited for space travel than men. That’s one reason the Mercury 13 did as well and even better than the Mercury 7 during those rigorous tests in 1960.”
      Do you have any basis for any of those claims?

      “But only men could be test pilots, so a nice Catch-22 kept women out of NASA until 1978.”
      That’s not a Catch-22 unless being an astronaut is a prerequisite for being a test pilot. “Catch-22″ is not a synonym for “unfair situation”.

  14. steve oberski
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    It’s ironic that Sullivan castigates Sally Ride for not being a role model for young people (of any sexual orientation by the way) when he himself indulges in a sick, twisted and pathological relationship with one of the most destructive and antagonistic forces that people with a non approved gender and sexual orientation face today, namely the Catholic Church.

    Modify your own disgusting behavior Mr. Sullivan and then perhaps you can be taken seriously in matters like this.

    And while you’re at it, open up comments on your own site, your pontificating, pusillanimous coward.

    • goodforyou
      Posted July 25, 2012 at 7:52 am | Permalink

      Ha, ha! Fat chance of that happening.

    • tomh
      Posted July 25, 2012 at 7:55 am | Permalink

      Yes. My opinion of Sullivan exactly.

    • gbjames
      Posted July 25, 2012 at 7:58 am | Permalink

      The inability to respond on his blog drives me crazy. I grant that he has a right to run it as he likes, but I do think that not allowing comments exposes a certain kind of spinelessness.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted July 25, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      +1.

    • darrelle
      Posted July 25, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

      +1 more. You expressed my thoughts better than I could.

    • RF
      Posted July 25, 2012 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

      Wow, the internet age sure has developed some odd standards. “Hey, Jefferson, nice work on that Declaration of Independence, but don’t you think you could have left a little more room at the bottom for comments?” Especially odd since I was castigated for bringing up issues I had with another WEIT post in the comments. In another thread, gbjames wrote, regarding my comment that it’s unseemly to delete any comment that one does not like, “More unseemly, IMO, is whining about a host’s policy. You don’t like the furniture? Don’t go over and ask to sit in the living room. You and I have no right to arrange it to our taste and complaining about it to the neighbors is kind of tacky. That’s the way this Internet machine works.”

      • steve oberski
        Posted July 26, 2012 at 8:45 am | Permalink

        Andrew Sullivan is free to have any policy he wants on his blog.

        I’m free to point out that he is an intellectual coward to make controversial statements and then hide behind a no comments policy.

        You are free to play the hurt feelings card for being called out for earlier comments.

        That’s the way the marketplace of ideas works.

        • Nathair
          Posted July 26, 2012 at 8:56 am | Permalink

          Right, because Sullivan, the author, editor, activist and public figure has completely insulated himself from all criticism by not allowing comments on his blog.

          • steve oberski
            Posted July 26, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

            He certainly would be if people like Jerry Coyne (I’m under no illusion that anything I have to say on the matter will have any effect) did not point out the hypocrisy of his stance.

            • Nathair
              Posted July 26, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

              So, let’s recap. If people could not criticize him through any other medium than blog comments, which they can, then his not allowing blog comments would insulate him from criticism, which it doesn’t. Therefore it is relevant in this discussion of Sally Ride to call him a coward. Is that about it?

              • steve oberski
                Posted July 27, 2012 at 5:38 am | Permalink

                That’s your recap, not mine.

              • Nathair
                Posted July 27, 2012 at 6:17 am | Permalink

                Yes, that was my recap. It was followed by my question, “Is that about it?” That was an invitation for you to either accept my recap or to explain how it is incorrect. That invitation stands.

    • Gordon Hill
      Posted July 26, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

      When I consider what Sally Ride did with her life, I feel I can dismiss criticism of her, especially for not revealing personal details that are nobody’s business.

      As for being a role model, I’m of the opinion that they are chosen not imposed. Everyone is an example. Whether we pass muster as a role model is up to the beholder.

      I think she was great and honor her life.

  15. Kevin
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    Well, I think one has to deal with the motivations of the newspaper obituary writers and editors more than Ride’s desire for privacy.

    Her obit was in my local rag this morning – no mention of survivors at all.

    Whether you like it or not, her sexual orientation is news. Because it’s out of the ordinary, and because we’re smack dab in the middle of a huge societal discussion about gay marriage in the US.

    Ride was “out” to those who knew her. She didn’t schedule a news conference. OK. I respect that. It’s no big deal to me who she cohabitates with.

    But ignoring the obvious political/social interest in it at her death seems to me to speak volumes about the discomfort of newspaper editors with the subject.

  16. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Obviously, Ride’s main commitment was to science and space, which (for whatever reason) trumped issues of gay awareness which she probably felt was already in good hands on other fronts.

    Sullivan’s continued Catholicism (& the accompanying cognitive dissonance) apparently makes him hyper-sensitive to outing issues and “hypo-sensitive” to privacy issues.

  17. Living Fossil
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    One of the unfortunate consequences of society’s denial of homosexuality’s existence is that many, one is too many, LGBTQs feel their sexual affectation is wrong and enter heterosexual relationships which can lead to marriage, even children, and frequently divorce to live with their partner.

    It takes a person of high courage to admit their homosexuality, less today than twenty seven years ago, but our discriminatory practices against them force the situation, especially if they are in the public eye and want to perform at a high professional level in government or quasi-government organizations.

    She was great and the idiots love to pick at greatness.

  18. Andy Dufresne
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    The Times‘ obit doesn’t go out of its way to emphasize Ride’s sexual orientation, but to suggest the reason must be homophobia seems pretty harsh. There’s a range of reasons why this or that fact would be emphasized or not emphasized in a newspaper obit. And so it’s conceivable that the reason Ride was not called out as a member of the LGBT community was innocent. I would wager that the Times simply has a policy that prohibits writers from characterizing someone’s sexual orientation unless that person is “officially out.” I’m guessing, before a couple of weeks ago, Times reporters would have been prohibited from characterizing Anderson Cooper as “gay CNN anchor….” If Ride never publicly came out, then I’m willing to bet the paper’s internal practices prohibited the use of the L word.

  19. gbjames
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    The NY Times has an Editor’s piece on Sally Ride and DOMA.

    takingnote.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/24/sally-ride-and-doma/

  20. Posted July 25, 2012 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    She could’ve been bisexual. Just putting it out there.

  21. Posted July 25, 2012 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    A bit tangential, but I have to assume that during her life Sally heard the song that was obviously written for her: Mustang Sally, which is performed by the fictional Irish band The Commitments in the movie of the same name:

    “Ride, Sally, ride…”

    • gbjames
      Posted July 25, 2012 at 9:35 am | Permalink

      When Mustang Sally was written (in 1964 or 1965), Sally Ride was only 13 or 14 years old.

      I’m sure she probably enjoyed the song, but not because it was written for her.

      • Posted July 25, 2012 at 9:42 am | Permalink

        I was being facetious of course; a (very) modest attempt at humor.

        • gbjames
          Posted July 25, 2012 at 9:54 am | Permalink

          I thought maybe you were one of those damn kids. ;)

  22. Nom de Plume
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    but also goes after Ride herself for remaining in the closet.

    I don’t understand how Ride could have been “in the closet” in any meaningful sense. Apparently she was openly living with another woman for the last 27 years of her life, so presumably this fact was known to everyone in her (probably large) circle of friends and family. She just chose not to make a big deal of it.

  23. gerard26
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Mr. Sullivan is a hypocrite for sure, he attacks Ms. Ride for not revealing her sexual orientation a move that would have had a negative impact on her career had she done that at the time. He, however, is devoted to a superstitious christian cult, catholics, that see him as the embodiment of sin and has condemned him to eternal damnation. It is clear who is the absent hero.

    • Nathair
      Posted July 26, 2012 at 5:28 am | Permalink

      “a move that would have had a negative impact on her career had she done that at the time.”

      At which time? She was only in NASA for nine years, leaving way back in 1987 to go into research. I’m pretty sure that if she had been in the, say, 2008 Pride Parade it would have had a minimal effect on her career.

  24. matt
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    “But the truth remains: she had a chance to expand people’s horizons and young lesbians’ hope and self-esteem, and she chose not to.”

    why doesn’t sullivan allow comments on his site?

    seriously, who cares if she was gay or straight? it’s the last thing i’m concerned about in regards to her legacy. being gay does not oblige someone, influential or not, to spread awareness about it. his calling the NYT homophobic, etc. is just asinine. andrew sullivan is a viewpoint that is not worth listening to on any matter, in my opinion.

    • Posted July 25, 2012 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      Sullivan doesn’t allow comments on his site because he doesn’t like dealing with comments. It’s a pretty poor reason.

      As a bisexual, I care very much that she was queer, too. It is important to see people like me accomplish amazing things and be advocates for other things that I care about. Being able to identify with people in a variety of ways makes us feel closer to that person and breaks down barriers that stand in the way of achievement. Being the first LGBT person in space is as inspiring to LGBT people as being the American woman in space is to American women.

      This is similar to why “I don’t see race,” is not really a great way to approach things. You’re erasing a lived cultural existence, not attempting to understand a person and the factors that made up their life but treating them as if they were just like you. In many ways they are, but in many ways that isn’t the case, and to understand people we need to address them on their terms, not our own.

      I agree with you that Sullivan is being asinine on this point and that nobody has the right to demand that others come out when they don’t want to, but that single line in an obit means a whole hell of a lot to hundreds of thousands of queer people.

      • goodolddays
        Posted July 25, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

        Dr. Ride was 61. She was from a generation that wasn’t as out and about as are younger gay Americans these days. I think of the huge life differences between my black 95-year-old southern born father and his 10-year-old great grandson. Very different times and experiences indeed. We can not discount how these difference played out in how Dr. Ride chose to privately live her life. Just sayin.’

        • Posted July 25, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

          I agree. I was more responding to the idea that we shouldn’t care that she was LGBT. Of course we should care, it means a lot to other people to know this now. Sullivan is being ridiculous to suggest that she was somehow obligated to come out, but since it is known now it does make a huge difference to people.

          • Nathair
            Posted July 26, 2012 at 5:32 am | Permalink

            “Sullivan is being ridiculous to suggest that she was somehow obligated to come out”

            And where did he suggest that?

            • Posted July 26, 2012 at 6:11 am | Permalink

              “…she had a chance to expand people’s horizons and young lesbians’ hope and self-esteem, and she chose not to.

              She was the absent heroine.”

              Right there. It is not her responsibility to come out for the sake of expanding anybody else’s horizons, nor for any young lesbian’s hope and self-esteem. She was not an “absent heroine,” she is a heroine, and whether or not Sullivan approves that she spent her life inspiring people in general into science rather than providing a specifically LGBT role model or not is irrelevant to her life.

              I would prefer she came out while still alive, but I’m not ready to condemn people that don’t as long as they aren’t actively working against LGBT rights.

              • gbjames
                Posted July 26, 2012 at 6:33 am | Permalink

                Bingo.

              • Nathair
                Posted July 26, 2012 at 7:03 am | Permalink

                No. “She had the chance” is not the same as “She had the obligation”.

                Sullivan has enough problems with what he actually says, let’s try not to invent things he didn’t say to criticize him over.

              • Posted July 26, 2012 at 7:09 am | Permalink

                “She was an absent heroine” implies an obligation. Considering the number of things she did in her life that were heroic and quite present, it’s ludicrous to suggest that she was in any way “absent.” Considering this statement follows the one about her missed chance, the implication is clear that he feels for her to be “present,” she must have come out.

              • Nathair
                Posted July 26, 2012 at 7:23 am | Permalink

                ““She was an absent heroine” implies an obligation”

                Nonsense. She was a hero, or heroine if you must. She was absent from the movement. Those are the facts. I, like Sullivan, wish she had used her hero status to inspire and educate in and about the LGBT community, but she didn’t. That’s it. I wish she had, but she didn’t. How you get from there to “She was obligated to do so” is beyond me. Clearly she was in no way obligated to do anything of the kind.

              • Posted July 26, 2012 at 7:34 am | Permalink

                If that was his intension, then it’s a strictly meaningless statement. She was a heroine and not involved in the LGBT movement? So what? Everybody has a chance to stand for LGBT rights either as a member of the community or an ally. Should we then categorize everybody who isn’t actively involved in the fight as an “absent hero or heroine”? They all have the chance to inspire LGBT kids either by their example or their acceptance, so why does this only apply to closeted lesbians?

                She neither should nor shouldn’t have come out, it was her decision. I wish she had been active in the LGBT movement as well and think that all queer people should come out, but I am unwilling to categorize them as specifically being an absent anything as a result.

                By your definition (i.e. she was a heroine and absent from the movement), then she was an absent heroine for a number of people and causes she could have supported and identified with. She focused her later life on STEM education for children.

              • Nathair
                Posted July 26, 2012 at 8:26 am | Permalink

                “By your definition then she was an absent heroine for a number of people and causes she could have supported and identified with.”

                Yes, she was. However she was actually a member of the LGBT community. That is a significant fact. It gave her the very rare opportunity to demonstrate that being a bona fide top tier American hero and being a lesbian are not mutually exclusive. That would have been very helpful to the community. Sullivan, being an activist in the community, said so. And, of course, so have many other people not currently being pilloried on WEIT for saying it. Fred Sainz, for example, who said “For her not to have shared an incredibly important aspect of her life — being in a committed long-term relationship with a woman — meant many Americans did not get to see a dimension of her life that would have helped them understand us and our contributions to society.”

      • darrelle
        Posted July 25, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

        Well said Moonpanther.

      • RF
        Posted July 25, 2012 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

        “You’re erasing a lived cultural existence, not attempting to understand a person and the factors that made up their life but treating them as if they were just like you. In many ways they are, but in many ways that isn’t the case, and to understand people we need to address them on their terms, not our own.”
        You may think that mutilating the English language makes you sound like an avant-garde intellectual, but all it does is obscures the issues and frustrates meaningful communication. Unless a person, after meeting me, no longer has their “lived cultural existence”, I have not “erased it”. I have, at worst, simply failed to recognize it. And if the only basis on which I am “recognizing” differing culture is through skin color, that sound an awful like racism to me. How about I attempt to “understand a person and the factors that made up their life” by getting to know them, rather than simply resorting to stereotypes? Seeing race is addressing them on my terms, because my understanding of “race” is simply a category that I have constructed.

        • Posted July 26, 2012 at 6:15 am | Permalink

          Look up what terms mean before addressing them, please (i.e “erasure”). And strawman arguments (“And if the only basis on which…”) are unbecoming.

  25. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    If Sullivan is suggesting that Ride should have come out before her shuttle flights, he’s overlooking the fact that she was married to a man at the time, and therefore probably still conflicted about her own sexuality.

    If he’s arguing that she should have come out after she was famous, well, she’s out now, and still famous, and Sullivan has what he wants. Where’s the problem?

  26. Posted July 25, 2012 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    One thing that’s missing in all of this is that the obit published by Sally Ride Science, which was written by Ride herself, also only mentioned her partner in passing at the end. This wasn’t the Times making a statement one way or another, it was entirely consistent with the actions of the deceased.

    To an extent, I agree with Sullivan in that I also think that LGBT people should be open and public about their sexuality, but I can’t agree that she was somehow abdicating some mythical responsibility by not doing so. She is not obligated to be a role model for anybody. Of course she was a role model for many people, including Eileen Collins, the first woman to fly the shuttle and later the first woman commander of a shuttle mission. That she wasn’t also somebody specifically for young lesbians to look up to is not something that she needed to be concerned with.

    And now that she is out, she can be a role model to young lesbian girls who are interested in science. Her memory is sufficient to serve as a reminder that people who they can identify with on a number of levels have accomplished great things. Bemoaning any time that she could have been active is an exercise in abject futility.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted July 25, 2012 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      I can’t find that self-written obit on the site. Do you have a link?

      • gbjames
        Posted July 25, 2012 at 11:06 am | Permalink

        Is this it? (It doesn’t say who wrote it)

        https://www.sallyridescience.com/sallyride/bio

        • Posted July 25, 2012 at 11:16 am | Permalink

          That’s the one. Looking at my information, I could be jumping to conclusions that she personally wrote it, though. According to Reuters the statement was prepared before her death, which I now think could mean it was just written in advance. There’s a lot of implication that Ride did, both from SRS and her sister, Bear, but it’s a detail that nobody seems to be in a position to care to confirm.

          Either way, I think it can be argued that the Times doing no more than the obit on her own website is not some sort of homophobic attack. Still, I feel slightly embarrassed for jumping to a conclusion on this one.

  27. Posted July 25, 2012 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Richard Bottoms replies to Andrew Sullivan (and David Link) atIndependent Gay Forum. Money quote:

    So Sally Ride died without marching in a pride parade, well tell you what bub, you sit on top a couple million pounds of high explosives and rocket into space, then get back to me about bravery.

    Although, like Sullivan, I was unaware of Ride’s sexual orientation (which may have been complex: she was married for 5 years to a fellow [male] astronaut), it’s not clear that she was in any way hiding it. The International Business Times reports, “Though Ride was open about her partnership with O’Shaughnessy, it does not appear to have been a controversial topic.”

    And finally, in defense of Sullivan, he does read the emails readers send him, and frequently posts them, including ones calling him out or disagreeing with him; and, he does change his mind. Given the volume of pointless and ignorant bile that one encounters in, say, Paul Krugman’s comments, I can sympathize with Sullivan’s “Letters to the Editor” model.

    • gbjames
      Posted July 25, 2012 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      I find it a bit ironic that we’re over here at WEIT, where there is a relatively low level of pointless and ignorant bile, commenting on an (IMO) ignorant and somewhat bile-some post at Sullivan’s site… because he doesn’t respect his readers enough to allow them a voice.

      • RF
        Posted July 25, 2012 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

        Relatively low? Relative to what? What we’ve come to accept on the internet in general?

        • gbjames
          Posted July 26, 2012 at 5:36 am | Permalink

          Relatively low compared to a great many other blogs and web sites I’ve read and commented at. I assume that others’ experiences are similar.

    • Andy Dufresne
      Posted July 25, 2012 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      Slightly off-topic, but I also sympathize with Sullivan’s no-comments-but-post-reader-e-mails model. It’s defensible, and the reasons he gives are fairly good. The sheer number of comments he would have to moderate, gives his traffic, would be daunting. Not having to do that, I would think, gives him time to post as much as he does (not to mention he literally employs a small staff that helps him produce much of his content).

      • gbjames
        Posted July 25, 2012 at 11:51 am | Permalink

        When I send an email to Sullivan I have no idea if it is read or simply sucked into a bit bucket. When I comment on WEIT I don’t usually know if Jerry will see it but at least I know that the comment will be seen by SOMEONE. It may be roundly trounced, but at least I feel respected by our host enough to be given a voice. As a reader, I find Sullivan’s position is dismissive of his readers’ opinions. It is as if only his voice counts. His prerogative, of course, but I find it disrespectful.

        • Andy Dufresne
          Posted July 25, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

          That’s understandable, absolutely.

          It actually just occurred to me that Sullivan, given that his blog really is extremely successful, could simply hire a couple more people to manage the comments for him. His masthead shows that the Dish staff includes a “Poetry Editor,” which is super cool and all, but couldn’t that mean there just might be room for a couple of comment mods? Moderating comments for a high-traffic site like that seems like more work than it actually ends up being…

        • Posted July 25, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

          I’m pretty sure he and/or his editors read every email. He even occasionally responds in an email to the reader. If you want less filtered commentary, or to comment publicly yourself, you can always just do it at his blog’s Facebook page. Comments posted there are also sometimes posted at the main blog.

          • gbjames
            Posted July 25, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

            Well, unlike Sullivan, I’m not willing to take such things on faith. ;)

            Regarding the Facebook option, I don’t think that works very well. One ought to be able to comment without losing context. I’d rather do it here on WEIT where there are intelligent folk to interact with (excepting the occasional troll).

  28. Janice C
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    This interview with Sally Ride’s gay sister might be of interest in the current discussion:

    http://blogs.browardpalmbeach.com/pulp/2012/07/former_astronaut_sally_ride_re.php

    “– the battle of choice was science education for kids. And I just hope that all the different components of Sally’s life go towards helping kids.”

  29. Randy
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    “We have no moral right to criticize someone for keeping their beliefs private”

    These aren’t beliefs. We’re talking about a real relationship that existed between two real people. It was hidden like a dirty family secret. Ride was every bit the absent heroine Sullivan says she was. What Sullivan is, doesn’t matter. We’re talking about Ride.

    “And is it all that important these days?”

    Silly question. Quite obviously it is, not just to large portions of the US, but most of the world. It’s about as important as the fact she was in space with a vagina instead of a penis. You seem to regard that as important, heroic, for some reason. I wonder why.

    But most revealingly, it was important to Sally to hide her relationship for 27 years.

    What have you hidden for 27 years? It’s at that position on the scale of importance.

    Yes, the closet does make people private. That’s no reason to lie for closet cases. Liberals often prefer the lie, so being liberal doesn’t let the Times off the hook.

    “it’s a private matter”

    The hell it is. There is no “outing”, only truth.

    • gbjames
      Posted July 25, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      “It was hidden like a dirty family secret.”

      Well, Randy, this is simply untrue.

      There is a substantial difference between not making media announcements and keeping family secrets. I would imagine that there are things about your life that you have not published on the web, things that you don’t need to share with (for example) me, but that you don’t actively hide in a “life-in-the-closet” way.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted July 25, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      Seems to me that Ride was in a closet with the door open!!!

      Ride was mainly interested in being an exemplar for woman scientists, and !*neither*! covered up her gayhood !*nor*! chose to trumpet/broadcast it to the world. She chose to to be an example of gay dignity in a relatively quiet way.

      I see no dishonor in this.

    • suwise3
      Posted July 25, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

      Randy- So, it’s perfectly OK for him to defame and criticize a celebrity, *now safely dead* but… “What Sullivan is, doesn’t matter?”

  30. DV
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    This kind of debate about people’s past choices – what they should or should not have done, makes me happy. The belief in free will is alive and well.

    • darrelle
      Posted July 25, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      *chuckle*

  31. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    That’s not only self-serving, but completely unfair.

    Quite so. You can always ask of a group to give more, but never an individual outside of the individual context. “More, more, more” isn’t what you want to hear as a response to your efforts elsewhere, nor is it resulting in anywhere near a nice social climate.

    I like the observation that Sullivan is once again hypocritical. He seems to revel in his role as The Great Hypocrite.

  32. Posted July 25, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    The greatest irony of Sully’s remarks is that he seems to forget who was President when Sally Ride was at the height of her fame…that’s right…St. Ronnie (who Sullivan adores.) And while Reagan was slightly better than average on gay issues (compared to fellow Republicans), alot of his bedfellows on the New Right, came to office or power by campaigning against homosexuality: Pat Buchanan, Jerry Falwell etc. So Sullivan is disappointed that Ride didn’t have the nerve to stand up, amidst the homophobic atmosphere that one of his heroes helped to create. This is why I can’t read Sullivan.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted July 25, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      I kinda like the conjunction of referring to fellow homophobes as “bedfellows”. :)

  33. hank9000
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Deadline looming, Sully scans the latest headlines for some material. Bang! An accomplished LBGT heroine wasn’t “out”! Time to scold the dead and make the deadline. Oh, and keep comments closed. Ratzinger’s God forbid anyone disagree with you.

    /snark

    The idea that all LBGT people should just come out already, as already discussed, is naive. Some people simply like their privacy – at the other end of the scale, others need it due to safety concerns. We can’t know what specific factors led Drs Ride and O’Shaughnessy (let’s not forget her) to keep their love life private; scolding Ms Ride for doing so is presumptuous and disrespectful.

    This may well have occurred to Dr Ride herself, but outing herself in the 80s or 90s would almost certainly have thrust her into the limelight as a gay icon (most of us here can probably remember the media storm over Ellen DeGeneres’ coming-out episode). Like it or not she would have instantly become at the very least a focus of attention, if not forcing her into an activist position as a representative of the LBGT community. It should go without saying that that role does not suit everybody.

    Basically, anyone seeking to criticise Drs Ride and O’Shaugnessy for keeping herself to herself is ignorant not only of the private, personal factors that led the women to do so, but also the cultural and political environment of the 80s and 90s. The simple act of Dr Ride outing herself would have been immensely provocative: not because she would necessarily have wanted it to be, just because being gay in and of itself was highly controversial. Being an out LBGT person even in today’s relatively enlightened atmosphere ensures you’ll get hate mail, bluster from media ideologues and hellfire sermons from professional outraged religionists; 20 to 30 years ago it might well have been a career-killer, especially if your work had anything to do with kids.

    No, Sully, you’ve missed the mark here. Don’t castigate Dr Ride for the perfectly understandable decision to keep to herself amidst an unsympathetic political and social climate; castigate generations of societal intolerance and hatred for making her sexuality big enough a deal for her and her partner to keep it that way.

    Oh, and save some of this righteous indignation for that invasive, sex-obsessed yet utterly repressive religion you still, bafflingly, call yourself a member of. How you can willingly belong to the world’s most powerful and most famously sexually repressive faiths and then criticise others for avoiding the exact kind of climate that faith contributes to must take some amazing mental gymnastics.

    • gbjames
      Posted July 25, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      Word. (as the young folks say)

  34. MadScientist
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Sullivan has always been a hypocrite. I don’t understand how he was ever a hero. Nor is it any of his business what Sally Ride or anyone else does with their private lives.

  35. Lynne
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    (Please do not post if this point has already been made — I didn’t ready every comment)

    What struck me first about the obituary excerpt was not that she was gay or closeted, but that she apparently had both a husband and a partner for a couple years.

    • RF
      Posted July 25, 2012 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, I was doing the math on that. Divorced in 1987 + 27 years with partner = 2012.

    • Jeremy Pereira
      Posted July 27, 2012 at 8:07 am | Permalink

      Clearly she and her husband separated a significant period of time before they got divorced. How long did it take to get divorced in the 1980’s in the USA?

      Or perhaps she and her husband perceived that a divorce would be damaging to their careers (particularly to hers). It might not be a coincidence that she divorced in the same year as leaving NASA.

      • gbjames
        Posted July 27, 2012 at 8:10 am | Permalink

        I got divorced in the USA 1974. It was very easy once we decided to do it.

  36. G
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    I guess, according to Andrew Sullivan, it’s not enough that Dr. Ride was the first American woman in space, had a PhD in Physics from Stamford, did not cash in on her fame and was devoted to science education for America’s youth. Mr. Sullivan selfishly wanted more. Turns out while she was living she chose to keep her private life – private. It just so happens she did come out after all, publicly, after her death on her own timetable. Turns out she wasn’t the “absent heroine” after all.

    Sullivan is a jerk.

    • Posted July 25, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

      Thank you. It’s about time someone spoke of her actual accomplishments.

    • RF
      Posted July 25, 2012 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

      I’m pretty sure Ride did not get a PhD from Stamford.

  37. Posted July 25, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Question: how do you tell if discrimination is at work?

    Answer: Ask yourself if their gender / color / orientation needs to be mentioned. For example, do you have a REASON to say “That gay woman astronaut”? Or could you have just said “that astronaut”?

    I see discrimination at work in so many ways it burns me up.

    And by the way, it’s nobody’s business what someone does in their bedroom. Or on a date. None. I wish my Grandma were around to admonish people here, but since she’s gone I’ll do it for her.

    Mind your own business. Take up a hobby, for cripes sake.

  38. Maigret
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    She did her duty to women(straight and gay) by putting her life on the line and answering stupid questions from the media about her female role in space. A PHd in physics having to answer whether she would wear MAKEUP??? on the Mission??? I’ll bet she had had enough at that point and the lesbian thing had to be for someone else to handle. Andrew Sullivan should butt out. She has done as much or more for gays/lesbians as he has….just differently and on her own terms…not his.

  39. ReasJack
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    There is a core unstated assertion at the heart of Sullivan’s commentary. It is that his interest in a particular battle is enough justification to reduce Ms. Ride to a mere means to an end in that conflict. Somebody seriously needs to brush up on their Kant.

    • Posted July 25, 2012 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

      Sullivan needs to brush up on his “don’t”.

  40. lisa
    Posted July 26, 2012 at 2:40 am | Permalink

    I can’t see why any of us would wish discuss such an intimate action or even care what legal consenting adults do in there bedroom or where ever their prefer to play (but in privet, hope we hope.)I have no desire to discuss my performance in bed, or anywhere else. I mean who cares what anyone one does they do in any non public place. Don’t we have enough problems without intruding very private and intimate matters? People just look for stuff they can use to make trouble.

    • Posted July 26, 2012 at 5:40 am | Permalink

      Which is, of course, precisely why those atheists should stop making a fuss.

    • Nathair
      Posted July 26, 2012 at 5:55 am | Permalink

      “I mean who cares what anyone one does they do in any non public place. Don’t we have enough problems without intruding very private and intimate matters?”

      Who cares? You know, there’s privilege and there’s privilege blindness and then there’s ZOMG You can not be serious!

      Who cares? Short answer: all the people who tirelessly labour and spend mightily to ensure that certain people, people who do “the wrong” private and intimate things never get the same basic human rights as everyone else. Who else cares? All “those people” who would quite like to have those basic human rights for themselves and their families. Until the first group gives up and the legal legacy of their centuries of bigotry is erased and the second group stop being treated as second class then WHO CARES? is just not a morally sound position.

  41. Posted July 26, 2012 at 3:46 am | Permalink

    The advocacy for accommodationism regarding gay rights in this thread is astonishing, given the strident opposition to accomodationism regarding atheism in other threads.

    Compare what’s said in this post about Andrew Sullivan to what’s said in this post about Neil deGrasse Tyson.

    No doubt atheism advocacy is completely different, because it’s you rather than someone else.

    • Nathair
      Posted July 26, 2012 at 6:02 am | Permalink

      I truly wish it were astonishing. Instead I find it disappointing but not unexpected.

    • gbjames
      Posted July 26, 2012 at 6:30 am | Permalink

      “advocacy for accommodationism”

      Exactly what are you referring to?

      • Posted July 26, 2012 at 6:58 am | Permalink

        Uh, many of the comments above. Don’t be dense.

        • gbjames
          Posted July 26, 2012 at 7:04 am | Permalink

          I’m not being dense. I’m asking you to be clear. I literally don’t know which comments you are referring to.

          Sorry, but my mind-reading module seems to be broken.

  42. Barbara
    Posted July 26, 2012 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    Sullivan apparently wrote, “Ride’s sexual orientation was obviously central to her life.” Well, yes, but . . . surely science was central to her life.

    I say that as a woman who is fortunate to be partner of a wonderful woman who I am lucky to have in my life. She is a center to my life in many ways, and has been for the last dozen years.

    However, way back when I was a second-grader, I learned the word “biologist” and decided that that was what I was. Biology, especially study of biological diversity, has been my life, my refuge, my excitement, my way to find compatible souls (fellow biology nerds, of diverse genders and sexual orientations), my hobby, and my profession. Along the way I was also married to a man and then lived along for many years before coming out as lesbian.

    Sally Ride chose to present to the public one central, essential part of her live — the astronaut and scientist. She didn’t clutter her public image and message with the distractions of her personal life. Good though it is to see her now as a fellow lesbian, I cannot in any way fault her decision.

  43. wilmzor
    Posted July 26, 2012 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Maybe I am taking it the wrong way, but do some people here not understand that talking about someone’s sexual orientation is not the same as discussing “what they do in the bedroom?” That’s like saying that celebrating the fact that she is a woman is somehow bringing her vagina into the mix. My life has been profoundly affected by being gay, but none of those effects came from my activity in the bedroom. I came out to my parents and friends before having any kind of sexual intimacy. When I was in high school, my parents abused me because of it and I had to quit volunteering at a nursing home because of harassment from coworkers that found out I was gay. There is far more to being gay than sexual attraction. I don’t see why it’s ok to admire her accomplishments as a woman but not as a gay or bisexual woman.

    • gbjames
      Posted July 26, 2012 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      “I don’t see why it’s ok to admire her accomplishments as a woman but not as a gay or bisexual woman.”

      I’m not sure anyone was saying that. But perhaps I missed the comment you are referring to?

      • Nathair
        Posted July 26, 2012 at 10:52 am | Permalink

        Consider comments like “it’s not enough that Dr. Ride was the first American woman in space…” and “She did her duty to women…” not to mention all the First Woman in Spaaaaaace! stuff sprinkled throughout the post and comments.

        • gbjames
          Posted July 26, 2012 at 11:10 am | Permalink

          That pair of snippets seem considerably different from someone saying it is not OK to admire her accomplishments as a gay or bisexual woman.

          • Nathair
            Posted July 26, 2012 at 11:34 am | Permalink

            Actually I said “consider comments like” and then provided fragments so that you could recognize the comments to which I was referring. I did not expect you to think those sentence fragments were an argument. I also mentioned not a “snippet” but a theme throughout the post and comments about her being The First Woman In Space! But I see that you were actually looking for a comment that contained the exact phrase “It’s not OK”. My mistake.

            • gbjames
              Posted July 26, 2012 at 11:58 am | Permalink

              I was asking for statements that support the implied claim that someone here was arguing that it is not OK to admire Dr. Ride as a gay/bisexual woman.

              Sorry if I wasn’t clear.

              • wilmzor
                Posted July 26, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

                Sorry, that was incorrect word choice on my part. More accurately, I was complaining more about the attitude of “who cares that she was gay or straight?” and the idea that it’s a private intimate sexual matter, when it isn’t. As an example, I had an openly gay teacher that was very influential to me because I wanted to teach but had been convinced by my southern upbringing that gay people couldn’t have a career in teaching. There was a controversy surrounding her because people thought that her sex life was nobody’s business. I just get irritated with the concept that admitting you are gay is perceived as giving away details of your sex life, but if a straight teacher tells an anecdote about their spouse, nobody thinks twice about it. If you think it’s significant that she’s was a woman then you should think it’s significant she was gay.

              • gbjames
                Posted July 26, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

                Agreed.

  44. Posted July 26, 2012 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    If a white male accomplished the same thing as Ride, they might say “he left behind two sons and a wife blah blah blahh” but they wouldn’t say he was the first this or that in space.

    Instead they would focus on what he DID. What he achieved for science. How he advanced the field. But since it’s a woman, all that is washed out in order to focus on her gender and who she was going out with.

    • gbjames
      Posted July 26, 2012 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      Well, to be fair, when Yuri Gagarin died I’m pretty sure that it was noted that he was the first man in space.

      • Posted July 26, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

        I appreciate the effort gb james, however when they said “man” what they meant was, first “human”. As in, one big step for “Mankind”.

        Which back then, meant everyone who was a human or at least, everyone that mattered.

        • wilmzor
          Posted July 26, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

          A white male at the time would not have faced the same barriers as a woman, so why would his white maleness be notable? I agree they shouldn’t just focus on her gender but it is significant considering the climate she worked in.

        • gbjames
          Posted July 26, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

          Probably so.

  45. wilmzor
    Posted July 26, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Here’s a good counterpoint to Sullivan.

    http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/26/opinion/darrah-sally-ride-lesbian/index.html?hpt=hp_c2

    • Nathair
      Posted July 26, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

      “we should respect her choice to keep her personal life relatively private.”

      Sorry, I don’t find “respect the choice” the least bit compelling. I don’t “respect” the choice not to help when you have the chance. I might understand making that choice, I might respect your right to make that choice for yourself, but that’s not the same thing as respecting the choice itself.

  46. Posted July 27, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    “Sally Ride…you mean that lesbian? What was she famous for again?”

  47. sglover
    Posted March 15, 2013 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    Sullivan wasn’t too thrilled when he was outed for taking payoffs from Big Pharma. Who the hell is he to talk?

    Sullivan’s entire career has been an example of how, with his accent alone, an otherwise completely mediocre Brit can bamboozle Yanks into thinking he’s sophisticated.


2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] Andrew Sullivan has posthumously outed Sally Ride in a post at The Daily Beast: “America’s First Woman In Space Was A Lesbian” (h/t to Jerry Coyne). [...]

  2. [...] is rife with the suggestion that coming out quietly, almost as an afterthought, suggests progress. (This post, from evolutionary biologist Jerry A. Coyne, is one example.) If profiles of Ride have minimally commented on her relationship, goes the argument, it is only [...]

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