Is it really fair to diss Sally Ride for not coming out & being a role model for young gay women?

She was the first American female astronaut in space. That’s a pretty hefty accomplishment by itself. Her decision to keep her sexuality private was entirely her business, she should not be judged for it.

America’s First Woman In Space Was A Lesbian

The two POV are not mutually exclusive.

Isn’t the fundamental premise of gay liberation that each person’s sexuality is their own?

It would have been fine if she had chosen to be outspoken about sexuality, but she certainly didn’t owe it to anyone.

No. Of course it’s not fair. Not at all.

Besides, Neil Armstrong never came out and publicly announced what his sexual orientation was either. Clearly he is not being a role model to young*** X**** people.

  • X could equal straight, gay, or bi. I don’t know which one he is (and why should I? It’s none of my business) so I just used a variable.

No. Not because it’s her business, because in some ways long-term romantic relationships are actually other people’s business too, but because she probably had really good reasons for not coming out.

It would have been nice if, after any career-killing reasons for staying had passed, she’d come out. OTOH, I don’t know if those were her other reasons for staying in - she might have had religious, family, or some other reason for staying in. Maybe her partner also had reasons for staying in the closet.

I bet she often went into schools as a role model for young women who might want to get into science. That might seem like she might, in principle, want to also be a role model for lesbians - but just being gay doesn’t mean you’re not homophobic at all, and maybe she thought her part as a female role model would be lessened if people knew she was gay.

Hell, I never came out to anyone when I was a secondary school teacher and I could have arguably helped some of the kids be more accepting of their own or their friends’ sexuality, but never did because it would have been too dangerous. And I’m not a high-profile person like Sally Ride who would always be known as out wherever she went, once she did it. There’d be no sneaking back in to pull the duffle coats over her head once she stepped out of that closet.

Aside: I get Mustang Sally stuck in my head any time I see a news article about her. Anyone else? Ride, Sally Ride…

I’m a lesbian and I think it was SR’s own private business and her own decision and I respect that. Anybody retroactively scolding her now for not having broadcast her orientation on the news is seriously out of line.

If Sally Ride had even mentioned her GF even once, briefly, in an interview, then that would have counted as her coming out as gay, or maybe bi if she’d had former relationships with men, so Neil Amstrong’s two marriages have to count for something. People in straight relationships advertise that fact all the time without realising it.

Good point.

Bullshit. My relationship is not your business. Yours is not mine. Ride’s was not anyone’s that she didn’t choose to make it. Framing the answer in terms of “good reasons” implies that there are reasons that aren’t good enough for privacy. No. I say again, the fundamental principle is that each of us can and of a right ought to decide for ourselves.

Nah, when you’re with someone for 27 years it’s not just about who you’re shagging. There’s no point in pretending long-term relationships are just about the two people involved, because they never are - unless they had an oddly-distanced relationship for nearly three decades, they will have seen neices and nephews grow up and make great-neices and nephews, lived together, gone on holidays together, had to decide whose family to spend Christmas/Hannukah etc with, all stuff that’s not just about them as a couple. We don’t live in a bubble.

You can still choose to not come out and nobody should ever force you to, but most people will still know the truth about you and your special friend.

FWIW, I’m a lesbian, in case that wasn’t already obvious. I’ve only known one very long-term couple who were both completely in the closet (and had lived together for 17 year by that point and were really obviously gay), and I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for them to keep up a charade for so long.

They were out to the people who mattered to them. There’s no reason Ms Ride should have come out to me, any more than there was for her to inform me of her dietary habits.

Indeed, just because someone is popular does not mean they have to make their private business public out of some obligation to the tabloids to have something to write about.

She had the obligation to do what she thought was right for herself. It might have been nice if she came out, but that was entirely her choice and we should respect that.

And it’s not like she was the only lesbian woman in the public eye. Others were willing to come out and be role models. She didn’t want to, but, ultimately, it wouldn’t have made that much difference if she had.

Sally Ride already had to become a symbol for women’s rights for traveling to space. The US was way behind the curve on that one, the USSR has sent a woman up years earlier. It’s not fair to require a person to become a symbol for a cause. She had done it for one cause already, she didn’t have to do that, or do it again to satisfy someone else’s need. Worse than that is this kind of public criticism about someone who recently died.

People come out in their own way, in their own time . . . if at all. No one can make that decision for anyone else.

For better or worse, though, some people believe that gays are in an ideal position to break down gender role restrictions - ie, that Ride’s gayness actually played a helping role in guiding her to a scientific career. If you’re really tuned into that philosophy (and I admit it has an elemental logic to it), I can kind of see feeling disappointed that she didn’t go public.

Sally Ride didn’t owe anything to anyone. She can be out if she wants, in the closet if she wants, for any reason or no reason at all.

Really and truly - it is none of my Goddamn business.


I remember when people posthumously blasted Freddie Mercury for not lending his star power to AIDS awareness.

While we’re mentioning Armstrong he had also for some time been the subject of debate as to whether he’d “come out” as an atheist/agnostic.

Well, the sad fact is that for a lot of the public it would be – specially in the sense of the role modeling for young women in such fields as science and having it perceived as something contrary to conventional femininity. In too many school districts there are too many parents for whom she would stop being Famous First American Female Astronaut Who’s An Example To The Kids, and instead become just Famous Lesbian We Don’t Want To Influence Our Daughters :rolleyes: And boy oh boy would some Congresscritters have a field day with the NASA public-outreach appropriation if they knew we were sending One Of Them to pitch the program to the kids…

I think she had every right to stay private. Ironically, IMO her coming out might have hurt the women’s cause and the lesbian’s cause.

What was the stereotype back then? Women couldn’t do manly things. Lesbians were more like men and weren’t real women.

Sally Ride as a first woman astronaut? See! “Real” women are capable of doing this manly things too! “Confirmation” that Lesbians aren’t real women doesn’t even come up.

Sally Ride as first lesbian astronaut? See? “Real” women can’t do manly things? Its takes one of them weird lesbians to be interested in and do manly sciency shit!

I think there might be a fair chance she thought coming out, particularly early on would actually do more harm than good at that time.