Sally Ride: "Openly Gay"?

Didn’t want to clutter the memorial thread with this, but it struck me as odd, and I wanted to get some opinions (this is from the Huffington Post):

Now, I want to preface this by saying I have the utmost respect for Dr. Ride and her career and accomplishments, and do not intend to detract at all from her legacy.

What I’m wondering about is the usage here of “openly gay” and the apparent inspiration she will now serve to the LGBT community. Is this really an inspiration? Can you legitimately call someone “openly” gay who comes out after death? Certainly she was not openly gay when she became the first American woman in space, and she was also actually married for a time. It just seems to me that she was anything but “openly” gay. If I were more of a curmudgeon, I might insist she serves as an example of what gays should not do; i.e. be completely secretive about their orientation. But then, I also understand she was not much of a public person anyway (apparently very very few knew she was ill). So I’m just confused; I’m not gay myself, so the revelation of her sexuality actually strikes me as neither here nor there. How do you feel about it? If you are a member of the LGBT community, do you now consider her a personal hero?

The fact that there are gay people doing things that straight people do, whether they are openly gay or in the closet, is no reason for inspiration.

The little kid in middle school who stands up to a bully using the word “fag” or “queer” or “gay” is a real reason for inspiration.

I’ve known that Sally Ride was gay since I heard her speak to a large audience at my work place about 20 years ago. I don’t remember what she said that made it clear, but it was clear.

So I don’t think she was closeted. I think she was smart enough to not let the media turn it into something that overshadowed her accomplishments.

How do I feel about this?

None of my damned business.

“Openly gay” can be as simple as not pretending your wife is just your roommate when Mom & Dad come over to visit. The fact that she didn’t feel a need to hold a press conference over her private life strikes me as not all that extraordinary. Most people don’t hold press conferences to dish about who they’re dating.

Obits usually include “the decedent is survived by” and so I would expect a surviving spouse to be mentioned. The only thing unusual is the fact that more people read her obit than is typical for someone who’s not an astronaut.

Inspiration? I’d really like for it to be commonplace that just living your life as you want is just not a big deal. I try to do the same, actually. I’m certainly not in any closet, but there are lots of people I’ve met and talked to that I’ve never discussed my romantic life with since it was not germane to the discussion we were having. I’m fairly sure most of my clients and business colleagues don’t really care who I’m dating. I doubt they’ve ever thought about my sexual orientation, much less know it.

I wonder is Roberta Bondar (Canada’s first female astronaut) would also count as “openly gay”, in that case.

Yep; I feel the same way, which is what meant by “neither here nor there.”

Okay, this might actually make sense. If she was known to be gay in the sense that Anderson Cooper was prior to his public announcement of same, then maybe she was a hero to gays all along. The impression I got was that it was as much of a surprise as her illness (the fact she was gay, that is).

I agree, and I admit having this discussion proves it is not as commonplace as we’d like it to be. But I was surprised by the HuffPo piece, both in its terminology and apparent idolization (for lack of a better term) of Dr. Ride as a gay icon.

Sally Ride was a hero whether she was gay or straight. Her sex life had nothing to do with the things that made her so admirable. So it doesn’t make any difference if she was outed after her death, lived her life as openly gay, or treated it like what it was - a side note that did not affect her achievements.


What **Sho **said. Nothing else matters.

She was my hero. That’s all that is important.

Well, yeah - and again, I agree. For context, let me note this thread was inspired by this piece from How Sally Ride Was Even Tougher Than Ripley in Alien, which states in part:

Which is followed later in the article by this:

Which is what prefaces the quote and link to the HuffPo piece I quoted in my OP.

See, the Smithsonian article’s references to her being closeted and having a “personal battle” followed by the juxtaposition of the HuffPo piece holding her up as an icon of “coming out quietly” just bemused me. And again, I have the utmost respect for Dr. Ride. I’m just confused as to how she can be thought of as an icon of the LGBT community, specifically as one of their own. And I don’t mean to say she shouldn’t be, I’m just wondering how those within that community feel about it.

The only thing that makes a difference to me is that it opens up wider the question about who was the first to have sex in space. Yes this is something I ponder.

Now I need to search to see if this has ever been contemplated on the Dope before.

To be honest, I never heard about her before she died. I am a fangirl of many things, but none of them are NASA so I don’t really keep track of the names of people involved in the astronaut program. The extent of my participation is admiring the pretty space photos that filter around the internet every once in a while.

Now that I’ve heard of her, yes, I’m pleased that she was able to live her life largely as she wanted. And I’m a bit saddened that this is still remarkable, inasmuch as we are remarking about it at length here. So, I dunno that I’d say she’s an icon of mine, given that this is the first I’ve heard of her. I do admire her accomplishments, now that I know about them (the Cliff Notes version, anyway), especially knowing the cultural obstacles she was up against – I face them too, and I’m aware that it was worse when she was doing it. She’s “one of my own” to the extent that she’s a woman who had to work twice as hard to “prove” herself as the men she was competing against, that she had those struggles that I can relate to, personally. I can’t and won’t speak for the rest of the LGBTs out there.

Kaio, I appreciate your thoughtful contributions here, and I apologize to be going on at length; I felt my earlier posts may not have been clear, so have been trying to clarify.

Thank you.

Again, I’m just curious because the tone of the HuffPo piece (to my ears) was basically “Hey! This great lady was one of us! Be proud!” - And my first reaction was that she “identified” as “one of you” only after death. And I don’t know how I’d feel about that if I were in that demographic.

Oh, and also, the pedant in me very much objects to “openly” in the sense that an announcement occurs after death (which may be obviated in this case due to the “Anderson Cooper” nature as referenced by laina_f).

To clarify, I’m not upset by you wanting to ask. I appreciate that you’re trying to learn and understand. I’m saddened because we still live in a culture where “gay icon” even has significance. That is, if I asked you who your “straight icons” are, you’d look at me funny, right? At the same time, we can’t move beyond this culture without people asking questions and learning to understand. We’re in a transitional period, a necessary one, and I’m impatient to get to the point where we’re done transitioning and have transitioned already. :slight_smile:

I don’t think there’s any way for me to know when she identified as “one of us.” Presumably it was around the time she decided to commit herself to her wife, if not before. I don’t personally believe that celebrity imposes a burden on anyone to put on a dog and pony show just because the voyeurs really want to know all your private bizniz.

I have not gone on TV and announced to the world that I’m queer. I don’t really care if perfect strangers know that (or anything) about me or not. My mom knows, my close friends know, a few others probably picked it up from conversation at some point. I neither hide nor broadcast. I don’t even really use labels in reference to myself. And I don’t hold her to any other standard.

I’d rather be open (and have her be open) in the same sense that people are openly straight.

she didn’t have a huge public announcement, she didn’t hide it either.

those that knew her, worked with her, were in her life, knew who was the love of her life.

HELL yeah. :slight_smile:

Or rather, out of respect for the departed: HEAVEN yeah!

I appreciate your understanding. Count me amongst those impatient idealists as well.

Upon reflection, I think if it wasn’t that the Smithsonian referred to her as “closeted,” the sum total of my reaction would have been, “Huh, she was gay (or bi); didn’t know that” - and I wouldn’t have given it another thought. It was basically the pedant in me that objected to “closeted” vs. “openly gay.” But there are obviously many shades of gray encompassed by “openly gay,” and I’m also not trying to imply that she, as a (somewhat) public figure should have made an Anderson Cooper-type announcement.

And that’s the crux of it really, when I think about it - it’s unfortunate in this day and age that sexual orientation is news at all.

She wasn’t closeted. However as she was a public figure and most of the public didn’t know she was gay I have an issue with her being called ‘openly gay.’ I tend to think of openly gay as actively informing people. In my view their is plenty of room in the middle for gay people who are neither closeted nor openly gay.

She was certainly out to those who knew or followed her. I respect her decision to be a private person. Being gay clearly wasn’t the most notable thing about her and I’m kinda happy she was able to remain respected for her accomplishments rather then taking on social issues that could have derailed her pursuit of science.

It very much suggests that: “Ride…came out as a lesbian in her obituary, a day after her tragic death… She now makes history…”

Only now?

At her first press conference, Sally Ride was asked a lot of really stupid questions by the media. She made it pretty clear that she wasn’t interested in gossipy questions, idiotic attempts to turn her into a super-celebrity, and so on. The media eventually took the hint and let her be a professional. Ride barely accepted being an inspiration to young scientists (writing kids books and a few TV appearances was pretty much it).

So whatever attention of her sexuality might have received probably would have never gotten traction. She wasn’t a celebrity to be ‘scandalized’. She was a professional astronaut who happened to be a woman.