YES, Sally Ride’s lesbianism matters

Late NASA astronaut Sally Ride (pictured above in 1984), who was the first American woman in space (in 1983 at age 32), died of pancreatic cancer yesterday at age 61. When I first saw the news of her death and saw her photos, I though, “Damn, she was a lesbian!” Shortly thereafter, it was publicly released that she had been in a same-sex relationship for almost three decades — which, the homophobes essentially argue, we should just fucking ignore, and focus only upon the space shit, because homosexuality always should remain in the closet, and you’re actually a homophobe yourself if you maintain otherwise.

I want to go all James Eagan Holmes whenever I hear some fucktard, usually a homophobic heterosexual (but sometimes a self-loathing, heterosexist homosexual), state that a gay man’s or lesbian’s sexual orientation doesn’t matter.

This right-wing fucktard, for instance, whose crap Yahoo! actually published, concludes in a commentary titled “Outing Sally Ride: Her sexual orientation has nothing to do with spaceships”:

For social liberals, Sally Ride’s posthumous out-coming is a luxury problem in the extreme. [Whatever the fuck that sentence means.] She was the first female [and] the youngest [true — at least as far as American astronauts are concerned] and the first gay in outer freaking space [um, that we know of] — and a major force in space policymaking.

What’s more, Ride alone served on the two presidential commissions that investigated both the 1986 Challenger crash and the 2003 Columbia accident, which together killed 14 astronauts. Without fear or favor, Ride concluded that NASA made the same errors in judgment both times.

Is it more important than any of this that, having been married briefly to a man, Ride eventually settled down with a woman? Ride’s identity as both gay and female is an embarrassment of riches that presents an irresistible opportunity, it seems, to kvetch [again: WTF?] rather than celebrate a life astoundingly well led.

This writer apparently is a wingnut who somehow finds the occasion of Sally Ride’s posthumous outing as a lesbian to bash liberals.

Yet it’s the wingnuts’ presidential candidate, multi-millionaire Mormon weirdo Mittens Romney, whose patriarchal, misogynist, homophobic “Christo”fascism holds that Sally Ride never should have been able to have marriage equality with her same-sex partner of almost three decades.

It is the right wing that for decades has made non-heterosexuals second- or third-class citizens. I know. I cannot marry my partner of almost five years here in the “land of the free” (not even here in California, the land of fruits and nuts) because of the freedom- and equality-hating, oppressive right wing, most of them “Christo”fascists that make the members of the Taliban jealous.

And indeed, Sally Ride’s surviving partner of almost three decades won’t be eligible to receive Ride’s Social Security death benefits, as a heterosexually married widow or widower would — and that’s the way that the majority of the Repugnican Tea Party traitors maintain that it should be.

Who is making a big deal of sexual orientation?

I can tell you, as a gay man and as an empathetic human being, that Sally Ride’s sexual orientation was a big deal to her.

My guess is that she heterosexually married out of societal pressure, and that it never felt right to her to be with a member of the opposite sex.* Such a societally forced marriage is wrong to all parties involved. (No? What if heterosexuals felt strong societal pressure to marry members of their own sex, even though they are attracted only to members of the opposite sex?)

And Ride, who was born in 1951 and thus spent her formative years in one of the most conservative decades of our nation’s history, most likely was expected to look, act, think and believe as heterosexual women were expected to.

I can’t imagine that the road to becoming an astronaut (she joined NASA in 1978) was easy for her, and my guess is that she experienced a lot of sexism and heterosexism when she earned her bachelor’s, her master’s and her Ph.D. in physics before she joined NASA. No, she most likely was expected to be a teacher or a nurse or the like and/or a mother and/or a heterosexually married housewife.

Sally Ride most certainly accomplished a lot in her professional life.

Of course, no one ever fucking said that her lesbianism was more important than her professional accomplishments.

But that’s a false fucking comparison in the first fucking place, and of course Sally Ride’s sexual orientation was a big part of her total human being, as it is for 99 percent of us human beings. Among other things, our sexual orientation influences our choice of partners, influences our decision of whether or not to become a parent, and often influences our career choices, based upon societally imposed gender roles (speaking of which, our sexual orientation, if it isn’t “right,” can induce us to pretend to be who and what we are not). Our sexual orientation can even influence where we live. (I’ll stay here in the blue, fairly-homo-friendly-despite-Proposition-H8 state of California, thank you; I’d rather die than move to a red state.)

To ignore these facts, to ignore how much a part of one’s being his or her sexual orientation is, is to dishonor the memory of Sally Ride.

Which is exactly what the wingnuts (and the “liberal” homophobes) do when they state that Sally Ride’s sexual orientation didn’t fucking matter.

It fucking mattered.

These fucking homophobes and hypocrites made fucking sure that it did.

And they still do.

*Wikipedia notes:

Ride was extremely private about her personal life. She married fellow NASA astronaut Steve Hawley in 1982 and they divorced in 1987.

After death, [Ride’s] obituary revealed that [her] partner was Tam E. O’Shaughnessy, a female professor emerita of school psychology at San Diego State University and a childhood friend who met Ride when both were aspiring tennis players.

O’Shaughnessy became a science teacher and writer and, later, the chief operating officer and executive vice president of Ride’s company, Sally Ride Science.She co-authored several books with Ride. Their 27-year relationship was revealed by the company and confirmed by Ride’s sister, who also stated that Ride chose to keep her personal life private, including her sickness and treatments.

Would a heterosexually coupled NASA astronaut have kept his or her union a secret? Why, then, are so many people OK with the fact that so many same-sex couples feel the need to keep their unions secret?

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1 Comment

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One response to “YES, Sally Ride’s lesbianism matters

  1. I remember admiring her in high school. She went after her goal/ dream and got it, in a world still defined by men. I was saddened to hear of her death. I agree that her being a lesbian should not be hidden. It was a part of who she was as a human being.

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