Tag Archives: Sally Ride

On Jodie Foster and ‘privacy’ vs. shame

This image released by NBC shows Jodie Foster, recipient of the Cecil B. Demille Award, during the 70th Annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Jan. 13, 2013, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (AP Photo/NBC, Paul Drinkwater)

NBC/Associated Press photo

Actress Jodie Foster kind of officially, publicly came out of the closet the other night when she accepted an award at the Golden Globe Awards. Thankfully, the 50-year-old Foster’s apparent shame over her sexual orientation is rarer in our youthful non-heterosexuals today — no thanks to Foster, of course.

I don’t want this to be a repeat of what I wrote about lesbian astronaut Sally Ride’s posthumous outing in July, so I’ll quote what others have said about actress Jodie Foster’s recent quasi-coming out.

Matthew Breen, the probably-too-pretty editor of The Advocate, wrote this about Foster:

… Everyone should come out in her own time, but Foster was angry last night. One reason could be embarrassment at not having come out publicly (at least in her own estimation) until 2013. Last night’s speech clearly took a lot of guts for Foster to undertake. But too much anger was directed at a straw man of her own creation.

“But now apparently I’m told that every celebrity is expected to honor the details of their private life with a press conference, a fragrance, and a prime-time reality show. You guys might be surprised, but I am not Honey Boo Boo child. No, I’m sorry, that’s just not me, never was, and it never will be,” she said.

There’s where she’s got it wrong. By referencing Honey Boo Boo, a stand-in for all that is shamelessly confessional about celebrity in 2013, Foster’s implication was that the choices she faces as a public figure are few: (1) stay closeted, never acknowledge your sexual orientation in public, or (2) tell the world every sordid detail of your intimate life.

That’s a bogus comparison, and it’s one that reinforces the idea that being LGBT is shameful, worthy of being hidden, and that saying you’re LGBT is an invitation to the whole world to come into your bedroom. That’s patently wrong. There are numerous out celebrities who guard their personal lives: David Hyde Pierce, Anna Paquin, Zachary Quinto, Amber Heard, Anderson Cooper, just to name a few. … [Emphasis is all mine.]

Breen states in his piece on Foster that The Advocate’s policy on outing is this: “While we encourage everyone who doesn’t risk his or her own safety by coming out to do so, The Advocate has a policy of not outing people who are not actively doing harm to LGBTs through word or deed.”

That’s pretty much my personal view on outing, too. Those who can be out should be out, in my book. You can’t assert that someone who might face real physical danger and/or who might be tossed out of his or her home (or maybe even his or her job) should come out if you’re not the one who would have to face the consequences — but often closeted individuals exaggerate how awful it might be should they come out.

Still, that said, even if I strongly think that an individual should be out, in the end, in many if not most cases it’s up to the individual as to whether or not he or she should be out (assuming that everyone doesn’t already know or strongly surmise the individual’s orientation anyway — there are so many closet cases whose self-awareness is so low that they seem to think that no one knows that they’re not heterosexual when pretty much everyone does).

In my book, the individual deserves the “protection” of the closet until and unless he or she does not deserve it, such as if it’s a closeted guy who is not keeping to himself but is sexually harassing others at the workplace (as happened to me) or, of course, if it’s a closet case who actively is working against the “LGBT community,” such as a “Christo”fascist “leader” or a politician. No traitor deserves the “protection” of the closet.

Most people agree on that point, but there remains a sticking point — that of “privacy.”

I like what LGBT writer Nathaniel Frank has to say on this:

… It’s true that hiding [one’s sexual orientation] hurts. Research shows mental health consequences to holding major secrets over time. And yes, it’s absolutely a wasted opportunity for powerful, visible people who probably could come out unscathed to deny young LGBT people the nurturance of knowing that an admired public figure is gay.

Privacy and shame are closely connected. Adam and Eve covered their “privates” the moment they gained moral consciousness, an awareness of good and evil, setting the tone for a truism ever since: You don’t cover up stuff if there ain’t something wrong with it.

Any step a gay person takes to hide their identity that they wouldn’t take to hide the fact that they’re, say, Irish, vegetarian or left-handed is probably not a neutral quest for privacy but reflects their own doubt about just how OK it is to be gay. Foster’s reluctance to just pull an Ellen (“Yep, I’m gay”), and her tortured speech, with its resentful tone and its ultimate avoidance of the “L” word, made being gay and coming out seem tortured things in themselves. … [Emphasis mine.]

And that’s the deep and profound problem that I have with the widespread argument that one’s sexual orientation (if it is not heterosexual, and only if it is not heterosexual, of course) is “private”: The vast majority of heterosexuals don’t go around asserting that their attraction to members of the opposite sex is “private,” do they? And why is that? Because they’re not fucking ashamed of their sexual orientation, that’s why.

So to assert that one’s non-heterosexuality — not one’s specific sex acts, but one’s basic sexual orientation — is “private” is to keep alive the toxic, ignorant, bigoted, harmful belief that to be attracted to members of one’s own sex is shameful, abnormal, “sinful,” etc.

And to contribute to that toxic, heterosexist and homophobic environment — and yes, all of us are responsible for the environment, since all of us make up the environment — is only to add to the number of non-heterosexual people who become addicted to drugs and alcohol, who contemplate or commit suicide, who don’t protect themselves from STDs because (in their low self-esteem) they don’t find themselves to be worth protecting, and who are the victims of hate crimes, since they exist in such a heterosexist, homophobic environment that encourages such hate crimes.

You are contributing to the problem or you are contributing to the solution.

Lying that your basic sexual orientation is a matter of “privacy” — and lying that what others really want to know are the “dirty” details of your sex life when, in fact, no one is inquiring as to such details — is to try to excuse yourself for your own laziness, selfishness and cowardice for which there is no fucking excuse.

That is the problem that I have with Jodie Foster and with others like her who toss out the red herring of “privacy” instead of manning the fuck up already and working to make things better for everyone.

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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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