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Sally Ride and Why I’m Okay With Her Not Coming Out

July 27, 2012 6 comments

Four days ago, the first American woman in space, Sally Ride, passed away due to pancreatic cancer.

I’ll openly admit that while I’m keen on the idea of space exploration and science beyond the confines of our planet, the natural sciences have never been my forte, and I have never exactly kept up with advances in space science and technologies (at least until a friend got me heavily invested in the SpaceX Falcon 9 C2+ mission), and until the headlines broke, I’ve never actually heard of Sally Ride. (In my defense, I did know Christa McAuliffe, but I suppose she has the advantage of having tragically been killed by a highly famous Challenger disaster.) Therefore, although the subtitle of this blog is probably a big hint that I was quite pleasantly surprised that Sally Ride’s obituary revealed that she was, in fact, lesbian, and had a long-term relationship with Tam O’Shaughnessy. (Personally, I’m amused at the possibility that Sally Ride’s legacy will now be attacked by conservatives who seek to discredit everything she did because she was an “immoral sexual deviant”, a possibility which – despite my morbid sense of humor – I honestly hope will not happen.)

That said, as they did with CNN journalist Anderson Cooper when he came out that he way gay (despite the fact that he has actually always been openly gay, except people didn’t seem to have noticed the first time), some LGBT rights activists are criticizing Ride for not coming out soon enough with the fact that she was, in fact, lesbian. Andrew Sullivan was one of the most critical:

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.

He was hardly alone. Tommi Avicolli Mecca was more understanding but also no less obvious:

I understand that some people prefer to be quiet about their private lives, but imagine all the good she could have done as a living role model rather than a dead one? Especially for all those girls struggling with their sexual identities in hostile environments (and there are a lot of them) throughout this still very homophobic country. She wanted to teach them science, but what about accepting themselves for who they are?

And J. Bryan Lowder chips in as well:

What might Ride’s visibility have meant to LGBT youth, to young lesbians, who are all too often crowded off of the media stage by gay men? Gay youths are in desperate need of mentors, and what makes Ride’s reticence all the more disappointing is how clearly gifted she was in that kind of role. […] As we remember Ride’s well-lived life and celebrate her contributions to exploration and science, we can also regret her silence on this issue. Call it a personal choice or call it a flaw, I’m sad that Ride felt the need, whatever her reasons, to withhold this part of herself.

It’s an understandable sentiment. Being a LGBT even today is like the European Extreme mode of life, and many feel that members of the LGBT community need whatever support they can get. A national heroine such as Ride could have boosted morale, gave plenty of individuals struggling with their sexuality hope, accelerated the normalization of the LGBT community.

But ultimately, however, I disagree with the rhetoric and the attitudes, and I believe people should lay off on Ride’s decision to keep her life private for four simple reasons. Read more…

Categories: Politics and Society, Yuri

Post-Aurora Shootings: A Perspective on Gun Control

July 21, 2012 Leave a comment

I’m going to jump straight to the point, and hope I don’t have to preface my post with a heartfelt statement about how terrible the shootings were, because I think we can all agree it was pretty awful.

A word of background: I have largely been a metropolitan urbanite who has never fired a gun in real life, save a small collection of water guns, Nerf guns, video game guns, glue guns, BB guns, paintball guns, air guns, and laser guns (the ones for laser tag; sorry to disappoint you, sci-fi fans). I consider myself to be a pacifist, and while I’m certain that if I am forced in a situation where I have to kill, I will very likely kill, I don’t hold a lot of romantic notions about inflicting harm upon others, even if it’s for a “just cause”. I grew up largely in San Francisco, which may or may not be the capital of America’s “dirty liberal hippie-land”, and have resided in countries where possession of firearms are illegal; the sight of anyone carrying a gun – even police officers and soldiers – makes me feel genuinely uncomfortable and makes me want to keep my distance (imagine how I felt when I worked for six months in Memphis, Tennessee).

At this point, anyone reading this (this is assuming I have any readers to begin with) will probably want me to first disclose my opinion as to whether or not I’m for or against stricter gun control or – more drastically – a gun ban in the United States (which I don’t support, actually, a position taken entirely for prudence as opposed to principles, if largely because I’m fairly convinced a gun ban will result in nothing short of a shooting civil war), if only so they can figure out whether or not they should stop reading the words of a “left-wing dirty liberal Big Government hippie”/”right-wing morally-bankrupt redneck-hick conservative”.

Alas, my answer is going to disappoint a number of people: “It’s complicated.” Read more…

Categories: Politics and Society