For those in my gay community whining about all the good Sally Ride could have done had she only “come out;” I say – Get over yourself.
For most gays and lesbians the hardest thing we will ever do in our lives is “come out.” It’s personal, and absolutely no one can dictate to you the time, day, or moment you have to come out. It’s a scary straight world, full of hate, anger, bigotry, ignorance, and people who want to do nothing more than make a mockery of your life. It took me 50 years to find the strength and courage, so I totally understand my brothers and sisters who can’t find the strength and courage to step out from behind the curtain. It doesn’t mean their lives don’t matter, and it doesn’t mean we don’t support them in every way possible.
It’s not like she was hiding who she was or living in the closet. She was with her partner for 27 years, I don’t know about you, but I’d call that a committed relationship. Her family was obviously well aware of her orientation, and quite supportive of her and her partner. Why do you think she owed you any explanation about her life?
Could she have made a difference had she come out and been an advocate for the gay community? Perhaps, but why is it you think she owed anything to the gay community? Perhaps she didn’t want to be exploited as the “First Lesbian Astronaut,” and we all know that is exactly what would have happened. From all accounts, she was intensely private, and intensely private is not always something the gay community understands. We sometimes expect our famous gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to carry our banner to every corner of the world, shouting how we deserve and demand equal rights, when the reality is that they are simply trying to live a gay life in a straight world just as you and I are. I don’t believe we have the right to ask or demand that of anyone.
She only could have made a huge difference if she would have been comfortable being the mouthpiece for the LGBT community. It’s hard enough sometimes to accept who you are without having to do it on a stage with millions of people scrutinizing every little thing you say and every little movement you make. I don’t blame people for not wanting to come out – I wouldn’t want to be placed in that position, or held up to a certain standard that no matter what would never please everyone. And let’s be honest – people can be brutal in their assessment of who they think you should be.
The truth of the matter is – being gay is not a choice we make, it’s simply who we are. I would think that those of us who have been through, and continue to go through, the ups and downs of being out in a straight world would be a little more understanding. However, society, especially various portions of the religious part of it, doesn’t seem to want to accept that, so they have labels they place on everything and everyone to keep us all separate from one another. They simply cannot allow that we are all Americans. We must be African-American, Mexican-American, Gay-American, Muslim-Americans, Jewish-Americans, Japanese-Americans, you fill-in-the-blank-Americans. Anything to keep us divided and keeps us in our place as “the other.”
Sally Ride lived a life of quiet dignity. She did more to help young women find self-esteem, and believe in themselves that most of us will ever imagine doing in our lifetime. Have we stopped to consider that had she “come out” she may not have had that chance to teach and touch so many lives? She would have been considered as one the ‘the other’ and certainly the money and the chances would not have been so forthcoming for her. Why can’t we let her have her life of quiet dignity? Why can’t we just honor her for who she was and what she gave the world?
Instead of whining about Sally Ride, why don’t you go out in the world and make a difference? If you can change just one heart and one mind, you have changed the world just a little. Write, talk, vote… Don’t expect someone to do it for you – go out and make the change you want to see…