Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sally Ride in OUT-er space

That astronaut Sally Ride didn’t come out as gay until the publication of her obituary convinces me she wasn’t a blogger who one day woke up desperate for an attention-snagging topic.

I began blogging in May of 2008.

Believe me, if I was a lesbian astronaut, you’d have heard about it by June of 2008.

In fact, my blog would probably be called

I’m happy she’s extending even in death her efforts to be a positive role model, but feel chagrined she didn’t do it when it could have had a more colossal impact, like on June 18, 1983, the instant she became the first American woman in space.

Mission Control: “Congratulations, Challenger, please confirm your orbital status, over.”

Sally Ride: “Roger, Mission Control. I do wish to confirm my status. Here goes: Homophobic earthlings, you have a problem. I’m gay! Gay! Gay! Roger that, bee-yotch! Over and out! And I mean really out!”

Of course, back then she wasn’t gay, at least not in the eyes of the law and President Ronald Reagan.

She was in a conventional marriage from 1982-1987 to Steven Hawley. Her obit says she began a loving partnership with Tam O’Shaughnessy in 1985.

So for two years, this brainy and respected dual icon of science and pop culture lived a life that was not unlike that of zany Jack Tripper from “Three’s Company.”

I love it when American icons reveal something surprising about themselves that demolish our preconceived notions.

I’m talking here about a respected newscaster and, no, I don’t mean Anderson Cooper.

I’m talking about beloved storyteller Charles Kuralt. His more-wholesome-than-milk “On The Road” reports were hailed by family value conservatives as evidence he was most at home in what they still call “real America.”

That’s why it was so pleasing after his star-spangled July 4, 1997, death it was revealed he was truly most at home simultaneously in two different places.

A Manhattanite, he’d for three decades kept a shadow family in Montana, which kind of made him a polygamist with frequent flyer miles.

Many conservatives felt betrayed.

Me, I felt admiration for some unsung secretary who somehow managed to for 30 years make all the tricky logistics work.

It wasn’t like that with Ride, who was comfortable living out of the public eye.

She must have realized the impact she could have had. Maybe she considered offering public hints but decided it would be unseemly for someone accustomed to steering space crafts to float a trial balloon.

The Ride revelation had me recalling a 2009 New York Magazine article about gay activist Larry Kramer, who wrote a scholarly book in which he historically outed nearly every famous man who ever lived.

George Washington? Gay.

Abraham Lincoln? Gay.

Kramer suggests Lewis & Clark had “His ‘n’ His” matching towels on their great trans-continental expedition.

Jesus? Gay.

I suppose it shows considerable restraint that he didn’t say the Biblical Adam was gay in the Garden of Eden. And can you imagine for a moment how finite world history would be if he was?

I’m sorry Ride, an American hero, felt shy about revealing news about herself that increasingly isn’t news at all.

I understand the urge to keep some of our most personal things personal, but let’s all try to set the record straight while it’s still within our control.

And please don’t interpret my use of the word straight as being in anyway judgmental.

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