I was considering writing an obituary for astronaut Sally Ride, when the war over the facts of her personal life broke out.
Was she gay? Apparently so. Interestingly, one of my old friends told me his gaydar went off when he saw her interviewed on TV back in the 80s, when she first went up in space (and was still married to astronaut Steve Hawley). I have heard this "gaydar" comment several times since. I had no idea if this was true or not, so I went to Wikipedia, like I always do.
And wouldn't you know? That's where the war is.
Wikipedia does not see fit to mention that Ride had a 27-year relationship with a woman, Tam O'Shaughnessy, whom she called her partner. Glenn Greenwald tweeted his disapproval of Wikipedia's omission, and got goofy (and thoroughly bigoted) replies, such as "not sure why it matters?"
Not sure why it matters? Does the marriage of a heterosexual person matter, if one is seeking factual biographical information? I think we all agree that it does. In fact, even heterosexual AFFAIRS (not sanctified by legal marriage) are covered in Wikipedia biographies. But since being gay is considered BAD, it is widely regarded as an INSULT if you include this fact about her. Even if its accurate.
So, we have the (possibly) first gay astronaut, and most people do not know this about her. The official accounts are leaving out her grieving widow, Tam. Imagine if this was a heterosexual astronaut 'hero'--and they refused to acknowledge their widow?
Impossible to contemplate. It would simply never happen.
The GAWKER's article about this homophobic fiasco includes a series of comments left on the Wikipedia 'history' page, which would be hilarious if they didn't seek to erase 27 years of two women's lives. For example:
There's another logical gap: according to this bio, Tam O'Shaughnessy was Sally Ride's partner of 27 years, i.e. since 1985. But the article says that "in 1983 [Ride] became the first American woman, the first lesbian [...] to enter space", and it doesn't logically follow that she was a lesbian in 1983.Do you believe this stuff? ANYTHING to avoid the facts, that the first US woman in space was a lesbian.
Last Autumn, I wrote about this phenomenon (the emphatic denial of gay sexuality in obituaries) after the death of film producer Ismail Merchant. The same hysterical, ridiculous denials surfaced at that time.
Why can't the homophobes at least ACCEPT PEOPLE IN DEATH? It's like they can't let their hatred go, even for a second. They refuse to grant any gay person respect. And if they should by chance actually admire the individual in question (as so many admired both Merchant and Ride), then they MUST deny that they were gay. Because they simply CANNOT ADMIRE a self-professed gay person.
There really is no other explanation for this behavior.
And with that, I will end with my concluding comment in my post about Ismail Merchant:
Again, we see how gay people are disappeared by the culture at large, as heterosexuality, even openly illicit heterosexuality, is heralded.Unfortunately, it's still an accurate observation.
EDIT--Wikipedia has added the following paragraph to Ride's obit, due to popular demand: After death, her obituary revealed that Ride's 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. The 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.
More than I expected.