Keeping Families Together
The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog
July 27, 2012
Privacy Vs Disclosure: Being LGBT Is Still Not A Non-Issue
By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA
Dr. Sally Ride died of pancreatic cancer at age 61. At the end of the obituary she co-wrote with her female partner, there was the revelation that they had had a relationship for 27 years. That revelation ignited a debate between the right to privacy people on the one hand and the public candor obligation people on the other.
Should She Have Come Out Or Was She Right Staying Private?
Andrew Sullivan who writes a column for the Daily Beast firmly sits on the public candor side of the line. He headlines his July 24 column with “America’s First Woman In Space Was A Lesbian.” Then the first sentence asks: “That wasn’t too hard, was it?” His blog seems to suggest that his headline should have been the obituary’s and takes to task the New York Times for not making prominent Dr. Ride’s homosexuality. He believes that the obituary makes it clear that her sexual orientation was central to Dr. Ride’s life. Homophobia, he claims is the reason that the NY Times wrote a “dishonest obituary.” We have read the obituary (several times!) and fail to see that centrality.
Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire believes that we should all honor Dr. Ride’s decision to remain private about her sexual orientation. He reminds everybody that Dr. Ride was a baby-boomer and grew up “in a time when coming out was unthinkable.” LGBT people older than 30 years of age are 16 times less likely to come out of the closet according to a study by the Movement Advancement Project. Older LGBT people’s lives were and still are disrupted by the homophobia they experienced.
We Believe Dr. Ride’s Decisions Are Hers Alone
It is disappointing to even have this debate. Here is a person with undergraduate degrees in English and Physics and a doctorate in Astrophysics, all from Stanford, a nationally ranked collegiate tennis player, who broke NASA’s glass ceiling, helped develop the space shuttle’s robotic arm, the first woman in space, that member of two space-shuttle disaster panels known for asking the tough questions, professor of physics and director of the California Space Institute at UC San Diego, and founder of Sally Ride Science, a company that “makes science and engineering cool again,” and there are those who believe her obituary should make the point that she was a lesbian? How short sighted and how much a sign of the times and how well a measure of how many people cannot see beyond a single characteristic. To emphasize that she was a lesbian misses the point of a life lived well and disrespects her wishes.
She was not closeted; her family knew and her friends knew and to all who knew it did not matter. Dr. Sally Ride was a fabulous person, brilliant and, judging from the many web comments, a role model to many young girls for whom she broke several ceilings. May she rest in peace.
Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org