July 24th, 2012
I first learned about the death of pioneering astronaut Sally Ride from this CNN report. When she flew aboard a Space Shuttle Challenger flight in 1983, she became the first American woman in space. She took another trip aboard the Challenger a year later. She was scheduled for a third mission, but it was cancelled after the Challenger exploded shortly after take-off in 1986. She served on the accident review crew for that flight, and served again in the investigation of the 2003 Columbia accident.
All of that was covered in the CNN report, as with all of the other obituaries. But there was one line which, at the moment of her death, has overshadowed all of her accomplishments in life. It was this:
Ride is survived by her partner of 27 years, Tam O’Shaughnessy, her mother, her sister and other family members.
Look around the blogs and tell me what you see. What are they talking about? Her accomplishments? Or the fact of her partner? Andrew Sullivan, for example, reacted:
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.
She was the absent heroine.
An absent heroine? Really?
When she took her first flight in 1983, I was a year away from graduating with an Engineering degree. There was exactly one woman in my sixty-some member class. The male-female ratio in many of the hard sciences was typically greater than the straight-nonstraight ratio in the general population. Even within my graduating class, gays outnumbered women. I’m still not sure that has changed much since then. Ride most certainly expanded people’s horizons in ways that I think, sadly thirty years later, many still fail to see.
I don’t know what it says about us that we expect — demand, really — that anyone who gains any kind of achievement, fame, or notoriety, they must accede to our demands and come out of the closet — which we define not in terms of acknowledging their relationships to their friends, familes, neighbors, coworkers and others who are important to them, but to reporters, bloggers and PR specialists who are important to us.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful to those who do come out publicly and with great fanfare. I appreciate their value as role models. But isn’t it one of the goals that we are striving to achieve that everyone can live their own lives as publicly — and as privately — as they wish, for whatever reason they may wish it? Isn’t our fight a fight for self-determination and against the interference of busybodies who would presume to tell us how we should live based on what they think we should do?
I’m not going to second-guess her any more than I’ve second-guessed anyone else’s decision in how much they want to disclose about themselves, as long as they don’t act in a way that is hypocritical or in conflict with those in similar situations who choose differently. It’s why I was never all that agitated over Anderson Cooper’s decision until recently not to discuss his personal life for so many years. Sally Ride was a hero in the way that she chose — and fought — to be a hero, and there are many women and young girls today who are rightfully grateful for it. I can live with that.
In this original BTB Investigation, we unveil the tragic story of Kirk Murphy, a four-year-old boy who was treated for “cross-gender disturbance” in 1970 by a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. This story is a stark reminder that there are severe and damaging consequences when therapists try to ensure that boys will be boys.
When we first reported on three American anti-gay activists traveling to Kampala for a three-day conference, we had no idea that it would be the first report of a long string of events leading to a proposal to institute the death penalty for LGBT people. But that is exactly what happened. In this report, we review our collection of more than 500 posts to tell the story of one nation’s embrace of hatred toward gay people. This report will be updated continuously as events continue to unfold. Check here for the latest updates.
In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that “[Paul] Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany.” What the SPLC didn”t know was Cameron doesn’t just “echo” Nazi Germany. He quoted extensively from one of the Final Solution’s architects. This puts his fascination with quarantines, mandatory tattoos, and extermination being a “plausible idea” in a whole new and deeply disturbing light.
On February 10, I attended an all-day “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Phoenix, put on by Focus on the Family and Exodus International. In this series of reports, I talk about what I learned there: the people who go to these conferences, the things that they hear, and what this all means for them, their families and for the rest of us.
Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"
Using the same research methods employed by most anti-gay political pressure groups, we examine the statistics and the case studies that dispel many of the myths about heterosexuality. Download your copy today!
And don‘t miss our companion report, How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps.
Anti-gay activists often charge that gay men and women pose a threat to children. In this report, we explore the supposed connection between homosexuality and child sexual abuse, the conclusions reached by the most knowledgeable professionals in the field, and how anti-gay activists continue to ignore their findings. This has tremendous consequences, not just for gay men and women, but more importantly for the safety of all our children.
Anti-gay activists often cite the “Dutch Study” to claim that gay unions last only about 1½ years and that the these men have an average of eight additional partners per year outside of their steady relationship. In this report, we will take you step by step into the study to see whether the claims are true.
Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council submitted an Amicus Brief to the Maryland Court of Appeals as that court prepared to consider the issue of gay marriage. We examine just one small section of that brief to reveal the junk science and fraudulent claims of the Family “Research” Council.
The FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics aren’t as complete as they ought to be, and their report for 2004 was no exception. In fact, their most recent report has quite a few glaring holes. Holes big enough for Daniel Fetty to fall through.