Wockner on Sally Ride

Timothy Kincaid

July 29th, 2012

Rex Wockner has a very thoughtful and balanced op-ed today in the San Diego U-T:

Yes, Ride could have come out if she felt like it. Current-day La Jolla is not at all an unsafe place for same-sex couples. But she had no obligation to do so, and neither does any other public figure.

Not every gay or lesbian person wants to be an activist, and when a public figure comes out, he or she can be thrust into that role by the media, which start asking the individual’s opinion on every gay topic of the day.

Not every gay or lesbian person even considers his or her sexual orientation one of the most important pieces of his or her identity. For some, it’s just another thing, like being left-handed, or Episcopalian.

If anyone deserves a bit of scolding, it’s the news media, which went about its business for around 24 hours before realizing that this obituary was not a run-of-the-mill obituary and that there was a surprise, and breaking news, lurking in the list of survivors.


July 29th, 2012

“Not every gay or lesbian person even considers his or her sexual orientation one of the most important pieces of his or her identity. For some, it’s just another thing, like being left-handed, or Episcopalian.”


The left-handed people and the Episcopalians don’t care about this facet of themselves because they don’t have to hide their left-handedness or their Episcopalian lifestyles. They’re not being discriminated against.

Ms. Ride, on the other hand, absolutely knew that her sexuality had to be hidden if she were to continue to pursue her happiness in her life.

Timothy Kincaid

July 29th, 2012


Ride did not hide her sexuality.


July 29th, 2012

continuing on from Timothy’s response:
but even if she had, as Raybob says, she did so to continue to pursue happiness in her life.

Got that all you outers? She didn’t make a public announcement because she didn’t think it would help her in her own personal pursuit of happiness.

It’s one thing to wish she had come out and another to say she should have or that she is somehow lesser for not having done so. She pursued her own happiness, not mine, not yours, not all gay people’s everywhere. Her own. I’m getting a bit tired of the sense of entitlement some gay people seem to feel over other people’s lives. She owes you, me and all gay everywhere exactly nothing. She made a decision that her own happiness and the life she was living would be threatened and/or compremised by coming out so she chose not to (at least publically) and that was entirely her decision to make. There is no right or wrong choice here, only *her* choice. Not yours. Not mine. None of us get to live her life and none of us get to judge or condemn her for doing so in the way she felt for herself. Bottom line: get over yourself.


July 29th, 2012

Now that everyone’s had a chance to read Sally Ride’s mind. . . .

I’ve been struggling to put my thoughts on this issue into words for my own blog, without much success. I think Timothy just said what I’ve been trying to say.


July 29th, 2012

Sorry — I blipped on the hed.

Thanks to Rex Wockner for saying what I’ve been trying to say.

Timothy (TRiG)

July 29th, 2012

I think the “glass closet” is an interesting cultural phenomenon, but I don’t think living in it is a moral failing.


David C.

July 29th, 2012

She made a decision that her own happiness and the life she was living would be threatened and/or compremised by coming out so she chose not to (at least publically) and that was entirely her decision to make.

You were doing just fine with your remark, in fact splendidly, until you got to the part I italicized in the above quote from it. I’m pretty sure you along with the rest of us have no idea what thoughts or considerations Dr. Ride weighed in her decision to come out or not. That fact was, after all, central to your point in the first place and critical to the rest of it making sense.

Dr. Ride owed us nothing and her activism was focused on an altogether different social concern: science education of the young. Her choice of social mission was hers and hers alone. The expectation that all prominent and yet to come out gay people must “go public” in the interest of advancing the civil rights of the LGBT community is not a universal moral imperative for all gay people in spite of how some of us may feel. People have the right to privacy, and their own choices in the conduct of their own lives. If we didn’t believe in those freedoms, we would be very hypocritical indeed.


July 29th, 2012

Didn’t seem particularly “thoughtful” to me. No one is ever discriminated against for being left-handed or Episcopalian, nor has anyone hidden those things about themselves. It’s a terrible and thoughtless analogy. And then Wocker buys into and reinforces the myth that those who live openly do so because their orientation is “the most important thing about them”. That sort of talk is straight out of the NOM playbook.
To be clear, I don’t think anyone should be required to come out if they don’t want to, and outing is always wrong unless it’s of an anti-gay politican or religious leader, but it seems to me it’s always sad when someone feels they can’t.

Ben M

July 29th, 2012

Raybob – Handedness is actually an excellent characteristic to compare with. There is a long historical bias against left-handed people, and many societies continue to place social stigma on left-handedness and lefties have throughout history been encouraged to repress their natural inclination. I have several family members of the left-handed persuasion and they all were basically taught to repress that aspect of themselves. There is also a long historical bias against left-handedness is in language (i.e. “sinister”).

I will have to think on this in more depth to see if it would make a good paper.

Mark F.

July 30th, 2012

I agree with Ryan. Considering that gay people are still discriminated against by the government and are still considered evil by many chuches, it’s a shame Dr. Ride couldn’t have come out a little more. It would have been helpful to us.

As an analogy, imagine a famous black person in 1960 who didn’t speak out in favor of civil rights.


July 30th, 2012

Shame and blame aren’t terribly helpful. To suggest it a shame she wasn’t MORE forthcoming sounds self-righteous. Understandable, since it is discordant with today’s celebrity culture to not put all of your business out there like an egomaniac so it can appear on a gossip blog, or Entertainment Tonight.


July 31st, 2012

I know you don’t like the word Jimmy, but I think it’s a shame you believe that knowledge someone’s same sex partner of 27 years is gossip fodder and tantamount to knowing all of their business. Much like Rex Wockner, you sound a lot like Maggie Gallagher or Rick Santorum.


July 31st, 2012

I’m sorry, I find the entire conversation astonishing. Ride had no “obligation” to come out, and if anything her silence goes to the message that sexuality, at the end of the day should be a non-issue. She wasn’t “Sally Ride, lesbian astronaut”.

I’m inclined to support outing of individuals who speak out against gays as a means of exposing their hypocrisy – I have really very little problem with that.

But for someone who wants to keep her private life just a little private, whether strategically or because it provides her that psychological refuge that we all deserve, I say back the f*** off, kids.


July 31st, 2012

If Sally Ride’s sexuality were actually a “non-issue”, the she would’ve been out. No heterosexual considers the existence of their spouse to be a private matter. No, Sally didn’t owe anyone anything. But please let’s get rid of the self-defeating notion that the most important person in one’s life is something that ought not be discussed in polite company.

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