Andrew Sullivan doubles down on what was already a stupid reaction to Sally Ride’s lesbianism, with a quote from David Link:
The injustice of gay inequality, and particularly the injustice of the closet did not bother Ride. Or, maybe more accurately, it did not bother her enough to do anything with the public side of her life to try and change it. She simply accepted the closet, and took advantage of the work that others were doing on that front in order to live in a not-very-public-but-not-entirely-private lesbian relationship.
She shares this approach to the gay rights revolution with Mary Cheney. They are among the free-riders of this struggle, letting others do the fighting.
But Mary Cheney was publicly out at least – which is more than be said for Ride.
As I pointed out in my previous post, Sally Ride came to prominence in 1983, which to anyone with an iota of knowledge about that decade will realise was not the most gay-friendly decade. Mary Cheney’s sexuality became a public issue in 2000, when gay marriage and the fight for gays in the military had only just begun to gather a real head of steam. Sally Ride’s father didn’t work for a superior who proposed an anti-gay amendment to the Constitution that would have banned her and all other gay people from marrying their partners. So the comparison Sullivan and Link make here is not only invalid, but to compare Sally Ride unfavourably to a woman who was prominently associated with a political party actively seeking to deny gays civil rights, is nothing short of disgraceful.
I’d also like to address Link’s offensive description of both Mary Cheney and Sally Ride as ‘free riders of this struggle, letting others do the fighting’. By this logic, everyone who never put on a uniform for their country is ‘free riding’ on the freedom the military has, over the years, bought for them. Do they think every single black person in the country alive during the civil rights era was involved in the civil rights battle? Or that those who were unwilling to face the risk of violence and death were ‘free riding on the struggles’ of those who were wounded and killed? Not everyone is made to be a footsoldier. There is no moral draft where if you happen to be drawn into public life, you now have to serve your minority’s cause.
And the most important thing Sullivan and Link are conveniently failing to address here is that while Sally Ride was a public figure, her partner wasn’t. By slamming Ride and saying she should have outed herself for the greater good, they’re forgetting, or worse choosing to ignore, that Tam O’Shaughnessy also had a right to privacy. It was her decision too. The decision to be an activist for a cause carries burdens and responsibilities which rest not only on the shoulders of the person in question, but their families and even friends. They were perfectly within their rights to decide to spare their loved ones the shitstorm that would inevitably have ensued had they chosen to take a stand.