Sully, Put Down The Shovel

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.

Sullivan adds:

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.

 

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The Narrow-Mindedness of Andrew Sullivan

Here’s what Andrew Sullivan believes: if you are gay and a public figure, as the late Sally Ride was, your country needs you to expose your private life to public viewing and be Jesus for LGBT people. Not to do so makes you a moral draft dodger, for you ‘had a chance to expand young [LGBT people’s] hope and esteem’ and didn’t (so all those gay suicides are on you, bucko).  To paraphrase Batman,  it’s not who you are underneath, but which gender you do that defines you. Oh yeah, and any paper that doesn’t make a dead gay person’s sexuality front and centre is forcing gay people back in the closet. Or something.

This isn’t the first time Sullivan’s worked himself into a lather about a public figure’s sexual orientation. When Elena Kagan was nominated for a SCOTUS seat and was up for confirmation, Sully decided, based on the following, that, that Kagan was secretly a lesbian:

[W]e have been told by many that she is gay … and no one will ask directly if this is true and no one in the administration will tell us definitively.

In a word, this is preposterous – a function of liberal cowardice and conservative discomfort. It should mean nothing either way. Since the issue of this tiny minority – and the right of the huge majority to determine its rights and equality – is a live issue for the court in the next generation, and since it would be bizarre to argue that a Justice’s sexual orientation will not in some way affect his or her judgment of the issue, it is only logical that this question should be clarified.

So, several anonymous sources saying Kagan is totally batting for the other team meant she has a question to answer. What the fuck is this, high school? And note Sully’s claim that a SCOTUS’ sexuality would be a key issue because it would affect his or her judgement – is exactly the same argument put forth by the anti-gay right against Judge Vaughn Walker, who was revealed to be gay, when he struck down Prop 8 (more on this convergence with the homophobes below). Additionally, it’s telling that in both cases it’s been women on the receiving end of Andrew’s ire regarding what they did or did not do for LGBT people. So when Sullivan writes dishonest, generalising shit like this:

And one often over-looked aspect of this is the long-standing discomfort of some in the feminist movement with lesbians in their midst. Feminists often “inned” lesbian pioneers, or the lesbians closeted themselves. This was not because they were in a reactionary movement; it was because they were in a progressive movement that did not want to be “tarred” with the lesbian image.

….bear in mind there is some serious projection going on here.

Now, I don’t deny we feminists work hard at getting our hate on. We hate men, we hate women who fancy men (traitors!), we hate women who…don’t fancy men, we make Rush Limbaugh’s dick shrivel up: our crimes are indeed legion. But here’s a pro-tip: the reason there are few prominent lesbians in the gay rights movement isn’t that the feminist movement’s uncomfortable with lesbians, it’s that there’s a lot of gay men uncomfortable with women.

So let’s get down to the fundamental question here. Is defining LGBT people by their sexual orientation good or bad? Put it this way, do we define straight people by the fact they’re straight? Nope. The only group that doesn’t get tarred with this ‘your minority status defines you’ brush  is, surprise, surprise, white straight men. So, if you insist on a public figure’s sexuality being a big deal, you’re basically acknowledging an inherent inequality, and enabling that inequality. Because in the main, the people who look at a gay person and think their sexuality is the most important thing about them are the homophobic crowd that think the pornos they watch are documentaries of the average gay person’s daily life. Look at the Richard Grenell affair – the guy is a neocon and was an aide to John “No Such Thing As Too Many Wars” Bolton, but the Religious Wrong was blinded by Fifty Shades of Gay and so Captain Courageous Romney…let him resign. Sullivan attacked both Romney and the Religious Right for this, and rightfully so. It’s a shame he can’t get the plank out of his own eye when it comes to defining LGBT people.