Astronaut Sally Ride was gay.
I hope you all haven’t fallen asleep already.
Over the weekend, media critic Howard Kurtz criticized the
New York Times for failing to emphasize Sally Ride’s sexual orientation in her
obituary. Considering that it was the New York Times, one might expect an obituary
dedicating more space to her sexual orientation than her professional
There are probably a number of reasons why the Times declined
to make astronaut Sally Ride’s sexuality the focus of the obituary. First of
all, I think that even the usually tin-eared Times editorial staff understood
that doing so would have exceeded the Times’ penchant for self-caricature.
Secondly, I think that most gay activists would have
preferred that the memorial focus on her accomplishments rather than her
private life. After all, she rose to fame through her talents and hard work and
not through her private life. To focus on her private life would have
diminished her considerable professional achievements.
Third, there is the uncomfortable fact (for liberals) that
Sally Ride rose to professional prominence during the Reagan Administration. That’s
not supposed to happen. And when it happens, the individuals are typically
disparaged. Clarence Thomas, Condoleezza Rice, Jean Kirkpatrick have all been
publicly savaged by the left for daring to rise on their own merits, without
exploiting their status as victims within an oppressive white, male,
Enough was made of Sally Ride’s status as the first woman in
space. And it was certainly true that the pace of her professional trajectory
through NASA was accelerated due to her gender.
But her performance during her time at NASA and in her years after
leaving the space program vindicated her professionally.
In fact, if Sally Ride’s gender and sexuality tell us
anything about the United States, it is that opportunity has long existed for
so-called victims outside of the well worn paths preferred by the New York
Times editorial board and affirmative action true believers.
We have enormous bureaucracies dedicated to herding
so-called victims into dependency classes so that they can be driven,
cattle-like, to the Promised Land. We have whole academic departments at our
colleges and universities that are dedicated to reinforcing the notion that entire
demographics are structurally handicapped and cannot make it without a
benevolent government program to shepherd them through life.
If there is a lesson to be learned from Sally Ride’s life
and her sexuality, it is that, contrary to the teaching of the conventional
wisdom, America has long been the land of opportunity for anyone willing to
strive for it.
Consider Peter Thiel. Had the founder of Pay Pal followed
the liberal prescription and wallowed in his victimhood and indulged in self
pity, he would not be the multibillionaire than he is today.
And in fact, had Sally Ride paid attention to the siren
calls of victimhood rather than her studies and her ambitions, she never would
have risen so far, so fast. She would have been left behind, just another
embittered victim, simmering with anger against the establishment.
But she also would have empowered the people who thrive off
the culture of victimhood and who need angry, embittered failures to sustain
So we arrive at the crux of the issue and perhaps the real
reason that the New York Times deemphasized Sally Ride’s sexuality. The New
York Times is part of that establishment that feeds off the culture of
Had the New York Times made Sally Ride’s sexuality a central
feature of her obituary then readers might have wondered how she succeeded in
the evil, discriminatory environment that the New York Times regularly presents
to its readers.
Sally Ride did not hide her sexual orientation. In fact she
lived her life openly in a monogamous relationship with the same woman for
decades. If she never gained the state’s endorsement of the relationship, then
it could be that she never thought that the state’s approval made a bit of
difference in the quality of her relationship. She never made herself the
central attraction at Gay Pride parades and never lent herself to political
campaigns because she never thought of herself as a victim who needed coddling
and comfort from those who feed off the perception of victimhood.
In fact, the New York Times’ neglect of Sally Ride’s sexual
orientation was self serving. If too many people followed Sally Ride’s example,
it would threaten the left’s power structure.