For those of us of a certain age, Sally Ride was *the* feminist icon, the first and brightest star introduced to elementary school children in the curriculum of girls can do anything… *even science*!
So I was sad to learn she died today.
And then when people on Twitter started to talk about Sally being gay, I got angry.
How did I made it to 34 years old and not know this? I was furious at the presumed erasure of her identity that happened during my education.
It turns out that when I was in elementary school, Sally Ride was still married to a man. She later divorced him and spent the following 27 years with a female partner.
In life, Sally was intensely private, both before and after coming out. She really only used her celebrity to advance the cause of girls in science.
That makes me sad and furious too. NOT SAD WITH HER. NOT FURIOUS AT HER. But sad and furious at the conditions of the world we live in where she felt a need for the kind of intense privacy that prevented us from learning basic biographical data about her that could have made a huge difference in the lives of many, many queer kids.
A year and a half ago I caused a minor shitstorm for expressing the same sense of anger and regret at the passing of another lesbian icon who, like Ride, was intensely private, and while not exactly closeted in her day to day life, carefully kept mention of her lesbian identity out of the popular narrative about her life. People thought I was criticizing her or calling her a closet case. And the fact that we can’t separate a critique of the societal forces that create an atmosphere where this discussion is even happening from a critique of the victims (yes, victims) of that society also infuriate and sadden me.
But now that she has posthumously come out, I hope (as I did with the previous icon) that this can become part of her story, and we can adopt her not only as a pioneering woman but also as a pioneering queer person, and as my people say, may her memory be for a blessing.