NYT Homophobic? Won’t Say Sally Ride Was A Lesbian
In fact, NYT waits until the second to last paragraph to even mention Ride’s relationship with Tam O’Shaughnessy.
Now talk about a buried lede! The only thing preventing the NYT from writing an honest obit is homophobia. They may not realize it; they may not mean it; but it is absolutely clear from the obit that Ride's sexual orientation was obviously central to her life. And her "partner" (ghastly word) and their relationship is recorded only perfunctorily. The NYT does not routinely only mention someone's spouse in the survivors section. When you have lived with someone for 27 years, some account of that relationship is surely central to that person's life. To excise it completely is an act of obliteration.
Sullivan also criticizes his media’s own coverage, stating that Lynn Sherr’s tribute on the Beastis worse. He states that when Sherr mentions Ride as a societal pioneer:
…she is referring to Ride's gender, not her sexual orientation. 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. (Think of Bayard Rustin for a gay male equivalent).
Sullivan then expresses his disappointment in Ride herself. He states that although he understands that Ride was private about her personal life, prominent figures of the queer community should proudly claim their sexual orientation in order to be a good role-model for queer youth.
Sullivan writes of Ride:
Her achievements as a woman and as a scientist and as an astronaut and as a brilliant, principled investigator of NASA's screw-ups will always stand, and vastly outshine any flaws. But the truth remains: she had a chance to expand people's horizons and young lesbians' hope and self-esteem, and she chose not to.
She was the absent heroine.