Dear Tell All: I always idolized Sally Ride, the first female American astronaut in space. I also appreciated her efforts to get kids interested in science - a powerful message coming from a woman.
But I was distressed to learn, after Ride's recent death, that she'd spent her life in the closet. She helped write her own obituary, in which she posthumously disclosed that she'd been involved with a woman for almost 30 years.
For a supposed hero, that's not a very heroic gesture. Couldn't Ride have displayed some of the courage she showed as an astronaut and acknowledged her real identity while she was alive? Think of how inspiring that would have been to gay and lesbian kids. Instead, they get the message that even a fearless American astronaut has to be a scaredy-cat when it comes to sexual orientation. That's got to be a blow to their self-esteem.
Dear Challenger: I agree that it's disappointing, but let's try to show some compassion. The real villain isn't Sally Ride, but American homophobia. Ride grew up in the 1950s and '60s, when gay people were savagely persecuted in this country. It wasn't as easy for someone of that generation to come out of the closet as it is today - not that it's the easiest thing today, either.
Undoubtedly, it would have become that much easier if a hero like Ride had declared that being a lesbian is nothing to be ashamed of. Word has it she was a very private person, however, so she clearly wasn't comfortable playing that role. To each her own.
Instead of obsessing on what Sally Ride didn't do, let's cheer a role model closer to home for what she did do. State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa of Milwaukee came out as a bisexual in July, saying, "It's part of my life...and I'm happy to share it with my constituents."
Zamarripa had the nerve to make her statement even in the midst of a tough primary race, controversy be damned. Now that's courage.